The Colts travel to New England to face the Patriots on Sunday.


A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the Patriots

Indianapolis Colts (6-3) vs. New England Patriots (7-2) Sunday, November 21, 2010 (4:15 p.m. ET) Gillette Stadium (68,756 capacity) – Foxborough, Massachusetts Television/Radio: CBS Sports, Westwood One and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1

The Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots do not reside in the same division.

But they might as well be.

The two rivals have faced each other every season since 2003.

"We've played them a bunch," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "When I first started here (2001), they were a division opponent so we had them twice a year. Since then it seems like we just play them every year, sometimes twice a year there as well in the playoffs. So we have a lot of familiarity with them, even though they're not a division opponent. You look at last year's notes, and they kind of look the same with players and scouting reports and all the different things that they do well and things that we've got to try to exploit. There's a lot of familiarity."

The familiarity comes from both teams being at the top of their respective divisions for most of the past decade. The Patriots have won six AFC East division titles, and the Colts have captured six AFC South crowns since NFL realignment in 2002. The fact both teams by outside observers are considered premier franchises in the NFL would lead people to believe both teams put extra importance on this game, but according to the players, there is no extra emphasis on this game.

"I don't really think we have it circled just because every game is so important now," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "This is a game that's almost been like a division game. We have played them every year since 2003. They've always been a good team when we've played them. And you always know it's going to be a challenge. I think we've done a pretty good job of just waiting until this week gets here and now trying to prepare and get ready for the Patriots once this week arrives. I think if you start looking at them a little too early, you're probably going to slip up and not take care of business in the previous week. They're certainly playing excellent football right now. They have a lot of new players. There are some new faces. You see a lot of the same resemblances – just good sound football, forcing the other teams into mistakes. And that's why they're winning so many games right now."

While some of the big names have remained constant for both teams over the years, there are a lot of players for both teams that will be getting their first taste of the rivalry on Sunday.

"I think both teams know each other extremely well, but there are a lot of players playing in this game that didn't play in, for example, last year's Indianapolis/New England game," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "There are new dynamics to every game, every situation. I don't think anybody knows how the games are going to go. Each one's different and a few plays can swing us, especially when it's between two teams that are pretty evenly matched."

A lot of teams would like to be evenly matched with the Colts and Patriots. The two teams are the winningest franchises in the NFL over the past decade, and the opportunity to play each other gives both teams a good measuring stick of where they are.

"They're a great team," Brady said. "I think whenever you have the opportunity to play teams that have been as good as they have been over the years, it's always a great challenge for us. You kind of look at them and say, 'Ok, well, how do we measure up against a really good team?' We've certainly played some other really good teams this year, (but) that have their own style of defense that you really can't duplicate. You can't duplicate it in practice. You can't simulate the speed of those two edge rushers and the other great players that they have on their defense from (Gary) Brackett to (Antoine) Bethea to some really young corners that are really good players. They've got a great group."

While there are three important components that make up any good football team - offense, defense and special teams - it is the offense, specifically the quarterbacks, that receive much of the media attention when these two teams meet.

"(Peyton's) a great competitor," Brady said. "I love watching him. I mean, he's been a great quarterback for a long time, so I think whenever I'm watching film of other opponents that we're playing, I'm always looking for Colts games because I want to see how he's playing. We've had plenty of those games this year. It's been a great rivalry for a lot of reasons. We've played so many meaningful games against them and I would say this one is pretty meaningful, too. It's going to be a great test for us. They're good in all phases. You can't afford to make a lot of mistakes against this team because they really capitalize, and if you give them a short field, you turn it over, and then next thing you know it's seven points. And then you turn it over and now it's 14 points. I've watched plenty of Colts games where the game is over at halftime, so we're going to have to really be conscious of that [and] protect the ball. When we get into the red area, get the ball in the end zone, try to go out and make a bunch of plays."

Manning likewise is very complimentary of Brady. Manning said one of the toughest things about playing the Patriots is that he knows he and the offense will have to score a lot of points to keep up with Brady and the Patriots offense. Brady says the feeling is mutual.

