January 15, 2005
Patriots' Offense Is the Real Key Against Colts
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
FOXBOROUGH -- In order for the New England Patriots to be successful on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, they’re going to have to do something the Denver Broncos couldn’t.
They’ll need to take advantage of the Colts’ 29th ranked defense.
While all the talk this week has focused on Indianapolis’ offense and how they shouldn’t have much trouble against the Patriots injury-riddled secondary, the focus should instead be on New England quarterback Tom Brady and running back Corey Dillon.
Brady’s legacy more or less speaks for itself. He’s undefeated in the postseason, and has won two Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVPs. It’s no secret that when the playoffs arrive he takes it to the next level.
The good news is with the addition of Dillon, this is the most productive offense Brady has had in his four years as a starter. His team has averaged 357.6 yards per game, while the Patriots have amassed 5,722 yards on offense (4th best in the AFC), and are averaging 27.3 points per game along with scoring 49 TDs (both team best totals since Brady has been under center). Brady’s offense has also enjoyed its best season converting on third down, with the offense converting 45.1%, 5th best in the NFL.
New England is also 4th in the NFL in points per-game, averaging 27.3, just 5.3 less than the Colts.
Keeping Manning and company off the field is obviously going to be important to the Patriots success, since the Colts can’t score if their offense isn’t on the field. More importantly New England is going to need to keep their defense fresh by sustaining drives and controlling the clock, which is something considering the weapons they have, they shoudn't have much trouble doing. Dillon certainly provides them with the ground game they really haven't had since Curtis Martin wore #28, and as a result gives Indianapolis something extra to worry about.
With Dillon lining up behind Brady, he has helped open up the Patriots offense and is one of the obvious reasons behind their success this season. Considering how consistent he's been all year, along with an extra week to heal any bumps or bruises he's been dealing with, Bill Belichick isn't concerned with Dillon’s lack of playoff experience heading into this weekend.
“I don't think so,” Belichick told the media this week when the question was asked. “That guy has played a lot of football. He has played in a lot of big games. I mean, he has been in the league quite a while.”
Meanwhile, when New England’s defense is on the field, fans are going to need to understand that Manning and the Colts offense are going to get their yards. They’re probably going to march up and down the field and make a big play here and there. Anyone who believes otherwise would just be fooling themselves. The real key to New England’s success is going to be stopping them when they get inside the 20-yard line and are working with a short field, and forcing their “idiot kicker” (Mike Vanderjagt) to have to kick field goals.
They’ll also need to get up on the Colts early and force them to play from behind. If Indianapolis is forced into a situation where they have to throw on every down it’s going to make life that much easier for New England’s defense.
In the meantime, with Brady and Dillon, Patriot fans have to like their chances. The talk will likely continue as to whether or not New England’s weakened secondary will be able to slow down the Colts offense, or if playing in Foxborough will cause Manning to play like “a dog” as he claims he did in their first meeting at Gillette Stadium in the season opener.
Either way in the end it will come down to which team doesn't play like "a dog". It's simple, if you do that in the postseason, you go home. Fortunately for Patriots fans, with Brady at the helm their offense never does. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, that may be the difference this weekend.
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