INDIANAPOLIS –When the Colts led the league with the fewest penalties (66) and turnovers (14) in 2013, they became only the second NFL team in 26 years to do so.
Chuck Pagano says getting past the divisional round Saturday against a team that has done so the last two years likely hinges on continued smart play.
"The margin for error keeps shrinking. It's minute," said Pagano. "You can't beat yourself. We know Coach Belichick, his staff and his team don't beat themselves. They don't make mistakes.
"We talk all the time about, 'You don't win games in the NFL, you lose games.' It's one-and-done."
Indianapolis visits Gillette Stadium where the Patriots are 10-3 in the playoffs, so talking points were blunt.
"You can't turn the ball over. You can't make mistakes. You can't have mental errors, foolish penalties. You can't give up big plays," said Pagano. "You have to do all (those) things offensively to them.
"The margin for error is very small, even (more so) being on the road, playing the team we're playing, the elements, the crowd noise. We're chasing perfection, (trying) to play the best game we can possibly play."
When asked if he had to guard against residual emotion from last week's win, Pagano mused the question.
"Letdown? There's only eight teams left. Do you know how hard it is to get to this point? Our guys are focused and very excited about this opportunity. For two years now, they've done as good as anybody I've been around to put things behind them and move on."
The Colts have not lost consecutive games under his command and earned their first post-season win under Pagano last Saturday.
Indianapolis faces a Belichick-Tom Brady duo that is 17-7 in the playoffs and has seen many defenses try to counteract the potent unit. Doing so means Indianapolis must be coy with blitzes and coverage.
"You have to do a great job of mixing it up," said Pagano. "Our guys have to do a great job of disguising. There's nothing Tom hasn't seen. He has great recall.
"They do a great job of trying to get you to show your hand. We have to do a great job of pre-snap and post-snap, whether we're playing coverage or going after him."
Brady flourishes in manipulating play at the line. After hitting Wes Welker largely from the slot almost 700 times for 7,500 yards (including 4,000 yards after the catch) and 37 touchdowns from 2007-12, he has found Julian Edelman (105 catches, 1,056 yards) and Danny Amendola (54, 633) to his liking.
"They do a great job of designing plays to get those guys open," said Pagano. "They're always on the move. They do a great job of stacking receivers, two-man stacks, getting in bunches to get those guys looks where you can't get your hands on them."
Pagano cautioned because of likely wet conditions the team that runs better could advance, and that New England averages almost 130 yards per game.
"They have a stable of backs," said Pagano. "We have to do a great job of stopping the run. They're hard enough to get off the field on third down, let alone if it's third-and-short.
"It's always important to run the football, get ourselves in third-and-manageable. If we're in third-and-eight, third-and-nine-plus a bunch, it's going to be hard. The longer our offense is out on the field, it gives their offense more time to sit and chew ice, which isn't a good thing."
It boils down to being sharp, something Indianapolis was in the final three regular-season games by holding opponents to nine-of-38 third-down conversions, winning the turnover battle (the Colts were plus-seven), and getting to the quarterback (12 sacks).
"It's going to come down to five, six, seven plays that determine the outcome," said Pagano. "We're going to play as hard as we possibly can for 60 minutes and be in the right place when that play presents itself. Hopefully, we make just enough plays to get the win."
TRENT RICHARDSON NEEDED –Last week, Trent Richardson's lone carry resulted in a fumble that Kansas City used for seven points and a 24-7 lead. It does not diminish his importance.
"The game after the fumble dictated that we went into more of an attack mode," said Pep Hamilton. "Trent actually did a great job of playing without the ball. His ability to take on linebackers and handle blitzes was a big part of our success (later). I haven't lost any confidence in Trent at all."
Richardson has operated under a microscope this year, arriving in a week three trade and with no off-season chance to assimilate in the offense.
He said the fumble came while switching hands with the ball.
"I messed up, and I kicked myself about it," said Richardson. "I was trying to do something extra and make the play. I did play great football without the football in my hands. I didn't miss any (other) assignments. I don't fumble. You feel like you got to redeem yourself."
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: WR-Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring); Full: NT-Aubrayo Franklin (rest), C/G-Khaled Holmes (calf), LB-Josh McNary (concussion), S-LaRon Landry (concussion).
Though injury designations come on Friday, Pagano said Heyward-Bey looks like the only unavailable player. He would not indicate who would open at corner opposite Vontae Davis.
Whether Deion Branch plays come down to his and the team's comfort level with his progress. Pagano said the fit is smooth enough so far that it seems "like he's been here for two or three months. He's done a great job."