INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts and Patriots are back from their bye weeks and have begun preparation for facing each other on Sunday Night Football.
Out east, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia met with the media earlier this week.
What do they think of the Colts?
Patriots Head Coach Bill BelichickWhat have you seen from two former Patriots – Darius Butler and Sergio Brown – this season?
"Well, I'd say Darius has been in pretty much the same role that he was in last year as a nickel back [with Greg] Toler and [Vontae] Davis usually outside and Butler usually in the slot. Sergio's had a big role in the kicking game and then when Landry was out the last four or five weeks then he had a lot of playing time at safety on defense and has been a little bit less involved in the kicking game. He's been in those two roles. It looks like they're kind of independent of each other, so the more involved he is on defense, the less in the kicking game; the less on defense, the more in the kicking game. He's done both."
Reggie Wayne has been a bit banged up, but what continues to make him an effective player at this point in his career?
"Yeah, he's still really good at everything. [He's] obviously a real smart and experienced guy; knows how to set up routes, make all of his routes look the same, does a great job of releasing and then at the top of his routes being able to create separation at just the right time when the quarterback is ready to throw. He's been a key guy for them in critical situations and third down-type situations. I'm sure that there's a lot of confidence that he's going to be open and he usually is. Excellent hands; made a lot of tough catches. They move him around. He plays a decent amount in the slot, but also out on the perimeter where we saw him for so many years in their former offensive system. But he's probably a little more in the slot now with [Hakeem] Nicks and [T.Y.] Hilton outside. But they move all those guys around so finding him is a problem. He's still a very dangerous receiver, clutch player and a guy who really, when they need a play, they're not afraid to go to him and he'll deliver for them."
With Indianapolis, what have you seen from Dwayne Allen? How have he and Coby Fleener complemented one another in their offense this year?
"They've done a good job with those guys and they use [Jack] Doyle some too. So, a lot of times they have three tight ends on the field. They have a good mixture of one tight end, two tight ends and three tight ends in their offense. Sometimes [it's] different combinations, so you can't always count on the same group of guys being out there. Both Fleener and Allen have been tough matchups in the passing game. Some of the same things we talked about. Again, there are times when they're out there together and then there are times when it's one or the other of them. But they both have done a good job of creating separation, making plays in the red area. I've been really impressed with Allen's blocking. I think he's one of the best blocking tight ends that we'll see. They definitely give you a lot of problems to go with their receivers and the quarterback and the running game with [Ahmad] Bradshaw and [Trent] Richardson so it will be a lot for us to deal with, a lot for us to handle. That's part of what makes them so good, is their players at that position, how they complement the other positions and the fact that they use all three of them. It's just more things for the defense to have to stop."
How come the Colts are so good on third down?
"They do a good job mixing it up. They have some good coverage players – [Vontae] Davis and [Greg] Toler outside have done a good job of locking down wideouts and kind of packing the inside part of the coverage. They've done a good job with their pressures. They mix it up. It's not like it's just one thing every time. You have to deal with a lot of different looks."
How important has their running game with Ahmad Bradshaw and that being complementary to the passing attack?
"Good. Yeah, good. They're well balanced. Both backs have been productive running the ball; both backs have been productive catching it. They use a lot of different formations: three wide receivers, two wide receivers, one wide receiver in the running game, play-action. The running game sets up play-action. The tight ends are effective blocking; they're effective receiving. They're a well balanced offense."
Is the onside kick something you have to be more aware of this week?
"Yeah, no question. They've had a couple surprise onside kicks. They kind of overload or put the formation to displace the front of your kickoff return unit. That creates some potential openings or spaces. And they got the must onside kick against Denver, so they've recovered three onside kicks – two surprises. Yeah, it's definitely something. You don't want to give away – ever – a possession. It's the most important thing in any return game, kickoff or punt return, is number one, you get the ball. That's number one. You always defend that, but it's probably a little more of an issue this week because they've done it. We know that [Special Teams Coordinator Tom] McMahon will do those kind of things. They're a very aggressive special teams unit in terms of rushes, fakes, onside kicks, things like that. Yeah, it's definitely another weapon in there game you have to defend."
Defensive Coordinator Matt PatriciaHow challenging is Andrew Luck – not just with his arm strength and smarts but with his feet and the way he can either keep plays alive or extend drives with his feet?
"Sure. I mean obviously you're talking about a tremendous athlete, very strong, big, powerful guy that really is a complete package from an athletic quarterback standpoint. Certainly, the guy has a tremendous arm, does a great job of reading coverages, getting the ball downfield to his skill players from the standpoint of athleticism and moving around. He does a great job of feeling the pressure in the pocket, being able to extend plays, either getting out of the pocket or just moving within the pocket into spaces where he can step up and throw the ball. He does a great job of keeping his vision downfield while he's moving in the pocket trying to find open space to get the ball down to his receivers. His receivers do a great job of staying with the plays even on those plays that get extended and he can either push them vertical or trying to get them to the sideline or break with the quarterback to allow him to use his arm strength to get the ball there. Certainly a guy that is very mobile, very athletic, very strong in the pocket. Does a great job of really kind of shrugging off some of those sacks that are coming his way and he can just stand in there and still make the throw and deliver the ball downfield. Extremely intelligent quarterback, it's a huge challenge for us. I think this guy's an excellent player."
From what you've seen, what's continued to make Reggie Wayne such an effective player?
