Indianapolis Colts Offense: Analyzing Patriots’ Week 6 Test

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Oct 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts receiver Andre Johnson (81) runs after a catch against Houston Texans cornerback Kevin johnson (30) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver

After virtually disappearing for the first month of the NFL season, Andre Johnson went back to Houston in Week 5 and turned in a performance that would make Ari Gold and his paintball gun proud: 6 catches for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns against the team that let him go this offseason.

Oh, that was also with a violently ill 40-year-old Matt Hassellbeck slinging the rock.

Whether Johnson lines up in the slot or outside, corralling him is the opposite type of challenge that a player like T.Y. Hilton represents – at 6’3’’ and 229 pounds, Andre Johnson is a classic go-up-and-get-it receiver, and if you think about the Texans quarterbacks he’s made look like studs year after year (Matt Schaub, in particular), make his 13,725 career receiving yards that much more impressive.

Belichick isn’t taking a 34-year-old wide receiver lightly, either:

(from NESN) “I think that Gore’s really looked good, there are a lot of great examples of him running the ball downhill, breaking tackles and getting positive plays. Johnson had a big game last week against Houston, but both those guys, it looks like they are still productive, and we’re going to have to deal with the size and physicality and experience of both of them.”

“It’s always hard to tell what somebody else’s game plan is.  Something is working, and they were getting the ball to Johnson, you keep doing it. How much of that was Hasselbeck-related, game plan-related, or just how the game unfolded? I’m not sure, but we have to be ready for all of them, and those two guys are certainly two players I personally have a lot of respect for, the kind of careers that they’ve had, but they’re playing very well now and we’re going to have to do a good job to control them.”

Who Can Stop Him?

Honestly, this seems to be the most likely assignment for Malcolm Butler on Sunday night. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots defensive game plan was clearly designed to limit big plays down the field from Antonio Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey, which left Butler on an island with the best route-runner in the game.

Sure, Brown ended up with 133 receiving yards and a touchdown, but ever since then, Butler’s gotten better and more confident in man coverage, which was clear when he was WWF-staring down Dallas receiver Terrance Williams after holding him to a miniscule 30 yards on the day.

What’ll be key here for Butler (or whoever guards Johnson) is countering the savvy moves that older players use to compensate for not quite having the burning speed that they used to.

Johnson is sure to try to exploit Butler’s aggressive side to gain inside position, break on his routes with the decisiveness that a dozen years in the league gives you, and in general, if Malcolm Butler wants to build up his rep as a lockdown corner, Johnson is a test unlike anything Malcolm’s had to face yet.

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