Tale Of The Tape: Indianapolis Colts At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Colts pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history when they overcame a 38-10 deficit to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Andrew Luck threw three interceptions to put the Colts in a hole, but he never surrendered and passed for 443 yards and four TDs to rescue the Colts. Luck is a strong athlete with a powerful arm who has many of the intangible qualities needed to win championships.Tom Brady did not have his best season, but he was good enough to lead the Patriots to the AFC East title and the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Brady is a smart leader and an accurate passer who knows how to make the big play at the key moment. Brady completed 60.5 percent of his passes and he had a 25-11 TD-interception ratio. He also has three Super Bowl championship rings.
- OffenseThe Colts erred badly when they traded a first-round pick to acquire Trent Richardson. But despite that mistake, they have hard-working Donald Brown to take pressure off of Luck. Brown ran for 537 yards and has a 5.3 yards per carry average. T.Y. Hilton is a game-changing receiver who caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two TDs vs. Kansas City. Coby Fleener is a fine complementary tight end.The Patriots have used running backs Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen to give them a capable running game. Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola have been solid weapons who can make big plays for Brady. Edelman caught 105 passes this season, while Amendola caught 54 balls. Kenbrell Thompkins caught eight passes of 20 yards or more.
- DefenseThe Colts ranked 20th on defense and while they have a tendency to give up a lot of yards, they also have a tendency to make big plays. Nobody makes more big plays than defensive end Robert Mathis, who led the NFL with 19.5 sacks. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman had six forced fumbles and he is one of the hardest hitters in the league. Cornerback Darius Butler had a team-high four interceptions.The Patriots struggled on defense for the majority of the season. They have had trouble with the run since losing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo to injuries. When the Pats play well on defense, they lean on defensive end Chandler Jones, who had a team-high 11.5 sacks. Aqib Talib is a solid cover corner who will have to find a way to slow down the explosive Hilton.
- Special TeamsThe Colts have done a decent job in their special teams coverage, but they are not a major threat to make big plays with their own return game. Adam Vinatieri made 35-of-40 FG attempts this season, while Pat McAfee averaged 46.0 yards per punt.The Patriots have had an excellent year in special-teams coverage, and they have gotten good production from Josh Boyce and Blount. Stephen Gostkowski is a top kicker who made 38-of-41 FG attempts, including 5-of-6 from 50 yards or longer.
The Patriots are in a familiar position. They are coming off a bye week and host a lower-seeded team in the divisional playoffs. While they have often been successful in this position, the Colts are going to fight hard for 60 minutes (or longer) and will push them to the limit. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports Contributor