Sack leader Robert Mathis vs. Tom Brady

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
5:20
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis believes there's a giant they have to slay Saturday in New England.

Mathis
Mathis was referring to the entire Patriots team, but it would understandable if you thought the Pro Bowl linebacker was simply talking about quarterback Tom Brady.

No matter what the Patriots do on defense, no matter how well they run the ball or Bill Belichick coaches, they will win or lose the game based on what Brady does in the AFC divisional playoff game.

It's up to Mathis -- the NFL's sack leader -- and the rest of the defense to make Brady as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league," Mathis said. "Any quarterback who is comfortable will kill you. He's no exception. There's no secret, you have to get him. You have to try to get him rattled or try to get him off his spot and just try to make him make some errant throws. Easier said than done."

Mathis is right, it is easier said than done.

It'll be nearly impossible to breathe on Brady if the Patriots are able to establish their running game. That's why the first task for the Colts will be to stop New England's rushing attack, which averaged 129.1 yards a game.

Don't stop the run game and Brady will be able to have his way with the play-action pass.

"If you don't stop the run, that will keep the offense lethal," Mathis said. "They'll come at you in more angles than one. If you can neutralize one facet of the offense it'll help you out. That's what we have to do, try to get those running backs under control."

The Patriots will have to be aware of where Mathis is at all times Saturday. He led the league in sacks with 19.5 during the regular season.

The league's sack leader against a team with a shaky offensive line favors the Colts. Brady was sacked 40 times during the regular season. Don't worry about Brady taking off and running. He only rushed for 18 yards on 32 attempts.

"He's an outstanding player, one of the most disruptive players in the league," Belichick said. "Not only does he hit the quarterback a lot, but he causes the turnover, game-changing plays. Very good at stripping the ball from the quarterback. He's also hit the quarterback a number of times, which has caused interceptions or tipped balls as part of the rush, that kind of thing. So he's a very disruptive guy. Quickness, tremendous motor. Has great speed, but he has great effort in his pursuit, chase.

All it takes is for Mathis to pull off one of his trademark strip-sacks for momentum to change in a game.

Just ask Denver's Peyton Manning or Kansas City's Alex Smith if you need further proof.

Mathis said his goal is to give their quarterback, Andrew Luck, as many extra possessions as possible.

"You try to put guys around him and double team him, but he still seems to be making all the plays," Brady said. "I just know I don't have a lot of time back there in the pocket to sort things out. We got to try and get the ball to our guys as quickly as we can so he's not ruining the game."

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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