"It's not going to be a 7-3 game," Brady said. "I wouldn't think it would be, just because you know they have offensive fire power. We've proven we can move the ball against these guys, and I think they don't mind giving up yards; they don't want to give up points. They don't want to give up touchdowns. It's a little bit of a bend-don't-break defense. They're just expecting you at some point to make a mistake and let one of those ends fly around the corner and strip the ball or force you into making a bad throw where they intercept it. When you play the Colts, you know you're going to have to be at your best. They're not going to give you anything. They make it hard on you every play."

The series has been quite even over the last decade. The two teams have split the last 10 meetings, with six of the last seven games ending with a margin of one score or less.

"I think if you look at most of our games against Indianapolis, they've all been very – most of them – have been very close, whichever way they've gone," Belichick said. "Even if the score doesn't quite reflect that, I think the overall competitiveness of the games would, [with] a play or two here or there, [change] things in a little different direction. Our games have been very competitive.

"When it comes down to us and the Colts, it's the team that has the best week of preparation, that's able to execute the best on Sunday, that's able to take advantage of the other team's mistakes [and] take advantage of the opportunities that are out there - that's the team that will come off the field victorious. I don't know what that will be. I know we have a lot of work to do. Hopefully we'll be able to do a little bit more than they will, but that will be tough because they're a team that prepares well, (that's) well-coached (and has) a lot of outstanding players. They have a lot of smart players. You really have to work hard to gain an advantage, so that competition will be all week."

Injuries are a part of the NFL. Every coach and player knows they are bound to occur.

This fact does not comfort the Colts, but it did help them develop their 'Next Man Up' motto.

When an injury occurs, the team expects the next man up to be ready to contribute with no drop off.

So far this season, the Colts' 'Next Man Up' philosophy has been tested severely, but among the players, coaches and front office, the team is continuing to make progress and continuing to win games.

"I think number one you have to certainly point to our personnel department," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "They do a great job of getting guys that fit the system that they understand exactly what kind of individuals we're looking for from an intellectual standpoint, (guys) that learn quickly, that can watch by doing, that don't necessarily have to get reps, and when they do get an opportunity they get in and can perform. You have to certainly give some credit to the coaches on our staff that do a great job of getting those guys ready and getting them ready in a hurry. Also, don't discount the fact that we have a pretty solid core of veteran players and the transfer of information from our veteran players to those guys that have not played much just in terms of how we do things, the little things makes a huge, huge difference. And also, the culture is such that we just don't make excuses for injuries, we don't make excuses for setbacks or anything of that nature. What we do is try to find solutions and find them in a hurry."

While the Colts have been without as many as 12 front-line players at times this season, nine games into the season they still find themselves in first place in the AFC South.

"We've adapted," Caldwell said. "I think that's the thing we talk about and follow through on. We've had some pretty key losses, but we don't use any of that as an excuse. You just have to depend on guys who are next in line to be able to step up and perform, and we've been able to get that for the most part."

On offense, the Colts have been juggling the lineup all season due to injuries. Through the first nine games, the offense has not fielded the same starting lineup in consecutive games. One player the Colts have lost for the season is Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark. In Clark's absence, the team has moved forward with third-year tight end Jacob Tamme.

"We knew that he was one of those guys that can run, can make plays, he can catch, and because of the fact that he literally plays the same position that Dallas plays, you did not get to see much of him during the course of the regular games," Caldwell said. "I think he developed a tremendous amount in terms of our kicking game, a guy that was extremely dependable, made a lot of tackles for us, got down the field and played in almost every phase of our kicking game. It just so happens that due to injury, he had an opportunity to do a little bit more, but we knew that he could run, knew that he could catch, (he's) smart, a great sense of route running and just a tremendous, diligent individual. It's all about business, and he is a great teammate and he certainly performs well."

Tamme has 24 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the three games since Clark was placed on injured reserved. And while the catches and yards are the most of any tight end in the league in those three games, Manning said Tamme is still learning every week and there is improvement that still can be made.

"We're still dealing with it," Manning said. "It's a week-to-week transition. Out of respect for Dallas, I'm not sure if you can replace Dallas Clark. I think you just adjust. I think Dallas is that good of a player and deserves that much respect. Jacob has really been working hard. He's been learning on the run. Even though he's been here for three years now, he really hasn't played a whole lot in games, so he and I are getting good game experience together. He's really done a good job, made some huge plays, a couple of huge touchdowns for us. And we're throwing a lot at him as well. We're asking a lot of him. He's really responded well. I think each week presents a new challenge for him as he gets used to playing against different types of defenses and different types of opponents. And it will be a great challenge for him this week."

