Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea, and Adam Vinatieri. After Vince Wilfork's injury, those are the only players left on either team from Indy’s 38-34 AFC Championship victory in January 2007, the last time these teams faced each other in the playoffs (h/t Football Outsiders’ Scott Kacsmar).
The history and respect between the two franchises is undeniable, but with so many new faces on both sidelines, it has little bearing on Saturday’s Divisional round matchup in Foxborough.
“Yeah, impressive history,” Coby Fleener said of the longstanding AFC rivalry, “but it won’t have an impact on how we game plan for this game and how we play it ultimately on Saturday.”
One person who may be more familiar with the Patriots than he lets on is Colts Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, who spent three seasons on the New York Jets staff in the mid-2000s. Hamilton wouldn’t go into specifics on his history against the Patriots (the Jets were 0-6 versus New England during that span), but he had plenty to say about facing a Bill Belichick-coached defense.
“I do know for a fact that it was always a 60-minute chess match,” Hamilton said yesterday. “It was ever-changing looks and disguises and they always tend to find ways to figure out some of your signals. That’s part of it. That’s part of it.” It’s worth noting that according to media members who were present, Pep smiled when he said the part about signals.
Hamilton also took time to say some kind words about Belichick, adding, “It’s truly an honor to have an opportunity to field a team and compete against the likes of Coach Belichick who will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Football League.” Goodness.
One thing Belichick is known for besides championships, hoodies, and Spy-gate, is trying to take away an offense’s favorite option. They game-plan to make their opponent’s top skill position player (RB, WR, TE,…FB – remember the fullback?) as much of a non-factor as possible. It stands to reason then, that unless they’ve been watching the wrong game film, Belichick’s defense will make T.Y. Hilton a priority. They’ll use all the jams, bump and run, and disguised double coverage they can throw at him.
The Colts offense will need a counter-measure or two. As he’s done with all his receivers all year, Hamilton has moved Hilton around to get him into favorable matchups, which could come in handy at combatting Belichick’s efforts to take Indy’s 5’9” stick of dynamite out of the game.
“He’s played all four spots,” Hamilton said of T.Y. “He’s played both outside positions. He’s played in both slots. We feel like that’s important so that teams just can’t kind of game plan and scheme to take him away and so we’ve challenged T.Y. early and often to understand the concepts and understand all four spots. He’s done extremely well for himself.
Hamilton said he feels the kind players they have on offense “give us the latitude to be diverse in their schemes, to find different ways to move guys around, to feature different matchups.”
Pep Hamilton sounded like a man who isn’t going to hold anything back. “We’re not saving plays,” he said. “We’re not saving any of our bullets, should I say. We got to be ready to do whatever we need to take to score touchdowns.”
There was no rhetoric about balance or imposing their will or hints at the game manager offense. Hamilton is prepared to use every trick he might have up his sleeve, and over the past few weeks, he’s had an impressive array of them.
Leftover Quotes: Luck is like a linebacker, and other fun stuff
– Someone asked Pep Hamilton if he’s ever seen Andrew Luck get “rattled.” Hamilton’s answer was pure gold: “Not at all. I think if anything, there have been games in the past, where he’s gotten so excited before the game that you almost want him to temper that emotion. He approaches the game like a linebacker. He wants to hit somebody. He wants to get out and be a part of it to get his blood flowing. There’s never been a time where I felt like his confidence was shaken, no. He’s always had a fighter’s spirit, that spirit of a guy that is going to pull everybody up and atone, as he would say, for the mistake that he made. It was evident on Saturday.”
– Deion Branch, recently signed by the Colts, who has lived in Indianapolis for four or five years by his own recollection, on how he ended up moving here: “Oh man, you got to talk to my wife about that. I think Indy is a great city. It’s everything that they sold her. And I think it’s good for the kids and all.”
– Branch again, talking about seeing Indy’s young wideouts, both as a fan and now as a teammate: “A lot of great things. I’ve been here two days and from what I’ve been seeing on television from the two games that I did watch those guys and now being in the actual circle with them, you can see it. You can see the type of work that they put in during the game. The only thing that we all as fans don’t get the opportunity to see when I was a fan was the work that they put in in the meeting rooms, at practice. And that’s what matters. This team is in the playoffs for a reason. Great team. Great coach. You got a great quarterback, a young quarterback who’s out there doing a great job of leading this team. The sky’s the limit what happens. As long as 12 (Andrew Luck) is upright, I think the team will be okay.”
Branch fielded 15 questions and had an instant rapport with the Indianapolis media. He sounds like a very positive addition to the Colts’ locker room.
– Antoine Bethea on what it means to be able to see Chuck Pagano enjoy a season like this one: “I think it’s been big, just everybody knowing what happened last year and for him to be able to come back with the team, lead the team throughout the whole year and have the success that we’ve had as a team here, second round of the playoffs. I think it pays dividends just having him in the building, laughing and joking on the field, just leading this team and being our leader.”
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.
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