Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne is in the midst of a very nice stretch of
football. Over the past three games, he's caught 23 balls for 361 yards and two
On paper, those are some pretty impressive numbers. But ask Wayne, and he'll
offer a different perspective.
"Nothing special," said Wayne, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 668
receiving yards on 44 receptions, including five for touchdowns. "We've got
too many weapons on this team. I'm just out there doing my job. When the ball
comes to me, I want to catch it and get what I can and make plays.
"With this team, it can be anybody."
Above everything else he's offered this season, Wayne (6-foot-0, 198 pounds)
has become the Colts top deep threat, possessing the ability to make the big
play every time he steps on the field. This week, he draws a formidable matchup
in the smaller, but feisty Ellis Hobbs, standing at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds.
Many remember the last time Hobbs and Wayne faced off in the 2006 AFC
Championship game. Hobbs played well, holding Wayne to just five catches for 68
receiving yards. But his performance will be forever linked with a controversial
penalty in the third quarter.
With the Colts facing a 21-13 deficit, the Indianapolis offense was beginning
to come together. Deep in New England territory, Manning attempted to find Wayne
in the Indianapolis end zone on third down. The pass went incomplete, but not
without a flag, as Hobbs was called for pass interference.
The penalty set the Colts up for an easy score from the New England 1-yard
line, tying the game at 21 after the two-point conversion.
The call left a bitter taste in Hobbs' mouth, but he's learned to deal with
"I'm still alive," the third-year cornerback said during a break in
preparations for Sunday's rematch with the Colts. "Calls are made during
the game. Whether they're right or wrong, you pouting about it or however you
feel about it doesn't matter - it's still the call.
"You can't change anything out there. The only person who can do that is
the instant replay, and obviously you can't instant replay those types of calls.
You just deal with it and move on."
Hobbs disagreed with the call at the time, and the NFL later sided with him,
mailing him a letter of apology. It was a nice gesture, but a meaningless one
because, as he later emphasized, "I still went home."
Ellis Hobbs celebrates after an interception
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
After eight weeks, the verdict is not yet in on Hobbs this season, but some
New England reporters can offer some useful insight. Ian Clark of the New
Hampshire Times-Union evaluated Hobbs' play like this:
"Asante Samuel grabbed an interception and week in, week out plays
shutdown defense on his side of the field. Ellis Hobbs continues to struggle at
the other side, however. But when a team that is behind and needs to pass only
accounts for 177 total passing yards, things aren't too bad."
Meanwhile, reporter Rich Garven's Patriots midseason report card for the Worcester
"The DBs collectively have yet to have a standout game. Asante Samuel
skipped the preseason, but quickly displayed the elite cover corner skills that
may ultimately price him out of New England. Because of that, Ellis Hobbs has
been picked on quite a bit. Sometimes he's stood up for himself, other times
he's gotten bowled over."
One game in particular where Hobbs struggled was in New England's week-five
matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards' size and
downfield speed gave Hobbs all he could handle. Edwards finished the game with
six catches for 110 yards.
Following that mode, it's important that Reggie uses his strength off the
line to get behind Hobbs, and then uses his size and speed to make plays
On the other side, Hobbs must use his exceptionally quick feet to steal
routes and to stay in front of Wayne. Both Hobbs and his counterpart left
cornerback Asante Samuel are notorious route jumpers. Hobbs has confidence in
doing this, because he has the closing burst in short areas to make plays on a
speed-out or hitch. Reggie needs to stay crisp in his routes, keeping his body
between the ball and Hobbs.
The Patriots are not afraid to play both Marvin Harrison (if available) and
Wayne man-to-man, but they won't do it very often. Having Harrison play will be
important because it will help keep the safeties honest and open the potential
for more Hobbs versus Wayne one-on-one situations downfield. And that's a
scenario the Colts like.