INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the New England Patriots of the AFC East.
Synopsis: For the ninth consecutive season, the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots will square off in what has become one of the best series in the NFL. The Patriots hold the all-time series edge, 45-29 (counting playoffs), but Indianapolis has won five of the last seven meetings between the teams.
Each team's success over the past decade has helped nurture the competitiveness of the series. Since 2001, the teams have combined for 244 regular season wins, six Super Bowl appearances and four World Championships.
Despite the Colts struggles this season, this matchup has not lost any of its luster to players in either locker room.
As Indianapolis continues its efforts to claim its first victory of the season, cornerback Jerraud Powers understands the team's record will draw no sympathy from its opponent come Sunday.
"It's one of those games where it's obvious that the rivalry is there," said Powers. "Let's just say that the rivalry is so intense that nobody is going to take it easy on anybody, no matter what the situation is. That's just how rivalries go, and we're going to have our hands full."
With the second-ranked total offense in the NFL, New England has found little difficulty putting points on the board this season, averaging 30.1 points per game. The Colts have had difficulty in the category this season, having surrendered 29.7 points per game. Over the past two games, Indianapolis has limited opponents to an average of 22 points, and the defense once again will need to step up against a high-powered offense led by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"Without a doubt, they're not going to take it easy," said Powers. "We're going to have to make sure that we come up with a good game plan. Guys are going to have to get ready for this game, (because) it's going to be a tough, tough match-up."
Head Coach Jim Caldwell feels similarly about the matchup, and he understands what is needed on Sunday.
"Our job is (that) we have to do, no matter who we're playing, we've got to play defense," said Caldwell. "We've got to play defense, and we have to do a good job in terms of making certain that we stop them. It's our responsibility to play. Now, I think our guys know we're up for a challenge, and we're looking forward to it. They're a tough team, they've been playing well and we're trying to get ourselves in position where we're playing like we're capable of playing."
Like the Colts, New England also has had its share of difficulties on the defensive side of the ball this season. On a three-game winning streak, though, the Patriots have allowed but 39 points and will look to build upon that recent success this Sunday when facing Indianapolis.
Although the Patriots defense ranks last in the NFL in total offense surrendered, Head Coach Bill Belichick has his squad playing opportunistic football. The Patriots rank tied for second in the NFL in interceptions (16), while producing 25 sacks. New England also has recorded four interceptions in the past two weeks and seven in the month of November, which is tied for the third-most in the league during that span.
As a fellow defender, Powers has seen just how dangerous the Patriots can be, and he believes the defensive unit has continued to show improvement throughout the year.
"(They have a) tremendous offense, and I think their defense is turning things around and playing way better than what I think they were playing in the first (half) of the year," said Powers. "It's going to be another tough match-up."
The week 13 contest against New England may be one of the toughest tests for the Colts this season. Indianapolis will go into Sunday's game with Dan Orlovsky starting at quarterback. Orlovsky will open in place of Curtis Painter, who had started since the fourth game. Linebackers Coach Mike Murphy has been named the defensive coordinator.
To go along with the momentum of an 8-3 record and a three-game winning streak, the Patriots also have the advantage of playing at home, where they have proven to be nearly unbeatable. Since 2002, the Patriots have produced an 18-1 home record in December, and the team owns the best overall mark at home since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 (71-15).
Regardless of the difficulty of the test, linebacker Pat Angerer and his teammates want desperately to earn a victory this Sunday.
"We're going to fight, and we're going to go in there and it's going to be a good game," said Angerer. "It's going to be a brawl, and I look forward to it. It's always a great challenge when you play such a great quarterback like Tom Brady. It will definitely be a big challenge, but it will be fun."
*2011 Record: *8-3, First in AFC East.
*Head Coach: *Bill Belichick, 12th season with Patriots and 17th season as NFL Head Coach (170-97).
*Last game: *New England traveled to Lincoln Financial Field to face Philadelphia in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX. The Patriots trailed at the end of the first quarter, 10-7, but pulled away with a dominant second quarter performance. New England outscored Philadelphia, 17-3, in the period before adding two more touchdowns in the second half. Brady again produced the type of statistics that rank him among the NFL's all-time elite, throwing for 361 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-34 passing.
*2011 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 2nd (429.5); Rushing, 15th (110.4); Passing, 2nd (319.1); Defense – Overall, 32nd (409.8); Rushing, 12th (102.4); Passing, 32nd (307.5).
*2011 Leading Passer: *Tom Brady (277-of-421, 3,627 yards, 65.8 pct., 28 TDs, 10 INTs, 105.1 rating).
*2011 Leading Rusher: *BenJarvus Green-Ellis (150 carries, 585 yards, 7 TDs).
*2011 Leading Receiver: *Wes Welker (82 receptions, 1,143 yards, 8 TDs).
2011 Leading Sacker: Andre Carter (9.0).
2011 Turnover Breakdown: 6 (Tied-5th).
First-round draft choice: Nate Solder, offensive tackle. With the 17th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Nate Solder out of the University of Colorado.
In his final season at Colorado, Solder earned honors as a consensus All-American selection, a unanimous All-Big 12 Conference performer and was selected as the Big 12 Offensive Lineman-of-the-Year.
*2010 Review: *New England finished the 2010 regular season with an NFL-best 14-2 record. Despite an eight-game winning streak to end the season and earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Patriots fell to the New York Jets, 28-21, in the Divisional Playoffs.
Brady was named the NFL MVP for the second time in his career. Brady also won the award in 2007. Brady threw for the second-highest touchdown total of his career (36), and he showed excellent precision by being intercepted just four times.
Last time in Playoffs: L, 28-21 vs. New York Jets (2010).
*Last time in Super Bowl: *2007.
*Super Bowl Championships: *Three.
*2010 Pro Bowl Selections: *Tom Brady QB, Matt Light OT, Logan Mankins OG, Jerod Mayo LB, Devin McCourty CB, Brandon Meriweather S, Wes Welker WR, Vince Wilfork DL
Quotable I: On the upcoming matchup with the Indianapolis Colts:
"On to Indianapolis here, I think there are certainly a lot of things that are familiar with this team, their schemes and a lot of the players that we saw from last year. Of course there are a few new faces in there, too, some guys that we usually see a lot of that aren't in there as much for injury reasons or they're not on the team anymore. It's still a very familiar scheme and they do a good job. They're well-coached. I think their coaching staff does a good job of creating the same problems that they always create offensively with their no-huddle and their 'check-with-me' program. They have a lot of hard guys to defend there, of course starting with (Reggie) Wayne, they do a good job each game of spreading the ball around, getting it to their receivers, their tight ends, the backs as well, changing the tempo on you. Defensively, of course, the ends, (Antoine) Bethea, I think their young linebackers have done a good job, too. (Pat) Angerer has really come on and he's done a real nice job for them. They're an active, aggressive front that is quick and fast, very athletic – different from what we've seen from some other teams that are bigger, stronger type guys. These guys have real good movement and the linebackers run well. Those are some of the things that we'll have to be ready for. Of course, they have an outstanding field goal and clutch kicker."
--- Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
Quotable II: On the Colts struggles this season and facing the Colts defense:
"It all starts with those two defensive ends, (Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney. Those guys are explosive players. They're game-changing type of players and this is an aggressive defense, a disciplined defense. We never talk about records around here. This is a good NFL team that's going to come in here and play us really hard. We have a big challenge ahead of us, and we're going to try to get ready for it starting tomorrow (Wednesday).
--- Patriots Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien