Emotional Hobbs faces tough test in Harrison

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Ellis Hobbs saw a lot of Marvin Harrison during Indianapolis’ regular-season win in New England – probably too much of the Colts’ star wide receiver.

And now, here comes Harrison again.

The emotional Hobbs will try to stop the businesslike Harrison in the AFC championship game in Indianapolis today. Asante Samuel tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions playing the other cornerback spot, so Peyton Manning could be tempted to pick on Hobbs.

Harrison easily beat the Patriots’ second-year cornerback for a 5-yard touchdown pass barely 10 minutes into the Colts’ 27-20 victory Nov. 5. Midway through the third quarter, Harrison shook off Hobbs again with an acrobatic 4-yard scoring catch along the right edge of the end zone.

The Patriots’ “other cornerback” is impressed by Harrison and the Colts’ other dangerous wideout, Reggie Wayne. Impressed but not intimidated

“No disrespect to them,” Hobbs said Thursday, but “if you go out there with the mentality of the wide eyes or the stardom of these guys or future Hall of Famers, then that’s how you’re going to get treated. You’re going to get treated like somebody that’s envying them.

“You’ve got to go out there with the mentality of being competitive.”

And rested.

Hobbs rarely has trouble sleeping the night before a game. He certainly went to bed in a cheerful mood before the Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers 24-21 last Sunday.

“I try to catch a movie,” he said. “Last week, I caught “Borat.’ That kind of laughed me to sleep.”

He was in even better spirits as the game ended, dancing around in the center of the field and angering Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. The NFL MVP thought he was being disrespectful.

Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin thought Hobbs was just being himself.

“Ellis is Ellis,” said Colvin, who didn’t endear himself to the Chargers by making a choke sign toward their bench after Nate Kaeding missed a field goal attempt with 3 seconds left. “Somebody called his name out last week because he was celebrating. Ellis has always been like that.”

Well, maybe not always.

As a rookie, he played in every game but didn’t start the first eight.

“A lot of people get on me as far as the confidence or the swagger,” said Hobbs, drafted in the third round out of Iowa State, “but at one point in time it wasn’t there and you saw what happened, getting beat, not making plays.”

That very well could happen again on Sunday. Harrison’s 95 catches were third most in the league and Wayne’s 86 were 12th.

“Some things you can defense. Some things you can’t,” Hobbs said.

“We’re not going with the mentality of thinking that we can stop everything, but when we do get our opportunities, we have to make them worthwhile.”

Manning is in his ninth season with Harrison and sixth with Wayne. The quarterback knows them so well that he sometimes throws before they turn around, as he did on Harrison’s second touchdown against Hobbs in November.

All three can size up defensive coverages quickly and the receivers adjust their routes the way the quarterback expects them to.

If Hobbs does make a good play, he’d better forget about it or bad ones could follow.

“Ellis definitely is a guy who is emotional and that could be to his advantage,” linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said. “If a guy makes a play and he wants to get up and be excited about it, there’s nothing wrong with that. The biggest thing is that you don’t get complacent and you don’t think that “OK, now I can take a play off,’ and I think Ellis is a competitor and he understands that.”

He’s progressed to much bigger things – an outstanding college career that gave him the chance and the challenge, at just 23 years old, to face the NFL’s best receiving tandem not once, but twice in less than three months.

“I don’t have any experience, basically, especially in a game like this, the AFC championship,” he said. “How do I handle the situation? We’ll find out Sunday.”

AP-ES-01-19-07 0332EST

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