A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Patriots Game
COLTS (3-4) vs. PATRIOTS (5-2)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EDT
Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (76-27, 83-32 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (130-69, 139-78 including playoffs).
Patriots – Bill Belichick, 9th season as Patriots Head Coach (96-39, 110-42 including playoffs) and 14th season as NFL Head Coach (132-83, 147-87 including playoffs).
Colts – 3-4, T-2nd in AFC South.
Patriots – 5-2, T-1st in AFC East.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Patriots – 2007.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, 21st (315.1 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (73.4 ypg); Passing, 9th (241.7 ypg); Defense – Overall, 15th (322.1 yards per game); Rushing, 26th (144.1 ypg); Passing, 2nd (178.0 ypg).
Offense – Overall, 19th (320.1 yards per game); Rushing, 6th (130.4 ypg); Passing, 23rd (189.7 ypg); Defense – Overall, 14th (319.6 yards per game); Rushing, 20th (113.3 ypg); Passing, 15th (206.3 ypg).
Colts – Peyton Manning (162-265 completions, 1,754 yards, 61.1 pct., 10 TD, 9 INT, 79.0 passer rating).
Patriots – Matt Cassel (131-199 completions, 1,362 yards, 65.8 pct., 7 TD, 6 INT, 84.6 passer rating).
Colts – Dominic Rhodes (69 carries, 247 yards, 3 TD); Joseph Addai (62 carries, 216 yards, 4 TD).
Patriots – Sammy Morris (69 carries, 307 yards, 4 TD), Kevin Faulk (36 carries, 212 yards, 2 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (38 receptions, 521 yards, 4 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (30 receptions, 357 yards, 0 TD); Marvin Harrison (23 receptions, 270 yards, 3 TD).
Patriots – Wes Welker (49 receptions, 466 yards, 1 TD), Randy Moss (32 receptions, 471 yards, 4 TD).
Colts – Robert Mathis (5), Dwight Freeney (3).
Patriots – Adalius Thomas (5), Richard Seymour (4).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, have lost their last two games – 34-14 to the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis.; and, 31-21, to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. The losses have moved the Colts four games behind the Titans in the AFC South.
Patriots – New England in the last few games has been what it has been all season – steady for the most part, with an occasional difficult game. The Patriots, after a 38-13 loss at home to Miami September 21, have been solid since a Week 4 bye week, winning at San Francisco, 30-21, before losing at San Diego, 30-10. They have won their last two games at home – by 34 points against Denver and by seven points in come-from-behind fashion over St. Louis last week.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"It's definitely different being at this point in the season and having the record that we have. You can only fix it by going out there and playing. It starts this week with New England. I don't think we can think about the rest of the year . . . what happens if this happens? We still have the opunity to control our destiny by winning these next few games, so that's what our mindset is."
--- Colts Middle Linebacker Gary Brackett
"Really right now we're just focused on Indianapolis. It doesn't really matter what anybody's record is. It's the next game. We want to do our best to prepare and be ready to come out there and be competitive against them. We know we have our work cut out for this week. It's a hard team to get ready for. We've had some great matchups with them in the past. All of our concentration and focus is on this game and we aren't really thinking too much about what has or hasn't happened in the past."
--- Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
The Patriots, the defending AFC and five-time defending AFC East champions, have played through injuries and adversity throughout the season, but after seven games, they are again in a familiar place: atop the AFC East.
With quarterback Tom Brady, who last season set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes, out for the season since Week 1, reserve quarterback Matt Cassel has led the Patriots to victories in four of his six starts.
Cassel, who hadn't started a game since high school until this season, has thrown for 1,362 yards and seven touchdowns. This past week, he threw for a career-high 267 yards in a victory over St. Louis.
"They've done a pretty good job at moving the football through the air," Colts President Bill Polian said. "Matt Cassel has done a nice job there. They still have (wide receiver Wes) Welker. They still have (wide receiver) Randy Moss. They still have very good tight ends. They have a very well-coached offensive line. The area that has been hurt in addition to Brady has been the running game, where (Laurence) Maroney went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and Sammy Morris has been dinged up a little bit. We won't probably know until game time whether Sammy can play or not.
"That leaves (Kevin) Faulk and BenJarvis Green-Ellis, who's a very hard running rookie out of Mississippi to carry the running load. Faulk is a very good draw, screen, third-down catching back and a very explosive guy who has hurt us in the past.
"It's a formidable offense still with lots of weapons."
