From the "Daily News": Sam Donnellon | Pats peaking at right time COLTS GET ACCOLADES, NEW ENGLAND GETS RINGS Here's the thing about records. They reflect where you've been more than where you are. Consider the Colts and the Patriots, the AFC's dominant teams for much of this millennium. The Colts have always been about numbers, big numbers, and rolls, big rolls. They have been about Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James and, well, the truth is, the average Joe can probably name more of them than he can name Patriots. While the regular season has often seemed like a Disney ride for Indianapolis, it has been more like a condemned roller coaster for New England. Most years, the Patriots seem to need a period of trial and error and adjustments. But not since their first Super Bowl championship run, which began with their starting quarterback sidelined for the season, has there been as much trial, error and adjusting as there has this season. New England should be ding-dong dead. Their injured and out-for-the-season list is almost as imposing as the Eagles'. Safety Rodney Harrison is done. So are starting corners Tyrone Poole and Randall Gay. Toss in a new coordinator on each side of the ball, and the idea that they are even in this thing is unlikely. That they might be peaking, again at the right time, is ludicrous. New England throttled the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 28-0, Saturday, a week after the Bucs whipped the red-hot Carolina Cougars. Saturday's victory pushed the Patriots record to 9-5 and clinched the AFC East Division title. Clearly, the AFC East is least among divisions, which is why the Patriots' victory on Saturday was a better barometer of their playoff health than their 35-7 victory over the Bills the week before, or their 16-3 win over the Jets before that. "It's not where we want to be at the end of the year," Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour told the Boston Globe. "But we have an opportunity for a second season. It's good to go in with confidence. That's what we've been doing the last couple of weeks - building confidence." In eight of their last 10 games, the Patriots' defense has not allowed a first-quarter point. Over the last three weeks, New England has outscored opponents 79-10. They have done this under the NFL's radar - an amazing thing, considering it is the Patriots, not the Colts, who have won three of the last four Super Bowls. But again, it is the Colts who rule the final months of every year, filling out magazine covers as they fill up the regular-season record books. They are sexy. They are exciting. And this season, they have been the complete package. So far. Despite losing its chance at an unblemished record Sunday, Indianapolis could finish the season with the NFL's best record. By any measure of accomplishment, the Colts should be favored in all playoff encounters and - if they get there - the Super Bowl, as well. On. Nov. 7, the Colts put a 40-21 pounding on the Patriots, dropped them to 4-4 and left them for dead. New England has lost once since. Same as the Colts. The Colts have played four potential playoff teams since then, the Patriots two. Each has lost to one of them. Statistically, every edge belongs to Indianapolis. Their offense is among the NFL's top four, their defense is ranked far above that of New England's. And yet if you watched the Colts lose to San Diego Sunday and watched New England trample the Bucs the day before, you couldn't help wondering whether Tony Dungy's team is being set up once again. Two seasons ago, the Colts scored 79 points in the two playoff games that propelled them into an AFC Championship Game with the Patriots. They lost, 24-14, on a snowy day in Foxboro, Mass. The next season, Manning and company put up 49 points in a wild-card game against Denver, then scored three against New England the following week. After Sunday's game, Pats linebacker Roosevelt Colvin credited the midseason return of Tedy Bruschi from a mild stroke as "a big reason" for the team's success. Bruschi immediately shot that down, saying it was more about the defense understanding and playing roles better, about "not trying to do too much." Sound familiar, Eagles fans? The difference, of course, is that these are the words of a defense that is figuring itself out each week rather than figuring out what went wrong each week. "We're jelling right now," Pats defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "We're trusting each other, trusting our coaching, trusting our judgment out on the field. We have a lot of faith in each other." The NFL has no weekly stats for trust, no way to quantify that faith as it does yards gained and lost. But the Patriots can tell you, and the Colts hope they will be able to soon, that it is the difference between moving forward and looking back.