Sunday, January 5, 2014
Quick Take: Colts at Patriots
By Mike Reiss
Three things to know about Saturday's Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium:
1. Luck and Mathis can control/take over a game: When dissecting the three possible Patriots opponents -- Bengals, Colts and Chiefs -- the feeling was that New England should beat them all if playing its best game. But the reason the Colts were listed as the least preferred matchup was because they had the difference-making quarterback in Andrew Luck. I don’t think the Colts' team is as good as the Patriots' team, but with Luck and defensive end Robert Mathis they have two players who can control/disrupt a game. That makes this matchup potentially dangerous. Also, while it might be tempting to label the Colts a dome team that will struggle playing in what figures to be challenging New England elements, it should be noted that Indianapolis played an excellent game in a decisive Week 16 victory at Kansas City. They have had some duds on the road this year, a 40-11 loss to the Cardinals on Nov. 24 comes to mind, but they’ve also had two impressive wins away from home -- the 27-7 win over the 49ers in Week 3 and the 23-7 win over the Chiefs in Week 16. The Patriots and Colts didn't play each other this season. The last meeting between the teams came in 2012, with the Tom Brady-led Patriots thumping the Luck-led Colts 59-24 on Nov. 18.
2. Talib on Hilton: With Reggie Wayne on season-ending injured reserve, T.Y. Hilton has emerged as the Colts’ go-to target. He was dynamic in the wild-card round win over the Chiefs (13 catches, 224 yards, 2 TDs) and it wouldn’t be surprising if cornerback Aqib Talib is called upon to match up against him. The Patriots haven’t had a matchup corner like Talib since Ty Law (1995-2004). The second-team All-Pro hasn’t matched up every week, but when he has, he’s mostly been very competitive.
3. Scouting the Colts’ defense and other connections: Colts teams under coach Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell were known for a 4-3 defense that was undersized but quick. This Colts defense has more of a Ravens-type look, which makes sense as second-year head coach Chuck Pagano was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator prior to coming to Indianapolis. They are bigger at the line of scrimmage and will vary their pressure calls. The Colts are banged-up in the secondary as that unit looked vulnerable in the wild-card round. If Brady gets protection -- and this is an obvious pregame storyline -- he should find some favorable matchups. In a bit of a local touch, the Colts come to town with two former Boston College players as their bookends on the offensive line -- left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right tackle Gosder Cherilus. Also, former Patriots cornerback Darius Butler is the Colts’ nickelback. The kicker, of course, is former Patriot Adam Vinatieri.