The Patriots have dealt with injuries other than that sustained by Brady and Maroney, the team's leading rusher last season. Safety Rodney Harrison – long one of the NFL's best at his position – is out for the season with a quadriceps injury.
"They'll concede nothing and be prepared for everything, so it's a very tough matchup," Polian said. "They never beat themselves. They don't commit penalties. They don't turn the ball over. They don't make mental errors. That's a credit to their coaching staff and Bill Belichick.
"They're well-prepared and they play as well and as efficiently no matter who's in there as any team in the National Football League."
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts left tackle Tony Ugoh versus Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour. Ugoh, a second-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, returned to the starting lineup last week against Tennessee. He had played as a reserve since missing a game after sustaining a Week 2 groin injury. Seymour, after several seasons hampered by injuries, has returned this season to the form that made him a five-time Pro Bowl selection from 2002-2006. He has four sacks this season, including three in the last two games. He also has eight quarterback hurries. The Colts' offensive line has not allowed a sack in the last two games.
• Colts wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne versus Patriots cornerbacks Deltha O'Neal and Ellis Hobbs. O'Neal is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who signed with New England as a free agent this season after his release from Cincinnati shortly before the season. Hobbs, a third-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft from Iowa State, started 17 games in his first two seasons, but has started every game the last two seasons. He has seven passes defensed and an interception this season, and O'Neal has an interception and a pass defensed. Wayne and Harrison have combined for seven touchdowns this season and in the last two games, they have combined to catch eight passes for 76 yards and no touchdowns.
• Colts cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden versus Patriots wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Jennings, a second-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, likely will replace injured Marlin Jackson as the starter Sunday, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said this week. Jennings started the last three weeks for Hayden, who emerged last season as one of the NFL's top young players at his position and who missed the last three games with a knee injury. He is expected to start Sunday. Moss and Welker, despite the loss in the season opener of quarterback Tom Brady, have combined for 937 yards in seven games. Moss has three 100-yard games and Welker has at least 55 yards receiving in every game this season.
PATRIOTS IN REVIEW
The Patriots, after the NFL's first unbeaten regular season in 35 years a year ago, extended their regular-season winning streak to 21 games by winning their first two games this season before a 38-13 loss at home to Miami in Week 3.
They followed a Week 4 bye week with a victory over San Francisco before a 30-10 loss in San Diego on October 12.
That moved the Patriots to 3-2, but they dominated the Denver Broncos, 41-7, on Monday Night Football the following week before rallying to beat the Rams this past week.
The Colts focused last week on reducing penalties, and despite committing several key infractions in the second half, they were called just five times for 35 yards. For the season, they have been penalized 51 times, tied for 22nd fewest in the NFL. They have been among the Top 10 fewest-penalized teams in each of Head Coach Tony Dungy's first six seasons. The Patriots are the NFL's least-penalized team, having committed 22 this season. Against the Rams last week, they were not called for a penalty, the 50th time since the 1970 Merger that feat has been accomplished.
The Colts and Patriots in recent seasons have developed into the league's most-high profile rivalries, and one of the best in the NFL in recent memory. The Patriots won six consecutive games against the Colts from 2001-2004, including two postseason games in 2003 and 2004 – the AFC Championship Game following the 2003 season and an AFC Divisional Playoff Game following the 2004 season. The Colts have won three of the last four meetings, winning regular-season meetings in 2005 and 2006 and beating New England, 38-34, in the AFC Championship Game following last season. The Patriots beat the Colts, 24-20, in the RCA Dome last November. The Patriots lead the all-time series, 44-27, with the teams meeting twice annually as members of the AFC East from 1970-2001. Since the Colts left the division following the 2001 season, the Patriots lead the series, 5-3.
The Colts, who hadn't lost a regular-season home game with playoff implications since October 2004, held a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter before allowing the unbeaten Patriots (9-0) to rally for a dramatic, 24-20, victory in front of 57,540 at the RCA Dome in November 2007. Tom Brady, the Patriots' quarterback, completed 21 of 32 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, with two of his touchdown passes coming in the fourth quarter. Brady's 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Wes Welker with 7:59 remaining in the fourth quarter cut the Colts' lead to 20-17. His 13-yard touchdown pass to running back Kevin Faulk came with 3:15 remaining and gave New England its first lead of the second half. On the possession after Faulk's touchdown, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was sacked by defensive end Jarvis Green on 3rd-and-9 from the Colts 49, forcing a fumble. Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin recovered. The loss snapped a franchise-record 12-game regular-season winning streak for Indianapolis in the RCA Dome.