“This game is pretty much the Patriots season.”
- Tony Mazzarotti
A rare occurrence took place today as Michael and Tony both agreed on something! They both feel that the Patriots offensive line, primarily the left tackle position, should be the number one concern heading into Sunday’s clash with the Colts. Find out why the Patriots fate this weekend could fall upon the shoulders of rookie Sebastian Vollmer.
Felger: “The more I think about this game, it’s going to come down to a lot of things. But what’s the most important match up in this game? Indy’s defensive line against the Pats offensive line. The math up at left tackle is definitely going to be interesting. Matt Light has always had problems when lining up against Dwight Freeney. Now, if Vollmer plays it will be by far his biggest challenge yet. Then you got the noise in Indy, and all that fake noise they pump in. Can Vollmer or Light handle Freeney? This is always a huge question for the Patriots no matter who is playing left tackle. Do they use a tight end to help out? Or do they chip him with a back out of the backfield? How are they going to do it? Indy is small and fast up front, maybe the Patriots can run on them? Maybe that’s the way to slow down the Colts pass rush. If the offensive line can keep Freeney and company out of Brady’s kitchen the Patriots win. Period. If Brady gets time to look down the field the Colts can’t cover the Patriots receivers.”
Mazz: “I will say, and agree with you Mike, that the Patriots offensive line and Indy’s defensive line is the most important match up in this game. The Colts defense is predicated on pressure and getting to the quarterback. They are not good enough in the secondary to cover the Patriots receivers unless they get heavy pressure on the quarterback. If they are unable to get to Brady he will shred them. To me you have to depend on scoring points to win this game, and I think Indy is going to have trouble defending the Patriots offense. The Colts throw the ball way too much and have become more one-dimensional than they have ever been. If Indy is able to run the ball, which I don’t think they will be able too, then things will be different in this game. You don’t have to defend the run as much against them as you have in the past. But I don’t think that means the Patriots will bring the house against Manning. The Colts will depend on Manning to move the ball, and he will, which is why the Patriots are going to have to score 28+ points to win this game. I’m picking the Patriots in this game because I feel their defense is better equipped to handle the Colts offense.”
The Collin-tary: Patriots left tackle Matt Light has yet to practice this week and it is doubtful he will play Sunday in Indianapolis. As much as Light’s struggles against Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney have been publicized, the numbers aren’t all that bad. Taking into account quarterback pressures aren’t an official stat kept by the NFL, Freeney has only two career sacks against the Patriots in nine games. In his three postseason appearances against New England, he has five tackles and zero sacks.
There is no questioning Freeney’s ability to get after the quarterback. He currently ranks third in the NFL this season with 9.5 sacks and has disrupted the Patriot offense on numerous occasions over the course of his career. However, with the way Patriots rookie tackle Sebastian Vollmer has handled the likes of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jason Taylor, and Joey Porter, there is reason for optimism.
If the Patriots are able to establish a running attack using their size up front, it will help slow down the Colts athletic front four. As fast as Freeney and Robert Mathis are off the edge, they are severely undersized against the Patriots beefy offensive line. The keys to the Patriots winning Sunday are sustaining a limited running attack, and slowing the Colts pass rush with screens and draws. As Michael and Tony eluded to earlier, if Tom Brady is kept upright, the Patriots will win this game.
Will Sebastian Vollmer be able to handle the spotlight? Does the defense stand a chance against Peyton Manning and the Colts prolific offense? Can the Patriots generate enough offense to win?