As the New England Patriots gear up for their AFC divisional playoff against the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday, we check in with our friends at Ink on Indy. Editor Evan Reller helped us answer questions we had about the Colts.
If Hilton is taken away, the Colts will need Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill to step up big time. Its not impossible for that to happen either. Rogers had a huge catch against the Chiefs to help key off the come back and set up a touchdown. Those two players do a great job of stretching the field and opening up coverage underneath for Coby Fleener, Hilton, and Donald Brown.
Hilton has shown an impressive ability to get separation from top corners as well. Last week, the Colts did an excellent job setting up plays that resulted in big gains for him (notably the game winning touchdown). The Colts struggled with their identity after Wayne went down, but Hilton managed to step up in key moments. Hilton also battled a shoulder injury following his big game against the Texans, and wasn’t the same player until late in the season.
New England may be solid against number one receivers, but they are flat out bad against 2′s and 3′s. Hilton may be the primary receiver, but that doesn’t mean they use him like that all the time. If Hilton is taken away, look for the Colts to work the short routes for big yardage after the catch.
2. Given the Colts inability to run the football, will Andrew Luck be able move the football consistently with such a one-dimensional attack? This especially important since Bill Belichick is known for his success in disguising defensive fronts.
I wouldn’t really say the Colts have an inability to run. They’re 20th in the league in rushing yards, but rank 11 in DVOA. Donald Brown has the same overall effectiveness as LeGarrette Blount and ranks second in value per play. Trent Richardson on the other had has been abysmal.
Last week, the Colts had to completely abandon the run to play catch up, and that’s been the case in a number of games during the second half of the season. The Colts aren’t able to run the ball mainly because it would take too much time.
That said, Luck is capable of picking this team up, putting it on his back, and winning the game. The Colts may not want to have a team built around one player, but right now that’s what they have. On paper, Kansas City had a better defense than New England and he picked them apart. What the Colts can’t afford to do is turn the ball over, because we know that Tom Brady will make them pay.
3. Do the Colts have enough defensively to slow down the Patriots ground and aerial attacks?
That depends on what defense shows up. If its the same defense that shut down the Chiefs in the second half, then they probably do. The Colts managed a solid game against Denver, which has a better offense. The games where they have struggled the most were where teams ran a read option or had a running QB. Unless the Pats have suddenly decided to start running Brady, that won’t be an issue.
What Brady has been able to do with this offense is astounding considering how many key components the Pats have lost. Having a passing and rushing attack ranking in the top 10 is impressive. Its going to take an exceptional effort from everyone on defense to slow down that offense. Getting a couple turnovers will be massively important as will Robert Mathis getting pressure on Brady.
4. If this game becomes an offensive shootout, will experience play any sort of factor with Luck matching Brady?
It may very well matter quite a bit. Sometimes its hard to say where Luck really is in his development. He is lightyears ahead of most second year players, and after a game like last weeks, its hard to count him out of anything.
Chuck Pagano doesn’t like shootouts. He wants to play ball control for some reason. I don’t like the Colts chances if this does turn into a shootout. All the advantages are held by the Patriots: coaching, home field, and experience.
5. Aside from the household names, who are some players that must step in order for the Colts to emerge victorious?
The Colts need a big game from tight end Coby Fleener. He often times gets overlooked in the game plan or lost in coverage. The Pats are average against tight ends and he should be able to get some solid receptions.
We mentioned that the Pats are bad against number two and three receivers, that means Da’Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen all need to be ready for the ball coming their way.
Defensively, the big question is who will get pressure on Brady besides Mathis? Middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman is second on the team in sacks but isn’t used that often as a blitzer. Someone on the defensive line needs to get in Brady’s face and make him uncomfortable in the pocket.