January 11, 2004
Colts Will Be A Tough Challenge
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
The last time the Patriots faced the Indianapolis Colts, it required an improbable goal line stand to hold on to a 38-34 win in Indianapolis back on November 30th.
Anyone who's been watching the Colts over the past few weeks knows that this isn't the same team.
They've gotten much better.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has hopefully quieted all the naysayers who said he couldn't win in the postseason, because he's simply been outstanding. In two games Manning has attempted 56-passes and misfired on just 12 of them (76%), with quarterback ratings of 158.3 and 138.8 respectively along with 8-touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 22-of-30 for 304-yards and three touchdowns during the Colts 38-31 win over the Chiefs on Sunday.
Meanwhile after finishing 7th in the NFL against the run, the Patriots defense has surprisingly struggled against the run so far during the playoffs, giving up an average of 3.2 yards per rush against the Titans on Saturday night.
They're getting ready to face Edgerrin James who played well against Kansas City, finishing the game with 26-carries for 125-yards (4.8 avg) and two touchdowns. In New England's last meeting against the Colts at the RCA Dome James rushed for 88-yards on 25-carries (3.5 avg), and also had 8-catches for 50-yards.
The cold weather and outdoor environment may slow things down a bit for Indianapolis, but the success the Patriots have had against them will likely be fresh in their minds when they come to Foxboro next Sunday.
Bill Belichick has always come up with game plans to try and confuse Manning, but it appears that experience is finally beginning to pay off for the veteran quarterback and it may be a little bit more difficult to rattle him. Despite playing in a very difficult environment at Arrowhead Stadium, the he kept his cool and was near flawless, helping his team finish 8-of-11 on 3rd down (73%) with his team not punting the football once during the game.
In their last meeting against New England Manning tossed 4-touchdowns and threw for 278-yards, attacking the middle of the field and throwing four touchdowns to four different receivers. They have some dangerous targets in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Bernard Stokley, and Marcus Pollard, all of which played very well against Denver and Kansas City and will likely be a challenge for the Patriots defense.
One thing that Patriots fans can feel confident about however is that Belichick is aware of whatever problems his defense has and will be able to make the appropriate adjustments. Both he and his coaching staff had Sunday afternoon to begin preparations while the Colts had to board a plane in Kansas City to return home to Indianapolis, and unlike their previous match-up he will also have his best players on the field this weekend. RB Antowain Smith, WR Troy Brown, and DL Anthony Pleasant were all inactive in their prior meeting back on November 30th but will be back on the field next weekend.
Tony Dungy reportedly reminded his team after their win over Kansas city that although the Patriots have beaten them once so far this season, the Denver Broncos had done the same thing and were handed a 41-10 loss when the two teams met in the playoffs.
Now he'll have to wait until next Sunday to find out if they can repeat that same success in New England.
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