Opposing defenses probably hoped the loss of Clark would throw a wrench into the engine of one of the NFL's best offenses for the past several seasons, but if it has, Belichick says he has not seen it.

"I'd say they run their offense," Belichick said. "Certainly, (there's) a big emphasis on Reggie Wayne – there should be, he's one of the best receivers in football. Clark did a great job for them, but Tamme's stepped in and done a good job. They've gotten production from their other receivers, from (Austin) Collie, (Pierre) Garcon and I know other guys they've used in there, as well. Blair White's done a good job for them. They're definitely able to use their other tight ends, (Brody) Eldridge and (Gijon) Robinson. They're able to still continue to make the defense defend everything, take the play and go to the weak spots that the defense gives them. The guys that are there have been productive and made plays."

Belichick said one of the things keeping the Colts offense going is the fact it has Manning at its controls.

"It all starts with a great quarterback and Manning does an excellent job of getting them into good plays or keeping them out of bad plays," Belichick said. "He makes great decisions in the pocket. He knows when he's under pressure. He gets (the ball) out quick and knows when he has a little bit more time and can scan the field. He doesn't turn the ball over. They make you beat them. They don't make very many mistakes. So, you really have to play a good, disciplined, consistent game against them. It doesn't take much of a slip up before they'll make you pay for it. They (have been) one of the best offensive teams in football and they'll continue to be."

The Patriots are 7-2 and tied for the best record in the AFC with fellow AFC East team, the New York Jets. After losing their second game of the season two weeks ago at Cleveland, New England bounced back to defeat Pittsburgh, 39-26, and improve to 25-2 (.926) in games following a regular season loss since 2003 under Belichick. But Belichick says all the credit should go to the players.

"In the end, it's a players' game," Belichick said. "The players have to go onto the field and they win them. They win games. They go out there and make the plays. They make the passes, the blocks, the kicks, the tackles, the interceptions, the force-fumbles. Whatever the plays are, they're the ones that go out there and do it. We've had a lot of outstanding players in this organization through the years. I've been very fortunate as a coach to be able to coach some of the guys that have played for this team. The games that we've won and the plays that the Rodney Harrisons and the Tedy Bruschis and the Corey Dillons and the Randy Mosses and right down the line, all the other guys you want to name - plays that those guys made, that's why the team won. Players making big plays."

Brady and the Patriots offense are ranked 19th in the NFL in total offense, but lead the league in scoring, averaging 28.7 points per game. Most would assume total offense and scoring would have some correlation, and while Belichick says both stats have merit, it is the importance of each stat that is different.

"I think they all have meaning; it's just the priority of the stats," Belichick said. "Wins are number one. Points are number two, because that correlates to winning. And then you get to the things that correlate to scoring, which [are] red area, big plays, and third down becomes a part of that because of being able to sustain drives and those type of things. But if you make big plays, then third down becomes less important. You can offset any good numbers with bad numbers. You can offset bad numbers with good numbers, but in the end, it's about getting points on the board and keeping them off. You always want to improve on the things that you're doing in all areas of the game. You want to run for more yardage, run for more consistent yardage, pass for more consistent yardage, defend it, all those things - get more negative plays, turnovers, on and on. You're always striving to improve in every one of those areas. I'm not saying they're not significant, they are, but the ones that correlate the highest to winning, you still have to consider them as the most important."

Caldwell says no matter what the stats say, the Patriots offense, defense and special teams are all forces to be reckoned with.

"I think that's where oftentimes statistics can fool you a little bit because I think that the most important thing is their record," Caldwell said. "When you look at that, they just do not lose many games. They don't beat themselves and they put points on the board. I think they may be No. 1 in scoring or close to it. They don't beat themselves in penalties and in turnover ratio; I think they are tied with us at No. 4, I believe. So, it's a team that plays and performs extremely well and some of those statistics I think you can throw out the window. Their record is what certainly speaks for itself."

