LAST WEEK’S GAME: Indianapolis (2-2) is coming off of a 23-18 home loss against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. The Colts cut 10 and eleven point deficits to four and five points, and found themselves down 20-18 in the final quarter. The outcome of the game was decided in the final minute when quarterback Peyton Manning (26-of-41 for 241 yards, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s) was picked off at the Oakland 44-yard line. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison (8-catches for 60-yards and 2 touchdowns) and runningback Edgerrin James (26-carries for 116-yards rushing 4.5 avg) each had solid performances in the loss.
DEFENSE: The Colts got a good performance from Marcus Washington who had two sacks in last Sunday’s loss against the Raiders. Some players to watch this weekend are also defensive end Chad Bratzke, strong safety Chad Cota, and cornerback Jeff Burris who lead the team in tackles last Sunday with 6 tackles including 2-passes defended. In their last meeting with New England it was the Patriots who forced four turnovers, including three interceptions by Peyton Manning. Expect this defense to be looking for revenge on Sunday.
OFFENSE: Peyton Manning has struggled so far this season, and despite his 66.9 completion percentage the Colts quarterback has thrown 9 interceptions, two of which the Patriots returned for a touchdown in their last meeting against Indianapolis. It’s a disturbing statistic considering Manning only threw 15 all of last season. As for the running back position, Edgerrin James rushed for over 100 yards last week against Oakland, but was held to only 55-yards on 17-carries in the first meeting against the Patriots.
SPOTLIGHT: NEW ENGLAND
LAST WEEK’S GAME: New England (2-3) is coming off of a dramatic 29-26 overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers last Sunday in Foxboro. The Patriots overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit lead by two late scoring drives by 2nd-year quarterback Tom Brady who finished the afternoon 33-of-54 for 364-yards passing and two touchdowns. Brady hit tight end Jermaine Wiggins on a 3-yard touchdown with under a minute remaining in regulation to tie the score at 26-26, and kicker Adam Vinatieri, who had earlier had an extra point blocked and missed a 44-yard field goal, got redemption with a 44-yard game winning kick four minutes into the first overtime.
DEFENSE: Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox and safety Lawyer Milloy are the leaders on defense for New England, and the defense has also seen improvement by rookie 1st round draft choice Richard Seymour who is making steady progress in learning Belichick’s defense. Cornerbacks Ty Law and Terrell Buckley continue to play well and have been one of the reasons why opposing quarterbacks aren’t having much luck against New England’s secondary. The majority of problems the Patriots have had have been due to the opponents running game against their young defensive line.
OFFENSE: Quarterback Tom Brady had his best performance of the season last week (33-of-54 for 364 yards and 2 TD’s) and also played well in their first meeting against the Colts, but the key factor for Brady this season is the fact he’s yet to throw an interception. In their first meeting the Colts were unable to stop the running attack of the Patriots who totalled 177-yards in total rushing, 94 of which came from Antowain Smith. Brady threw for a mere 168-yards in the contest, but this time they’ll have Terry Glenn (7-catches for 110 yards and a TD last Sunday) who has always had success against them.
KEYS TO THE GAME: This is a must win game for both teams. For Indianapolis it will get them back over .500, and for New England it will get them back even at .500. The Patriots have yet to win on the road and will have to do it in a hostile and noisy environment known as the RCA Dome. Wide receiver Terry Glenn will need another big performance for his team this week, and hopefully he will be able to open up big plays for fellow receivers Troy Brown and David Patten.
In all likelihood Bill Belichick will employ the same defense he did the first time around and shut down Indianapolis’ running game and force Manning to beat them in the air. Belichick put them in mixed coverages in their last meeting, leaving Manning with no one to throw the ball to in a game where he was frustrated and said afterwards, “they rushed 3 and dropped 15.” The Colts quarterback is struggling this season and will be challenged again on Sunday to keep from turning the football over, an area where he has had a major problem this season.