INDIANAPOLIS – Practice for the Colts and Patriots began on Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday sees the greatest media presence of the week and the Patriots players shared their thoughts on playing the Colts in this weekend's AFC Championship.
Here are some of the Patriots comments from meeting the media on Wednesday:
PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK Q: We always talk about Ben Roethlisberger being the strongest quarterback. Is Andrew Luck harder to bring down or is he on that same level?
BB: Well, Luck is hard to bring down. He runs very well, he's athletic, [and] he can get outside and make yards with his legs. They also use him on some keep-type plays – the one he scored on for example in the Denver game last week. And he's strong; he's strong in the pocket. He's got good lower body strength. He's got strong legs. He's hard to wrap up. A lot of times, he's got guys draped all over him and he can throw the ball. He's strong, he's fast, [and] he's athletic. He does a good job of throwing on the run. He's got good vision down the field. So, he can be a sixth receiver in the passing game. [He's a] really dangerous guy, tough guy to handle, great quarterback.
Q: How has the return of LaRon Landry changed what they do defensively, and does he match up on tight ends?
BB: Absolutely, yeah, he's matched up on tight ends. It's certainly one of the matchups I think that they like. They did last week against Denver and [against Jason] Witten and some other good tight ends that they've faced. He's a physical guy, runs well. I mean, he's 220 pounds, whatever he is. He runs a 4.4, he's big, fast, tough, good blitzer, so he definitely adds a physical element to that defense, which already has a lot of it. He only played seven or eight plays against us in the first game. That's a guy that we didn't see a lot of, but he's definitely a force. Q: How drastically has Andrew Luck changed since coming into the league?
BB: He's pretty good. He was pretty good when he came in, and he's even better now. He's a great player. He does everything well. He's got a lot of strengths, no weaknesses. He's got a great future in front of him. He's already produced a lot. He's already done a lot in the time that he's been in the league, and I'm sure by the time he gets done he'll pass a lot of guys by.
Q: How do they use their tight ends to manipulate matchups? When Dwayne Allen went out during the game against you guys in the regular season, how did that change things?
BB: They really replaced him with [Jack] Doyle on most of the things where they had two tight ends in the game, I'd say that's what happened. If it was one tight end, then it was [Coby] Fleener. If it was Fleener, which it might have been Fleener anyways, and Doyle in Doyle's role or Doyle taking Allen's role. They use them all. Sometimes there is one, two or three on the field. With two, it can be a combination of any two of the three guys. They just try to create different matchups. They move them around, but they also have definite roles in their formations and their personnel groupings, so it gives you a lot to defend. They've been consistent for them; they've been productive. Doyle has the fewest catches and probably has more blocking responsibilities. But Allen is a good blocker and Fleener is obviously a big playmaker for them.
Q: Given Indianapolis' development of [Donte] Moncrief and [Dan] Herron's emergence of late, how much has that complicated defending this team? How does it impact how you have to defend the whole field, especially with Herron, who has been such a weapon in the passing game?
BB: All their backs have been productive in the passing game – [Ahmad] Bradshaw when he played, [Trent] Richardson. And then when you include Doyle, I'm sure that those backs have over 100 catches – whatever you want to call Doyle, a back or a tight end – he plays both. But their running back position just by itself between Bradhsaw, Richardson and Herron, there's got to be 80-some catches in that ballpark there with those guys. So they've always been involved in the passing game. And Moncrief is just another weapon for them. Moncrief, [Hakeem] Nicks, [Reggie] Wayne and T.Y. [Hilton], plus Fleener, who's really part receiver, part tight end, that's a lot of juice at that position. [They're] guys that can all make catches down the field, they've all made catch and run plays. They're fast, they're athletic, they're big, there are a lot of them, and they've got a great quarterback throwing to them. Moncrief is definitely a problem. He took an under route against somebody – I forget who it was, Tennessee or somebody – a two-yard pass ends up being a 50-yard gain. He can run through the defense and take it over the top, too, which they all can. Hilton has done that, I know Fleener's done it, they've all done it. They stretch the field. You've got to defend from sideline to sideline and from the line of scrimmage to the goal line. They can take short plays and turn them into long plays and they can throw it over the top and they can throw it in between. Really, it's a very explosive group.PATRIOTS QB TOM BRADYQ: How does a picture of you riding an Indianapolis Colt end up on your Facebook page? A team that doesn't like bulletin board material.
TB: That was just a friendly post. You don't' like that? You've got to like that [laughs]. I didn't make that graphic.
Q: But the people responsible, you're OK with that?
TB: Yeah, I liked it. Thank you guys. Have a good night.
WR MATTHEW SLATERQ: Josh Cribbs wasn't on the team the first time you played the Colts. Can you talk a little bit about what he brings to the return game?
MS: Certainly when you look at Josh Cribbs, he's one of the best return men to have ever played in this league. I think that dynamic that he brings is going to have to change the way we prepare this week. How aggressive he is – he's willing to take chances, he's willing to put his body in compromising situations sometimes for the betterment of his team, all in the name of field position and making a big play. I think he's unique in that he's such a large man. I know we said that last week with [Ravens return specialist] Jacoby [Jones], but it's the same thing this week with him. With how aggressive he is, as cover guys we can't allow ourselves to get comfortable and assume anything with this guy because he's liable to take it the distance any play.
WIDE RECEIVER DANNY AMENDOLA(On how different the Colts look defensively)
"They're playing well. They play hard. They've got a bunch of great athletes – really the same guys that we faced last time, here and there [they] have a couple new guys in new spots. They've been playing really hard, they've been playing really well and we're excited for it."
(On whether there is advantage of already facing the Colts this season)
"Every game is different. That's why we get out there and play. We're going to watch their film from last year [and] we're going to watch all their film this year and try to get out there and make plays."TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI(On what he sees from LaRon Landry)
"He's a good player. He's big, he's fast and he can keep up with you. [He's] definitely very good player. They've got a lot of great players also so you've got to be prepared for anyone and be ready for anyone."(On Bill Belichick saying the Colts are the best team they've faced, despite beating them by 22 points earlier this season)
"It doesn't matter about the last game. Teams change, teams get better, teams get worse. Definitely the Colts are playing unbelievable right now. They've won two playoff games and they're very, very good. [We've] definitely got to be ready. I would have to agree they're definitely going to be the best team that we've played all year. They're ready, they're prepared, they're fast, they're big, [and] they're physical. We've just got to be prepared ourselves and go out there and be ready."
DE ROB NINKOVICH(On whether he likes not being bigger than the opposing quarterback)
"I'm bigger [laughs]. I'm just kidding. [Andrew] Luck's a big guy. He's a strong guy; can run, very smart. Again, it's another challenge for us."
(On the team's success in forcing Luck to make mistakes in the past)
"Everyone has got to do their job and play within the responsibilities of the defense. He's a guy that's extended plays in the past. He does a good job of breaking the pocket, getting out and looking for a guy down field and making a good throw. You're always conscious of that to be under control and understand where he is and not to let him go where he wants to go."