On defense, the Patriots have three veterans, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork and Mike Wright, on their line, but they are surrounded by young players, most of whom have been in the league three or fewer years. The defense, though, has continued to improve throughout the season, and last week against Pittsburgh the defense recorded a season-high five sacks.

"At times, I think it looks about the way we would like it to look," Belichick said. "It looks very competitive. But at other times, it's not as good as what it needs to be. We need to do a better job of coaching [and] a better job of playing and understanding. Some of that comes from experience. Some of it comes from the scheme [and] the way it matches up with the opponents. If you're expecting a deep pass and you get a short one, your coverage has to be able to adjust to that change in timing and vice versa. So, there are a lot of factors that go into it. Sometimes it's all right; sometimes, it's really not all right."

One of the leaders in the secondary is James Sanders. Sanders, in his sixth year in the league, is the most experienced of the defensive backs and is enjoying the best season of his career. Last week, Sanders was named AFC Defensive Player-of-the-Week after returning an interception 32 yards for a touchdown.

"James has been a key guy for us for a number of years," Belichick said. "Even at the beginning of the season (when) all our safeties were playing, we had a lot of guys rotating in, going all the way back to training camp. I feel like we have confidence in all of them; all of them were contributing. James is, as usual, one of our most professional, well-prepared players. He works really hard every week. He's always one you can count on to be on top of everything you ask him to do, whether it's kickoff return, the punt team, kickoff coverage, nickel defense, goal line. Whatever it is, he's very dependable and very professional. It doesn't surprise me that when he gets the opportunity to take advantage of a situation and make a play that he's in the right place at the right time and makes it. That's kind of the way he's been for us since he's been here."

The Colts issued Friday's game status/injury report for Sunday's game at New England with Bob Sanders (biceps) listed as out. The following players are listed as questionable: RBs-Joseph Addai (neck) and Mike Hart (ankle), LBs-Gary Brackett (toe) and Clint Session (elbow), WRs-Austin Collie (concussion), Blair White (shoulder) and Reggie Wayne (knee), TE-Brody Eldridge (rib) and DBs-Aaron Francisco (rib), Kelvin Hayden (neck) and Justin Tryon (foot).

QUOTABLES"I think you have to trust him. There is no time to get out there and say, 'Boy, I can't make this play because
I'm not sure.' You have to go out there and go play. That's why practice reps, walk-throughs and meetings, we do a little extra meeting together with some of these young guys, we have a little school after Thursday's practice…I'm at least 14 years older than everybody in the room, I think. It may not be 14, but I feel really old. RB-Javarris James, WR-Blair White, WR-Brandon James and Tamme and (WR-Austin) Collie, it's a little Colts school after practice, but it's fun. We talk about kind of the basic fundamental things which you have to do. You can't take those things for granted with some of these new guys that just haven't been playing."
-Colts QB-Peyton Manning on trusting the players that step in for injured players on offense.

"I do agree with that. I do think every year when you're playing against them that all you think about is this particular year, where we are in the season. It's always been around this time in November, both teams have had good records and playing with a lot at stake. I do think after all of us stop playing that you will be able to sit back and reflect on some of the great games and last-minute victories, one way or the other. But we are in the middle of it and it's really hard to think about anything besides the 2010 game for this year."
-Colts QB-Peyton Manning on agreeing with teammate DE-Dwight Freeney that it is hard to put into perspective right now what the Colts-Patriots rivalry means, but in 10 or 20 years he'll be able to look back and see how special the series has been.

"It's kind of scary when you're watching film and they're all 90s, whatever it is, 93, 98, 92. Their jerseys are on real tight, sometimes you can't get a clean look at the numbers, and when you're my age, your eyesight isn't that great anyway, and you kind of have to run the film back and say, 'Which guy is that? Is that Hughes? Is that Mathis? Is that Freeney?' It's kind of scary when they're all that good and they all look the same. It's a very fast, athletic group and you certainly have to be aware of those guys. They can strip sack you and ruin the game on one play if you're not careful."
-Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick on the Colts defensive ends.

