For a decade, there was no football rivalry as thrilling as Patriots-Colts.
Watching the two best quarterbacks of their generation battling it out, whether for a regular season victory or a Super Bowl berth, made the 2000s a special time in AFC football.
But alas, all good things must come to an end. Or do they? Bill Polian, Peyton Manning (and most of the Colts who played with and for them) moved on, but does that mean the teams’ rivalry won’t be renewed when Andrew Luck and the new-look Colts come to Foxborough Sunday? Rookie Luck is on-pace with Manning in terms of passing yards this season and the Colts hold the same record as the Patriots (6-3). And given the Patriots penchant for giving up, ahem, a lot of yards each game, this match-up could very well come down to a shootout.
Exciting stuff. Bill Belichick was very complimentary of Luck on a conference call with media this week, saying, “I think the things that we knew about him coming out have certainly played out this season. Big kid, good arm, can make all the throws, very athletic, good movement in the pocket, handles the offense well. They do a lot of checking and changing plays and you can see him handling the offensive team in those situations, as well as end of the game-type situations where he’s got to make good situational plays and decisions. He’s done a good job in all of those things.”
Now, notice how he referenced the checking and changing? The Colts do that. And that’s not going to be great for the Patriots, who don’t deal well with vanilla offenses and are generally counted upon to be fooled at the line of scrimmage. Quarterbacks like Sam Bradford, who don’t necessarily have the personnel around them to be too tricky or complex at the line, are the perfect opponents for this defense. Luck has weapons. He’s got Reggie Wayne, who already has almost 1,000 yards on the season, so there’ll be plenty of damage done to the Pats secondary come Sunday.
Can the New England offense make up for the 300+ yards the Colts will hang on them? Sure they can. They’ll have to. The key will be Wes Welker (isn’t he always?) and the offensive line. The Colts still have Dwight Freeny, and he’s always had a nose for Brady. Containing him will be that much more difficult considering Logan Mankins could sit this game out with an ankle injury, but having time in the pocket will be the difference-maker for Brady. As far as Welker is concerned, there’s no one in the league who can shred a defense on short and intermediate routes like he can – when he actually catches the ball, of course (nice drops last week, bro). If Freeney becomes a problem, and the run game can’t get off the ground, the quick passes and screens will become the Pats salvation. That’s where Welker comes in.
Another spot to exploit: Darius Butler. The former Patriot cornerback is now a starter for the Colts due to injuries sustained by a number of their original starters. If you recall, Butler wasn’t exactly stellar for the Pats, who drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft He did have two interceptions last week against Jacksonville, but he’s still a weak spot Brandon Lloyd and Brady might want to look at.