"Well, he's obviously just a tremendous wide receiver, a guy that's extremely smart, very savvy wide receiver. Understands leverage, understands coverage, can read post-snap coverage disguises, has great hands. He's really a very dependable and reliable guy. Obviously the bigger the situation, the more you would depend on him to be able to make the play. I think he just continues to get better with his understanding of the game as he goes on. Obviously a tremendous wide receiver. This guy's an extremely, extremely good football player and a very difficult player to defend; does a great job with his routes. He runs very difficult, they're very disciplined routes, comes back to the ball, does a good job of using the top of his stem to create separation from the coverage. He can find the open spaces in zone coverage and sit down and really, you know, he does a great job and really will try to block in the run game also, which I think makes him a complete player form a wide receiver standpoint."
Bill Belichick spoke a lot about the Indianapolis tight ends, their ability in the passing and running game. How do you prepare a game plan to deal with the receivers and the tight ends? How challenging is it with this particular group? From Patrick Chung's point of view, the way he was able to defend in the last game against Denver – what does it take for a guy like him who is giving up so much size to be able to stay with a tight end in that particular instance?
"I think Indianapolis creates a lot of problems and mismatches with the tight ends. They do an excellent job [Colts Offensive Coordinator] Pep Hamilton does a great job of using all three tight ends – [Jack] Doyle, [Coby] Fleener and [Dwayne] Allen – in different roles in different spots. I think that's the most difficult thing, to identify where they are, where they're going to get lined up. They can be all over the place from in there tight to the formation to split out wide and opened up. Even in empty sets, they'll have all three out on the field. That is a huge challenge to try to find those guys, get matched up on them and to be able to defend them when they can do multiple things in both the run game and the passing game. Allen does a great job blocking. He really gets in there and gets his hands inside. He keeps his feet driving and really does a great job either on the edge or when they move him back into the backfield and allow him to come downhill inside. Doyle, you'll see him both on the edge and inside. Again, does a great job with the blocking aspect of the run game and then also when they get him the ball, his catch-and-run ability is really good also. Then Fleener, obviously has great speed, can really get vertical down the field and does a good job in the run game too, gets on his guy and does enough to create seams for the running backs who are very good. [Ahmad] Bradshaw and [Trent] Richardson do a great job of utilizing space and their short-space quickness to find creases in the defense and they explode through the hole very fast. They have excellent burst to get positive yardage. Very rarely will you see these guys take a negative run. They can push quickly into the defense and really create a problem as far as tackling is concerned. The combination of the outside skill-set players with [T.Y.] Hilton and Wayne and [Hakeem] Nicks – those guys create such a problem on the perimeter when you combine it with the tight ends and the running back situation that Indianapolis has. They really tend to put you in a bind. They can, like I said, condense the formations down and stress you that way or they can open up the formations and stress you that way. I think they do an excellent job with that."
How much has it helped to have the extra week to prepare for a quarterback like Andrew Luck, one of the best quarterbacks in football and everything he can do? How beneficial was it to have the extra week?
"I think you always like to try to have as much time as you can to prepare but you have to work with whatever the week brings. Certainly, you know, taking a look at Indianapolis and having some time to study them, you really can identify and see why they are so successful on offense and how they are able to get the yardage and the points and the time of possession and all the different things that they can do and the formations and the motions and the personnel and how they utilize those. You can really see they do an excellent job with the personnel on offense and surrounding Luck with some great players to get the ball to."
Offensive Coordinator Josh McDanielsHow much does the Colts defense look like the old Ravens teams under Chuck Pagano, and how much have they put their own wrinkle on it?**
"I definitely think there is an element of that, certainly. Chuck Pagano, obviously, that's his background, and there is some of that there. But I also think there is a great blend here, and they've kind of created their own little package, and they do different things off of it each week. I think they really present a lot of different issues for you. They blitz quite a bit more than most of the teams that we've played, which is going to be, I would say, a very critical factor in the game, our ability to handle that. They play a lot of tight man coverage. They have guys who do a really good job of covering man-to-man [in] one-on-one situations on the outside. They ask their safeties and linebackers to do the same thing, and they've got guys who can do that. They've been stopping the run, creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback, so there are not a lot of holes. I definitely see some of what we had faced in the past in Baltimore, but certainly this is their own defense. They've added different flavors to it, and we've got a big challenge ahead of us this week."
Does Vontae Davis remind you of some of the physical corners you guys have here?
"They've got more than one, but Vontae is definitely a physical guy, plays at the line of scrimmage, uses his hands well. He is a physical guy who can disrupt you at the line of scrimmage. [Greg] Toler has done a great job on the other side. He's long, got long arms. Both of them have been effective playing near the line of scrimmage, and they use them in that way, I would say, most of the time. So, it's going to be good preparation, good practice for us this week working against some of our guys, but we're going to need to be at our best on Sunday against these two corners because they do a really good job of sticking to their guys on the outside and not letting them get clean releases much of the time into their patterns."
What kind of difference makers have new signees Arthur Jones and D'Qwell Jackson been for the Colts?
"Both guys are veteran players. Jones has been disruptive at the line of scrimmage, adds an element of inside pass rush to their front and is a very active guy when he's in there. [He] obviously comes from a good program. And then D'Qwell is obviously a veteran leader, a guy who gets everything lined up and squared away on the defensive side – the quarterback of the defense if you will. He does a good job of getting to the football, makes a lot of tackles, is a good blitzer when they use him in that role and does a really good job in pass coverage. We saw that last year in Cleveland, he actually got an interception in our game against the Browns last year. So, he is adept at multiple things in the defense and does a good job of getting them lined up and in the right call. I think both guys have helped them a lot this year."