Saturday, January 11, 2014
W2W4: Colts at Patriots
By Mike Wells
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are five storylines to watch in Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
Weathering the situation: There will be rain with gusty wind. That, along with trying to battle the crowd noise to run their no-huddle offense, does not favor the Colts. The Colts are definitely at their best when they spread it out and go with the no-huddle, but having any kind of run game will help them. Indianapolis also can’t think about its previous trip to Gillette Stadium. The Patriots steamrolled the Colts 59-24 and quarterback Andrew Luck turned the ball over four times. Head into the fourth quarter with the lead or the game being close, and Luck will ensure they have a chance to win and advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Stopping the run: The Patriots have what it takes to deal with the poor weather conditions and keep Luck on the sidelines. Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley both rushed for at least 772 yards during the regular season. Colts coach Chuck Pagano told ESPN’s Bob Holtzman that tackling Blount is like trying to take down a “greased pig at the county fair.” The Colts will be setting Tom Brady up to be successful with the play-action pass if they can’t stop the run.
The Edelman factor: It’s no secret that Brady will look to slot receiver Julian Edelman when he drops back to pass. Edelman had 105 receptions this season. It’ll be Colts nickelback Darius Butler’s responsibility to make it as tough as possible on Edelman. Butler, a former Patriot, chased around Denver’s Wes Welker earlier this season.
Make the Patriots one-dimensional: I know Brady has been to five Super Bowls and I know he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but the the Colts need to make him beat them. That means the Colts will need to take away New England’s running game. Do that and Colts linebacker Robert Mathis will be able to put pressure on Brady because New England does a poor job with its pass protection. Brady was sacked 40 times during the regular season. Don’t worry about him beating the Colts with his legs, either, because he rushed for a total of 18 yards this season.
Have a backup plan: Patriots coach Bill Belichick will find a way to take Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton out of the game. I’m pretty sure Belichick showed his team plenty of film of Hilton going off for 224 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 4. Just ask New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham if you need further proof of Belichick’s ability to take a player out of a game. Graham didn’t have a catch – he wasn’t even targeted – in New Orleans’ loss to the Patriots in the middle of October. That means tight end Coby Fleener, receiver Da’Rick Rogers and running back Donald Brown must find a way to get open so Luck has somebody else to turn to.