INDIANAPOLIS –While Pep Hamilton is preparing for his first encounter with New England as an offensive coordinator, he has had previous experience with Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
With the New York Jets from 2003-05, Hamilton helped shape game plans as an offensive assistant, so he knows the nature of Saturday's looming contest.
"You know they're going to be well-prepared and well-versed in all the different disguises and the things they feel like they can do to try and create uncertainty for our offense pre-snap," said Hamilton. "I coached in the same division for three years with Coach Belichick and it was always truly a 60-minute chess match."
That the Jets were 0-6 in those games was not a harsh indictment since the Patriots won two Super Bowls in that span, while cruising with a 38-10 record that included a 15-3 division mark.
Belichick continued his run while Hamilton's path led through San Francisco, Chicago, Stanford and Indianapolis, where the veteran coach notes the diversity of the attack Hamilton now directs.
"They're very much a game plan offense. What you see them doing in one game is not necessarily what you see them doing in another," said Belichick. "They've used a lot of bigger people groupings – fullbacks, tight ends. Against Kansas City it was almost all three receivers and a tight end.
"That comes and goes depending on the game plan, the matchups and whatever other factors they have. Maybe they'll look at us differently, maybe they won't. Pep looks like a very game plan-oriented coach. It's hard to predict exactly what they're going to do."
The unpredictable nature is something Hamilton said early-on would be the case.
"We've said since day one, there's no 'can't-dos,' " said Hamilton. "Now is the time for us to let our hair down and let it all hang out. We're not saving plays. We're not saving any of our bullets."
Hamilton said the chess match includes disguises and divining signals which is a "part of" any game. It also means preparation for the common thought that Belichick historically tries to take away a key component on which an opponent relies.
Prevailing conjecture centers on that meaning he will try to neutralize T.Y. Hilton, who had 13 receptions for 224 yards and the game-winning score last Saturday.
"We expect that T.Y. will have opportunities to make plays," said Hamilton. "There's no way for us to know what their plan is until we kick the ball off. We'll see."
Hilton has been a valuable piece on Hamilton's chessboard, the one that has all the moves.
"He's played all four spots – both outside positions, in both slots," said Hamilton. "That's important so teams just can't kind of game plan and scheme to take him away.
"We've challenged T.Y. to understand the concepts (of) all four spots. He's done extremely well. It was really exciting to watch T.Y. make a ton of big plays in last week's game."
Hamilton banks on the certainty that others who have emerged recently can do it in the divisional crucible in Foxborough.
"I feel like our players give us the latitude to be diverse in their schemes, to find different ways to move guys around, to feature different matchups," said Hamilton. "If it's T.Y., if it's Coby (Fleener), if it's Da'Rick (Rogers), if it's LaVon (Brazill), if it's Griff (Whalen), maybe one of our backs. We got to be ready to do whatever we need to score touchdowns."
Indianapolis went into full attack mode with a 28-point deficit to Kansas City. The up-tempo attack used with success in the last three regular-season games clicked again as the Colts scored 35 points in the last 27 minutes.
Three of those four games were at home, but Hamilton puts using the up-tempo concept into the same "can't-do" category used for identifying personnel.
"I'm sure that in a playoff environment on the road, it's going to be that more intense," said Hamilton. "The crowd noise is going to be that more fierce.
"We got to do a great job, if we decide to use the no-huddle, to make sure that we communicate and we're all on the same page. We're expecting the crowd to factor into this game."
Playing in New England means dealing with grueling factors like weather, stadium environment and talented players. It also means Hamilton, who loves challenges, matching wits with a coach whose 18 playoff wins rank behind Hall-of-Famers Tom Landry (20) and Don Shula (19).
"It's truly an honor to field a team and compete against the likes of Coach Belichick, who will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL," said Hamilton.