The Indianapolis Colts (0-11) will travel to Foxboro to take on their rivals, the New England Patriots (8-3), for a Week 13 match up that is not nearly as attractive now as it was when the schedule came out. Out of the ashes of their 27-19 loss, however, comes a sense of hope for the future. While the changes made this week – the firing of defensive coordinator Larry Coyer and the benching of QB Curtis Painter – are unlikely to help the Colts win any games in 2011, it is the first public acknowledgement from the team that the status quo is unacceptable, and a signal that there will be changes made in the off-season.
The New England Patriots enter the game as leaders of the AFC East and in prime position to earn the AFC’s top playoff seed. While the Tom Brady-led offense is once again one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL, their play has covered up New England’s dirty little secret: they field one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Will Dan Orlovsky and the Colts be able to take advantage of the Patriots suspect defense and earn the Colts first win of the season? Or will Belichick and Brady send their hated rival to an embarrassing 0-12 record?
Only one thing is guaranteed on Sunday: BRADY BRADY BRADY BRADY BRADY BRADY BRADY.
Tale of the tape
How do the Colts and Bradys measure up against each other on offense and defense? Let us take a look. NFL.com conventional rankings are listed first, with FootballOutsiders.com advanced stats (DVOA) in parenthesis.
The New England Bradys
|Passing||28th (29th)||18th (32nd)||2nd (2nd)||32nd (22nd)|
|Rushing||25th (16th)||31st (30th)||15th (6th)||12th (23rd)|
|Total||28th (28th)||29th (31st)||1st (2nd)||32nd (23rd)|
When the Colts have the ball
|Indianapolis Colts Offense||New England Bradys
|87 WR R. Wayne||12 DE T. Brady|
|84 TE J. Tamme||12 DT T. Brady|
|74 LT A. Castonzo||12 DT T. Brady|
|67 LG M. Tepper||12 DE T. Brady|
|63 C J. Saturday||12 SLB T. Brady|
|71 RG R. Diem||12 MLB T. Brady|
|72 RT J. Linkenbach||12 WLB T. Brady|
|17 WR A. Collie||12 CB T. Brady|
|85 WR P. Garcon||12 SS T. Brady|
|7 QB C. Painter||12 FS T. Brady|
|29 RB J. Addai||12 CB T. Brady|
The Colts may have changed their starting quarterback this week, but their recipe for success on offense should remain the same: lean on a running game that continues to find success against every defense it faces, and use the play action pass and screen game for big plays once the defense begins to adjust to take away the run.
Twelve weeks into the 2011 season and it seems safe to say that RB Donald Brown has shed the bust label. Despite poor quarterback play that has allowed opposing defenses to load up against the run, Brown has run for 4.7 yards per carry on his 76 carries this season. Brown has been so good this season that if he had enough carries to qualify, he’d be the #2 running back by DVOA for the season. So while the Patriots may field one of the worst pass defenses in the league, the Colts best way to attack their secondary will be to make them think about the run first.
In the passing game, the Patriots lack the talent in the secondary to cover either Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon, and may decide to use safety help over the top of both to limit the big play. If so, both WR Austin Collie and TE Jacob Tamme will be in favorable match-ups and will be in position to have big games if they can win their one-on-one coverages.
Bracket coverage, however, may not be enough to contain Wayne and Garcon. While the Patriots secondary is short on talent, the biggest reason for their pass defense deficiencies is their lack of an effective pass rush. The Colts offensive line, and rookie LT Anthony Castonzo in particular, has struggled in pass protection in recent weeks, but should have one of their easiest tests of the season against the Patriots. If they can hold up against the Patriots front, it should allow Wayne and Garcon to run the type of routes that will allow them to attack the Patriots safeties up the field – plays that will favor both of the Colts wide outs.
The Colts offense should have success moving the ball on Sunday, but their ability to have continued success may have as much to do with their defense as it does with their own offensive execution. If the Colts defense can get a few stops, if they can keep the score close into the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Colts will be able to execute their full game plan and wear the Patriots defense down. If the Colts defense can’t get stops, their offense will be forced to abandoned the run and that will likely lead to some Dan Orlovsky turnovers and their 12th loss of the season.
