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Remember the trip to Gillette Stadium last year? The 59 24 annihilation? The Colts led 14 7 after one quarter, then came unglued. Two plays after Julian Edelman returned a second quarter punt 68 yards for a TD, Talib returned the first of three Luck interceptions 59 yards for a TD and a 24 17 halftime lead. The Patriots scored on their first possession of the third quarter, then bumped their lead to 38 17 by getting another Brady TD pass on the first play following a Luck fumble.
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Make the Pats one dimensional: Quarterback Tom Brady is a handful, especially when the postseason rolls around. He has directed an NFL record 17 playoff wins, although we feel obligated to point out Brady is 3 5 in his last eight postseason starts. The last thing Tom Terrific needs is a running game to complement his passing attack. Given the chance, the Patriots' running backs will wear down the Colts' defensive front and neutralize sack champ Robert Mathis with steady doses of Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount, and an occasional dash of Shane Vereen. That trio has combined for 1,753 yards and 15 rushing TDs. Each has eclipsed the 100 yard mark once this season, with the thundering 6 foot, 250 pound Blount running through Buffalo for 189 yards and two TDs in the Patriots' regular season finale.
Brady is tough when he's asked to do it by himself, but that's the best option for the Colts' defense. If it can force Brady to throw more than he wants, it should be able to get to him and either force mistakes or make him nervous in the pocket. He has been sacked 40 times, the most since he went down 41 times in 2001, his first year as a starter.
Mo? So, will the Indianapolis Colts ride into Foxborough on the wave of emotion created by their historic comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs? Or will we see a team that's emotionally spent? Ask coach Chuck Pagano . then duck.
We'll be shocked if Indianapolis doesn't bring its A game. Besides, there's precedent for building on an epic comeback. The Colts overcame a 28 point third quarter deficit, staging the second largest comeback in postseason history. The only team ahead of them is the 1992 Buffalo Bills, who rallied from 32 points down 35 3 in the third quarter to defeat the Houston Oilers 41 38 in overtime in a wild card game. The Bills gathered themselves and won road games against Pittsburgh and Miami to reach Super Bowl XXVII, where they lost to Dallas.
Weather the storm: We're not talking about inclement weather. The forecast calls for a high of 55, a low of 38 and a 60 percent chance of rain. We're talking about the Colts refusing Atlanta Braves Hat Black
Control the tempo: Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has settled into a no huddle, spread 'em out approach. We applaud you, Pep. While it might be more difficult to run the no huddle with Gillette Stadium's sellout crowd raising a ruckus, it's still the way to go. Be aggressive and force the Patriots to react to what you're doing. But while we believe the best game plan involves a lot of Luck no pun intended it's still important to establish Donald Brown and Trent Richardson. New England's defense has been thinned by injuries DTs Vince Wilford and Tommy Kelly, LBs Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes and is vulnerable. It ranks No. 30 against the run, allowing 134.1 yards per game.
Fleener has the size to overpower DBs and speed to be a headache for linebackers. If Luck can't feed the ball to Hilton, he needs to look to his ol' Stanford buddy.
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There will be difficult times. Get through them and get the game into the fourth quarter. The Luck led Colts are 15 2 in one possession games since the start of 2012, 6 1 this year. The Brady led Patriots are 11 8, 7 4 this season.
this season when they run the ball at least 25 times. Give Luck options, and test that shaky Patriots defense.
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As a sidenote, the Steelers were the No. 2 seed and Miami No. 1 that year. For the Colts to reach Super Bowl XLVIII, they'll have to beat No. 2 New England and perhaps No. 1 Denver. On the road. Hilton early and often unless the Patriots dictate otherwise. Hilton should anticipate a game long close encounter with Aqib Talib. The Pro Bowl corner routinely draws the opposing team's top receiving threat. He gets in the receiver's face and tries to neutralize a QB's go to guy, or at least disrupt him. Hilton still might find room to Nike Hat Golf roam and do damage. If not, someone else must step up. We're putting our money on TE Coby Fleener. He had a quietly efficient regular season with 52 receptions, 608 yards and four TDs. Against the Chiefs, Fleener contributed five catches for 46 yards and a TD.
"Letdown?" he said, offering the inquisitor a stern stare. "There's only eight teams left. Do you know how hard it is?"
Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck,left, greets New England Patriots QB Tom Brady,right, following their game Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium in Foxobrough MA. Matt Kryger / The Star(Photo: Matt Kryger)
The Colts' ground game has been hit and miss; it has often received a boost from Luck's scrambles. But it's worth noting the Colts are 11 1 Adidas Hat White And Gold
to wilt when a crisis hits during the game. We fully expect there to be a few rough patches. It's critical to deal with the adversity and the accompanying roar of more than 69,000 fans to limit the damage.
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