"I've had a lot of sleepless nights with those two guys on the other side of the ball. They're tremendous players. They're as good of pass rushers as you'll face in the league. And they have two guys on opposite sides of the ball; it's not like you can really help on one guy and not help on the other. So, it really limits what you do as an offense because you have to worry so much about making sure they don't run around the corner and kill you every play. We've really got our work cut out for us this week on that."
-Patriots QB-Tom Brady on the Colts defensive ends.

1. Patriots Home Success vs. Colts Road Success
The Colts and Patriots rank one-two for the best regular season records over the past decade, so it comes as no surprise both teams have had success at home and on the road.

Since 2002, the Patriots are 56-12 (.824) at home, the best mark in the NFL, while the Colts are 50-19 (.725) on the road, the best road record in that span in the NFL.

The Patriots also have won 24 consecutive regular season games at Gillette Stadium when Tom Brady starts at quarterback. The NFL record for most consecutive home wins by a starting quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger is held by Brett Favre, who won 25 straight games for Green Bay (1995-98).

The Colts are just 2-3 on the road this season, but from 2007-09 had a combined road record of 20-4 (.833).

TEAM                RECORD    WINNING %
New England 56-12 .824
COLTS 55-13 .809
Baltimore 50-18 .735
Pittsburgh 48-19-1 .713
San Diego 47-21 .691

TEAM               RECORD     WINNING %COLTS             50-19          .725
New England 47-22 .681
Philadelphia 42-26-1 .616
NY Giants 39-29 .574
Pittsburgh 39-30 .565

2. Turnovers will be a key to victory
Both teams enter Sunday's game plus-six in turnover margin for the season, which ranks tied for the second best mark in the AFC and fifth in the NFL. The two teams have nearly identical numbers for the season. The Colts have 16 takeaways and 10 giveaways while the Patriots have 15 takeaways and nine giveaways.

Since 2004, the Colts rank first in the entire league with a plus-73 turnover margin. The Patriots have the third-best mark with a plus-40 turnover margin in that span.

This season, neither team has lost when they won the turnover margin. The Patriots are 6-0 when plus-one or better, and the Colts are 4-0 when they have a ratio of plus-one or better.

Likewise, both teams struggle if they have more turnovers than their opponents. New England and the Colts are both 1-2 when minus-one or worse in turnover margin. The Patriots lost to the New York Jets and Cleveland with a negative turnover margin, but defeated Baltimore despite a minus-two turnover margin. The Colts lost at Jacksonville and at Philadelphia, but won at Washington with a minus-one turnover margin.

Overall, since 2004, the Colts are 53-3 (.945) when they are plus-one or better in turnover margin.

3. Putting pressure on the two quarterbacks
Keeping the quarterback from being comfortable and getting into a rhythm will be the goal for both defenses on Sunday. But that is easier said than done.

The Colts have allowed only 12 sacks this season and lead the league allowing only one sack per 33.2 pass attempts. The Patriots have allowed 13 sacks this season and are allowing one sack per 23.5 sacks per pass attempt.

Last week, the Patriots did not allow Brady to be sacked against Pittsburgh, and going back further, Brady only has been sacked once in the three games leading up to the meeting with the Colts.

Manning has been sacked one or less times in six of the Colts' nine games this season. In the last two weeks, though, Manning was sacked five times (three by Philadelphia and two by Cincinnati).

"They don't get to [Manning] very often," Belichick said. "Sometimes plays happen where somebody comes free. For the most part, when he has a chance, he doesn't take many bad plays. I don't know about all those numbers, but he's got to be one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack in football. I think, statistically, that would be borne out. He does a good job [with] free rushers. He gets rid of the ball. Every once in a while, he might not see a guy coming or somebody might miss an assignment or something happens, but I'm telling you, not very often."

The main players responsible for putting pressure on Brady for the Colts are defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The two players have combined for 13.5 sacks this season and have seven sacks total in their career versus Brady and the Patriots.

"The Patriots do a great job at what they do from a scheme standpoint," Freeney said on the ESPN radio program Mike & Mike earlier this year. "Being able to scheme up, bringing a tight end sliding in protection; they've always been very tough, no matter who they have out there, from a Matt Light to anyone else. So I would say the Patriots do a great job of protecting Tom. I think they'd probably be one of the best as far as scheming and protecting their guy."

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