When the Bradys have the ball
|Indianapolis Colts Defense||New England Bradys
|93 DE D. Freeney||12 WR T. Brady|
|99 DT A. Johnson||12 TE T. Brady|
|95 DT F. Moala||12 LT T. Brady|
|98 DE R. Mathis||12 LG T. Brady|
|53 WLB K. Conner||12 C T. Brady|
|51 MLB P. Angerer||12 RG T. Brady|
|50 SLB P. Wheeler||12 RT T. Brady|
|25 CB J. Powers||12 TE T. Brady|
|30 SS D. Caldwell||12 WR T. Brady|
|41 FS A. Bethea||12 QB T. Brady|
|21 CB K. Thomas||12 RB T. Brady|
The Patriots feature one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL, but their method of attack is one of the most unique. Lacking the type of top end speed receiver that most dominant offenses have, the Patriots use an offense comprised of slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs that can run precise routes – and combination routes – that allow their players to exploit individual match ups.
WRs Wes Welker and Julian Edelman have the kind of speed, quickness, and route running needed to beat cornerbacks in one-on-one situations with slants, out-routes and in-routes, while TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have the type of speed that allows them to beat linebackers in one-on-one situations and the type of size that allows them to abuse safeties in those individual match ups.
If the Colts are going to have success slowing down the Patriots they will need to do two things: use a lot of man coverage and expand upon a game plan they used against the Panthers – allowing their best players to play against the opponents best players.
The first part of that equation goes against everything we have been saying all year – that the Colts needed to simplify their defense and rely on the Cover-2 schemes that brought them so much success under Tony Dungy. Why the change? Simple – QB Tom Brady has struggled in his career against tight man coverage, while feasting on the space that zone coverage schemes afford him and his receivers. Take that space away, jam his receivers and keep a tight coverage – something the Colts best players can do – and you might just force Brady into some mistakes.
The second part of the equation is something you should recognize if you’ve been reading this piece all year – we’ve been using this space to lobby the Colts to use CB Jerraud Powers to shadow the opponent’s top receiving option. Week 12 was the first week the Colts opted to go that route, and Powers was up to the task as he kept WR Steve Smith – one of the best in the game – in check.
Powers will need to do more of the same to Wes Welker this week, but that by itself won’t be enough – LB Pat Angerer, who has been having a breakout year for the Colts, will need to be deployed against Gronkowski. Angerer has the athleticism and size to line up against Gronkowski, and, while he won’t win every play, he is the Colts best hope for consistent success against the talented tight end.
On the back end, safeties Bethea, Lefeged and Caldwell must make sure tackles to help prevent any runs or catches from becoming big plays. The Colts have the talent on defense to slow down the Patriots – they have players that can match up well against Brady’s best receiving options and they have the kind of pass rush that can make the Patriots quarterback uncomfortable – but they will need to be creative and aggressive in their game planning if they are going to have success.
Five key plays
5. The Colts and Manning get their first win against the Belichick/Brady Patriots – The Colts could not win in Foxboro. Belichick was in Manning’s head. The Colts defense could not stop Brady and the Patriots offense. All of these were Media Truisms for the first 5 years of the decade. On November 7th, 2005, the Colts put an end to all of them with a 40-21 victory at Foxboro. This sparked a streak of domination that saw the meme switch feet, with the media openly questioning whether Belichick could stop Manning, and if the Colts had the Patriots number. Lasting image? Brady demolishing a water bottle as he realized there was no 20-point field goal in the NFL.
4. Marlin Jackson’s game-clinching interception against Brady in the 2006 AFC Championship Game – The Colts probably go on to win the game without the interception – after all, Brady needed more than a field goal to salvage the game – but it was more than just a little satisfying watching “the greatest quarterback in the history of mankind” failing to live up to the misconception that he was flawless in crunch time. Jackson’s read was spot on, and it was more than a little fitting that he slid down to protect the ball after the Patriots had benefited from the Chargers inability to do so a week earlier. Also worth nothing? Jackson slid at the 41-yard line to send the Colts to Super Bowl 41.
3. Melvin Bullitt’s tackle to stop the Patriots on 4th-and-2 – A call that was better than the public realized, Belichick took the gamble that his “hall of fame” quarterback could pick up two yards rather than rely on his depleted defense to stop the best quarterback of the era from marching down the field and winning the game. Kevin Faulk’s bobble coupled with Melvin Bullitt’s hit put Manning and the Colts offense in position to win the game. Underrated: the 4th-and-2 spot has been hotly contested and controversial, but the Patriots were unable to challenge due to atrocious clock and timeout management by Belichick and Brady on 4th-and-2 drive.
