On Monday, Bruce Arians and a few players talked to the media as they prepared for their next opponent, the New England Patriots. Today’s Colts Notebook has the highlights, with quotes and information courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
Renewing the Rivalry
For many years, the Colts and the Patriots were AFC East rivals, playing two bitterly contested games each year, no matter how good or bad each team was. Eventually, the rivalry transitioned from Drew Bledsoe versus the Colts quarterback carousel to Brady versus Manning. Even then, it wasn’t until around the time the Colts moved to the newly formed AFC South that their competition began to heat up and capture the national spotlight as few others ever have.
Much has changed for Indianapolis since the Brady and Manning-led teams last faced off. The Colts have scores of players who are very new to the sort of battles these teams have had over the past decade. A few of the veterans, though, have some great memories of this rivalry and know just what kind of atmosphere to expect on Sunday.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Outside Linebacker Dwight Freeney said about looking back on the rivalry someday. “A lot of dramatic games. They had our number. We had their number. We had to get through them to win the Super Bowl. There’s a lot of memories there.”
“History, rivalry. Anything you want to call it, it’s going to be that,” added fellow Outside Linebacker Robert Mathis. There’s no love lost between both clubs so it’s going to be a good game, hard fought.”
Safety Antoine Bethea was asked to go a little deeper and describe the relationship between the teams over the last few years. “I think obviously the fans don’t like the teams but I think as far as the players, it’s a form of respect,” he said. “Obviously we both know when we go at it; it’s always a hard-fought, 60-minute game. I think we respect each other. That being said, they want to get a win just like us. It’s a very important game, AFC game. It’s very important but I think we both have a mutual respect for each other.”
Update on Chuck Pagano
Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians gave a very candid, honest update on his boss and friend, Coach Pagano. “We spent all Saturday afternoon together watching football games and laughing and talking,” Arians said. “He was having a very good day. The chemo is hitting him pretty good. He had a rough day yesterday. He’s anticipating that downward spiral right now, to where his numbers will go back down. Then hopefully they’ll build up quicker than they did the last time. But he’s more than ready for it mentally.”
Arians answered questions about how Pagano’s illness has affected the team, coming together and during their win streak. He spoke a great deal, about how his players are fighting for their leader, laying it all on the line for Pagano. But when asked if they would be in this situation if it hadn’t happened, Arians told a story about team chemistry that showed a side of the NFL life few ever experience, then finished up with some thoughtful perspective.
“I don’t know if you know,” he began. “So many new faces, something, and I’ve been on a number of different teams when people start throwing the word chemistry out. It chooses one certain thing that bonds a group together.
“I remember the NFL flew us into a hurricane in Miami two days early to sit in the hurricane so we’d be there in time to play. We lost power in the hotel, and we passed out flashlights and grown men are running around playing flashlight tag all night. It was a bunch of guys, we had a bunch of new guys on the team that year and it was a bonding experience for that football team to just experience that hurricane and they grew together for the rest of the season.”
Arians then concluded, “I think it’s a shame because one of my best friends is fighting his tail off to stay alive. For us to win football games, that’s the least we can do.”
Shootout in the Making?
The New England Patriots can score points. They’re one of the best teams in the league at lighting up the scoreboard. The Patriots feature a balanced, pick-your-poison type offense that can pile up yards through the air and on the ground. The Colts, who haven’t allowed an individual 100-yard rusher since the Jets game, face a tough challenge this week. With Tom Brady leading the charge, New England is averaging around 33 points per game, compared to just fewer than 21 for the Colts (stats from ESPN.com).
With Luck playing better, and both teams allowing over 20 points per game, some have suggested that this week’s matchup has the potential to be a shootout. “I hope not,” said Bethea when asked about that very possibility. “We don’t want for it to turn into a shootout. We want to go out there defensively, build off what we did last week and go out there and make plays, create some turnovers, get off the field on third down and let (Andrew) Luck and them shoot the scoreboard up. We don’t want it to be a shootout.”
Getting Ready for a Man Named Brady
Tom Brady has been one of the league’s premier quarterbacks for over a decade. Andrew Luck, who many hope will be a top tier quarterback for years to come, talked a little about the Patriots’ signal caller. “It’s amazing,” Luck said. “He consistently wins. He consistently puts huge numbers up and the Patriots are consistently perennial contenders for it all. He’s obviously an unbelievable quarterback and it’ll be a great challenge for us as a team to go up there.”
Bruce Arians as asked if he’s seen any drop off from Brady, as he gets older. “No,” he answered. “If anything, he’s gotten better. They do a very good job of keep pressing the envelope offensively. They’ve gone through a couple different guys as coordinators, but Tom and coach (Bill) Belichick have always got their hand on the pulse of the rest of the league and ‘These guys are doing this, how can we incorporate it?’ And defensively he gets all the credit for utilizing his personnel, but I think coach has always done a great job offensively of putting guys in the best position to be successful, and that just helps Tom.”
“Yeah. He’s definitely a guy out there that is leading his team like always,” said Freeney when asked if he, too, thinks Brady is getting even better. “You would think the older you got, your skills start to deteriorate. He’s still as accurate as ever. He leads that team. He’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. It’s going to be tough.”
A Few Good Quotes and the Chapman Watch
For those looking for a little more reading, here are a handful of other notable quotes from the Colts’ media session, including an update on a player many fans have been hoping to see on the field this season.
Bruce Arians on activating rookie Nose Tackle Josh Chapman: “We are contemplating that right now, looking at the injury situation and where we’re heading with that. We’ll have all those announcements for Wednesday.” When asked if they would activate him on Tuesday, Arians answered, “Yeah. In all likelihood, we will.”
Andrew Luck, on watching the Colts-Patriots games on television: “Absolutely. I think anybody who played quarterback had to sit down at least a couple times and try and learn something from when those two were going at it.”
Andrew Luck on playing in the cold weather: “It’ll be interesting. Obviously, going to school in California, you don’t play in too many different weather systems. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. We’ll practice in it here and we’ll do it up there. Guys have played in cold, rain. Guys will be fine.”
Safety Tom Zbikowski on winning five of six since Chuck Pagano’s treatment began: “I think it was just our leader, what a lot of the guys on this team bought into early. It wasn’t that we were trying to do anything extra or out of the ordinary. It was just I think a certain time that maybe it was a pivotal moment that a team started bonding, became one team, one family.”