Indianapolis Colts: Stevan Ridley

INDIANAPOLIS – One back is a speedster that can it to the edge and go. Another has been described in the same frame as Jerome Bettis. Then there's the third-down running back.

Meet New England Patriots running backs LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

Quarterback Tom Brady is rightfully the focal point of the Patriots offense, but the Indianapolis Colts will have to worry to about New England's three running backs in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game.

"Those three guys will do anything that's needed," Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. "They've got three tremendous backs."

Ridley rushed for 773 yards this season. Blount was right behind him with 772 yards despite having 25 fewer attempts. Vereen, the third-down back, rushed for 208 yards to go with 427 receiving yards.

The three of them are an important part of New England's offense because it allows Brady to be effective in the play-action passing game. Brady isn't a runner, having only rushed for 18 yards on 32 attempts this season. The Patriots, who averaged 136.5 yards a game on the ground this season, were ninth in the league in rushing compared to 10th in the league in passing.

The Colts gave up an average of 137.5 yards rushing this season.

"We know how potent that offense is," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We know the signal caller is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. They are very balanced. You can't just go in and say hey you got to get after Tom and put pressure on him and get him off the spot and try to frustrate him. From a schematic standpoint, disguise, all those type of things, they are balanced."

Blount is the Patriots' lead running back when they go with a more conventional set. His 189 yards rushing in the regular season finale against Buffalo were the most by a New England back in 15 years. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky described Blount as being a big-body guy that breaks through tackles and runs downhill.

The Patriots thrive with Vereen as their third-down back. They were 50-of-114 on third down with him on the field. They were 83-of-221 on third down during the eight games he missed.

"Three different types of situational runners that we've talked about all week," Manusky said. "We'll continue to talk about who is the back in the game because you have to know; pretty good, pretty talented. We have to make sure we surround them with as many hats as possible."

Getting to know the Patriots

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
1:30
PM ET
Seven years. Yes, almost seven years. That’s how long it’s been since the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots faced each other in a playoff game.

The Colts pulled off the improbable 38-34 come-from-behind victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots at the old RCA Dome on Jan. 21, 2007, in the AFC Championship Game to reach the Super Bowl.

A lot has changed since that game.

Kicker Adam Vinatieri, linebacker Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea are the only holdovers from that game for the Colts. Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski are the only two starters still remaining for the Patriots. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork played in that game but he missed most of this season with a torn Achilles injury.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how the Patriots reached this point:

Record: 12-4 (1st AFC East)

Head coach: Bill Belichick

Offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels

Defensive coordinator: Matt Patricia

FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. QB Tom Brady. Brady could put out a manual on how to get the most out of a group of relatively unknown receivers. There’s no better quarterback in the league at doing that. The 36-year-old Brady overcame the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) to still complete 60.5 percent of his attempts, pass for 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns. Brady, like Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, is simply a winner no matter who he has lined up around him. One thing Brady won’t do, though, is beat you with his feet. He only rushed for 18 yards this season. Good news for Mathis & Co., Brady was sacked 40 times during the regular season.

2. WR Julian Edelman. He became Brady’s primary target after Gronkowski was lost for the season. Edelman finished fourth in the league in receptions with 105 and was targeted 151 times, which was good enough for 10th in the league, by Brady. Edelman had 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. The health status of the Colts secondary is up in the air right now, as cornerback Greg Toler left the Kansas City game with a groin injury and safety LaRon Landry has to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before he’s cleared to play.

3. RB LeGarrette Blount. He took a backseat to running mate Stevan Ridley for most of the season, but Blount ended the regular season by rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. Blount had five games where he averaged more than 5.3 yards a carry. He finished with 772 yards rushing to Ridley's 773 yards despite having 25 fewer carries.

--CB Aqib Talib. He could be matched up against Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, who had 224 yards receiving against the Chiefs on Saturday. Talib, who was selected for the Pro Bowl, had a team-high 13 passes defended and was second on the team in interceptions with four.

OTHER NOTES: The Patriots were undefeated at home during the regular season. But don’t think they’re unbeatable at Gillette Stadium, though, as half of their eight home wins were by three points or less. …The Patriots finished 26th in the league in yards allowed (373.1) on defense. …Edelman finished fourth in the league in punt return yards (374).

Quick Take: Colts at Patriots

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
5:30
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Three things to know about Saturday's Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. This will be the first playoff matchup between the two teams since the epic AFC Championship Game the Colts won 38-34 on Jan. 21, 2007.

1. Battle of receivers. Quick: Can you name a receiver on either team not named T.Y. Hilton? Andrew Luck of the Colts and Tom Brady of the Patriots are the two best quarterbacks in the league when it comes to getting the most out of their receivers. They both lost their primary receiving targets to injury this season. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne's season ended in Week 7 with a torn ACL. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's season ended with a torn ACL and MCL in Week 14. Receiver Julian Edelman led the Patriots in receiving this season with 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. Hilton, who set a franchise playoff record with 224 yards against Kansas City on Saturday, led the Colts with 1,083 yards and five touchdowns this season.

2. Ugly first game. Luck is making his second appearance against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. New England beat Indianapolis 59-24 during the 2012 season. The Colts led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and trailed only 24-17 at halftime, but the Patriots outscored them 35-7 in the second half. Luck was 27-of-50 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Brady was simply better, as expected. He was 24-of-35 for 331 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. But Brady won't have Gronkowski (137 yards) or Wes Welker (80 yards) to throw the ball to this time around. Hilton had six catches for 100 yards. Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman had 12 tackles in that game.

3. Stopping the run. Brady is obviously the focal point for the Patriots, but New England does have a decent running game, too. Running backs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount finished within a yard of each other during the regular season, with Ridley gaining 773 yards and Blount rushing for 772 yards. They also combined for 14 touchdowns. The Colts, on the other hand, had Donald Brown rush for 537 yards and Trent Richardson finished with 458 yards.

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