The last two minutes (be sure to watch the entire video and listen to Al Michaels kill Belichick’s clock management):
2. Marvin Harrison’s catch against the Patriots in the 2006 regular season match-up – Perhaps the most important regular season catch in Indianapolis Colts history, Harrison’s amazing catch helped the Colts earn a 27-20 win over the Patriots. That victory would come in to play in the post season as the Colts – the #3 seed – and the Patriots – the #4 seed – would each win their first two playoff rounds, setting up an AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis. Equally amazing as the catch was Harrison’s reaction to the catch – the normally quiet and reserved receiver spiked the ball in the face of the seemingly lost and befuddled Patriots defenders.
1. Joseph Addai’s touchdown run in the 2006 AFC Championship Game - The play that gave the Colts their first lead of the 2006 AFC Championship Game with a minute left in regulation, that exorcised all of the demons, that blew the roof off of the dome, came not on the arm of Peyton Manning, but the legs of a rookie running back and the block of their undersized, under-appreciated center. The Colts had trailed by 15 points at halftime, but erased the entire deficit on their 2nd drive of the 3rd quarter. At 21-21, the game became a seesaw affair, while the Patriots and Colts exchanged scores.
Down by 6, a key 12-men in the huddle flag, along with a great defensive play from S Bob Sanders forced the Patriots to punt the ball back to Manning and the Colts offense with just over 2 minutes left in regulation. Completions to WR Reggie Wayne and TE Bryan Fletcher had the Colts inside the red zone in no time. From there, they relied on the play-calling of WR Marvin Harrison who said, “Let’s run the ball.” They took his advice and ran the ball on three consecutive plays, the third being Addai’s game-winning touchdown.
The injury reports
Note: status isn’t official until Friday. The Wednesday status is based on the Wednesday injury report and will be updated through the week.
|Player Name||Injury (STATUS)|
|Peyton Manning||NECK (OUT)|
|Dallas Clark||LEG (OUT)
|Joe Reitz||KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)
|Dwight Freeney||REST (QUESTIONABLE)
|Drake Nevis||BACK (QUESTIONABLE)
|Brody Eldridge||HAND (QUESTIONABLE)
|Anthony Gonzalez||GROIN (QUESTIONABLE)
|Ryan Mahaffey||CONCUSSION (QUESTIONABLE)
New England Bradys
|Player Name||Injury (STATUS)|
|QB Tom Brady||SHOULDER (PROBABLE)|
|FS Patrick Chung||FOOT (QUESTIONABLE)|
|OG Dan Connolly||GROIN (QUESTIONABLE)|
|WR Julian Edelman||BACK (QUESTIONABLE)|
|LB Dane Fletcher||THUMB (QUESTIONABLE)|
|LB Gary Guyton||SHOULDER (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DB James Ihedigbo||SHOULDER (QUESTIONABLE)|
|OT Matt Light||ANKLE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|CB Devin McCourty||SHOULDER (QUESTIONABLE)|
|CB Antwaun Molden||CONCUSSION (QUESTIONABLE)|
|WR Chad Ochocinco||HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)|
|WR Taylor Price||HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)|
|WR Matthew Slater||SHOULDER (QUESTIONABLE)|
|LB Bradon Spikes||KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|OT Sebastian Vollmer||BACK (QUESTIONABLE)|
|OG Brian Waters||KNEE (PROBABLE)|
|OC Ryan Wendell||CALF (QUESTIONABLE)|
- The Colts are 29-45-0 All Time against the Patriots, including a 12-25-0 record on the road.
- Tom Brady has completed 192 of 283 passes for 19 TDs and 10 INTs in his 9 career games against the Colts.
- Deion Branch has 31 catches for 327 yards and 3 TDs in 5 career match ups against the Colts.
- Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have a combined 2 catches for 33 yards and a TD in their only game against the Colts.
- Reggie Wayne has faced the Patriots 9 times. He has 50 catches for 679 yards and 5 touchdowns in those games.
- Pierre Garcon has played 3 games against the Patriots in his 4-year career. He has 8 catches for 112 yds and a score.
- Donald Brown has carried the ball 21 times for 82 yards in 2 games against the Patriots.
- Jacob Tamme has 7 catches for 60 yards in 2 games against New England.
- Dwight Freeney has 3 sacks against the Patriots in 7 games.
- Robert Mathis has racked up 5 sacks in his 6 games against the Patriots.
Identifying the coverage
Who(Visually): Marv Albert and Rich Gannon
Where(Audio): 1070 AM The Fan WFNI and 97.1 HANK FM
Who(Audio): Bob Lamey and Will Wolford
Word of the Game: BradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBradyBrady
Is the Game on in your area? Good question. The people at The506 will be able to tell you.
New England – 32 (via 16 Dan Orlovsky safeties), Colts – 12 (Via 4 three-time Super Bowl MVP Adam Vinatieri field Goals)