BOSTON (CBS) — With the Patriots being annual participants in the AFC Championship game over the last four years, Jim Nantz has become pretty familiar with New England’s football team.
Nantz and Phil Simms will have the call of Sunday’s came on CBS/WBZ-TV, and Nantz thinks he’s called close to 80 Patriots games in his 11 years in the broadcasting booth.
Nantz joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Gresh & Zo on Thursday to give a quick “Hello friends,” and break down Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts.
This will be Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s ninth AFC Championship game, but the first for the Andrew Luck-led Colts. Nantz thinks it will be a much different game than their Week 11 matchup, when the Patriots trounced the Colts 42-20 in Indianapolis, and it could be the first conference title bout in a new rivalry.
“Luck vs. Brady, we saw that in the divisional round last year, but we may be seeing them in the same position next year. The Colts will be there, and I think the Patriots have built their team to a point where they’ll be good for a long time,” said Nantz. “But I’m excited to see what it’s going to look like this time. It’s been three times and they haven’t been close since Andrew came in the league, but he told us in our meetings last week that he’s grown up a lot and he feels more aware and confident of what he’s supposed to do in certain situations. We’re seeing that on the field.
“I think they’ve grown a lot since [Week 11]. I think it’s a different Colts bunch that has rallied together,” he said of Indianapolis. “They have a defense that got torched and shredded by the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, shredded by the likes of Jonas Gray, but they’ve figured out how to play as a unit now.”
The Colts may be better than they were two months ago, but Nantz has been very impressed by the Patriots’ defense this season.
“I’m sensing the Patriots now, overall, are a lot more like the championship era Patriots. They have a defense that can step up and play and be a difference in the game,” said Nantz. “For a number of years they were just trying to cover up their defense. But with the likes of Revis and Browner, there is a presence about this defense that brings you back to the days of Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest and Ty Law – the bunch that helped them win three Super Bowl rings. They have a defense that is playing at a big-time level now.”
Nantz joked that he may invest in some real estate when he’s in town this weekend, given that he plans on making a few more trips back to New England in the coming years. As for the relationship he’s had with perceived curmudgeon Bill Belichick, Nantz says their production meetings with the Patriots are a joy.
“I’ve always had great dealings with the Patriots and I’ve enjoyed our production meetings. I’ve been asked outside of Boston what Bill Belichick is like to deal with, and really, he’s terrific to deal with,” he said. “He’s very forthright and open with us. I know there’s a trust factor since we’ve done so many games for so many years, and he goes way back with Phil Simms back to their Giants days.”
Gresh and Zo also gave Nantz a heads up that if the Patriots are ahead in the fourth quarter, he may see Zo on the big screen swinging a towel to The Outfield’s “Your Love” (better known as “Josie” to the faithful Gresh and Zo listeners).
“It’s always a hoot when you come by [the booth] for the Patriots games. Phil gets such a charge out of you,” said Nantz. “He gets charged up for these games. Like a defensive player he wants to hit somebody. But you walk in and he just laughs. You take a little of the edge off, and I like that.”
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