Colts, No Rivalry Without Manning

The Colts are coming. The Colts are coming. The Colts are ... coming. Who cares? That's the attitude around Foxboro as the Patriots prepare for a game against an 0-11 Cotls team that is a shell of their former selves without Peyton Manning.

Patriots game against Colts isn't what it used to be

   One of Bill Belichick's most difficult jobs is convincing the media he's being serious when lauding the "accomplishments" of an 0-11 team. Thankfully for Belichick, he doesn't care much about what the scribes think as long as his players are buying into what he's selling.

   As the Patriots prepare for the ultimate trap game this weekend at home against the winless Colts, Belichick has instructed his players to direct any questions about Indianapolis' record to him so that he may have the final word on what the team's mentality will be this weekend.

   So far, it appears his message has gotten through loud and clear to his players, specifically Tom Brady, who acts in some ways as the spokesman each Wednesday when he takes the podium for his weekly press briefing.

   "We're 8-3. Has it been everything perfect? No," Brady said, "but we've got to go out there this week and try to get to 9-3. Any week in the NFL is a tough week. (The Colts), obviously with the threats they have offensively (and) the threats they have defensively, can change the game in one play."

   The Patriots have played some classic games against the Colts in recent years, but those were with Peyton Manning calling the shots behind center for Indianapolis, not veteran nomad Dan Orlovsky, who will get the start this weekend in place of the struggling Curtis Painter.

   While it might be difficult to convince anyone outside of the locker room that a winless team allowing more points than anyone else in the NFL has a shot this weekend in Foxborough, the Patriots are basing their game plan around Indianapolis' limited crew of play-makers.

   Some of the same names are still in the lineup, specifically wide receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark, and defensive end Dwight Freeney, who Brady said would be the player he'd emulate if he were a defender himself.

   "I think they've got some players that can really play," Brady said. "I played Dwight Freeney a bunch. I wish he was out this week, but he's in there again. He's a phenomenal player. If I could be a defensive end, I'd be like him -- and Robert Mathis on the other side.

   "Both those guys can really wreak havoc. Strip sacks -- coach said this morning that Freeney has like 99 career sacks -- 43 forced fumbles. Almost half the time that he sacks you, he strips the ball from you. He's a great player. They've got (cornerback) Jerraud Powers. I really like the way he plays. I think they have some very good defensive players."

   That may be true, but the results haven't added up on the field. Some of the games have been close, but others, such as the 62-7 loss to New Orleans, have been incredibly lopsided. The only thing Indianapolis can rest its hat on at this point is the idea that its veterans could come up with another big-game performance against a team they've seen every year for the last eight seasons.

   Though they're no longer division rivals, the Colts and Patriots seem to play one another every year. Perhaps that familiarity will make this game a lot closer than a game against, say, New Orleans, who Indianapolis doesn't see all that often. Or perhaps this will end up like most of Indianapolis' games have this year, which means we could be in store for a lopsided blowout.

   Most think the Colts have given up on this season in anticipation of grabbing the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, but Brady has a much different perspective from watching game film throughout the week.

   "When you're having a season like they're having, obviously no one wants to be in that situation," he said, "but I'll tell you this: they play hard.

   "They have a lot of pride. They've been in a lot of close games. They haven't won them, but they're in them."

   SERIES HISTORY: 72nd overall meeting. Patriots lead series, 43-28. The two teams have met in the regular season in each of the last eight years and three times in the playoffs during that same stretch. New England is 19-10 against the Colts since 1993 and has won 15 of the last 22 regular-season meetings. At home, the Patriots are 25-12 against Indianapolis.

Patriots and Colts have most wins in a decade

   --The Patriots and Colts both surpassed the San Francisco 49ers of the 1990s for the best record in a decade by any team in NFL history. New England had 126 wins from 2000- 2009, while Indianapolis had 124 wins. San Francisco set the old record with 122 wins.

   --This will be the ninth consecutive season in which the Patriots and Colts play each other in the regular season despite the fact they haven't been division rivals since 2002; Indianapolis moved to the AFC South following the 2001 season.

   --The month of December has been kind to New England in recent years. Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, the Patriots have the best home record in December with 18 wins and only one loss. Likewise, the Patriots have an NFL-best 37-5 record overall in December since 2001, which includes a perfect 4-0 record last season.

   --Hosting Indianapolis on Sunday should bring back fond memories for Tom Brady.
   The Patriots' quarterback made his first career start against the Colts at Foxboro Stadium on Sept. 30, 2001. He finished 13-of-23 for 168 yards in a 44-13 win. Brady owns a 6-3 record in the regular season against Indianapolis and 2-1 record in the postseason. He has thrown three touchdowns against the Colts in five of those games. He is 3-2 in the regular season in home games, and 2-0 at home in the postseason.

   --On paper, this is as lopsided a matchup as you'll get all year in the NFL, but head coach Bill Belichick is adamant that his team's 8-3 record and Indianapolis' 0-11 record means nothing entering this weekend.

   "(The players) have heard me talk about it every week, saying we don't care about the record and we don't," Belichick said. "What difference does it make? Look, how somebody played two weeks ago against somebody else, who cares? Us or anybody else. It doesn't matter. Only thing that matters is how we and the Colts perform against each other on Sunday. That's all that matters. Who cares who won three weeks ago in some other game against some other players? It doesn't matter."

   --While BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets most of the attention, and rightfully so given his prolific touchdown totals, the Patriots have also received contributions from rookies Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the running game.

   "I would say that both guys have progressed," offensive coordinator Bill "O'Brien said. "I think it's hard to play any position in the NFL as a rookie, whether it's tackle, receiver, tight end, running back or, obviously, quarterback.

   "I think it's a difficult transition and both of those guys have come along every week and improved every week -- the running part of the game is fairly basic for them; it's all the other things. It's the pass protection. It's the pass routes. It's the run reads. It's the other things that go into that they need to improve on every week and I really think they've worked hard at that."

   --Belichick has been close throughout the years with newly-hired Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who used to provide Belichick with several draftees during Meyer's tenure at Florida.

   Aside from scouting Meyer's players at Ohio State, Belichick has another reason to visit the Buckeyes' campus. His daughter, Amanda, is an assistant coach for Ohio State's women's lacrosse team.

   "I think I'll be out there whether (Meyer) is there or not," Belichick quipped.

   BY THE NUMBERS: 48 -- The number of yards Wes Welker (5,679) needs to move past Irving Fryar (5,726) into third place on the Patriots' all-time list.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a mentality this week, on defense and as a team, that it's about us. It's about the team we want to continue to be and excelling at areas we need to excel at to get where we want to go." -- Safety James Ihedigbo on the team's philosophy this week of deflecting any questions regarding Indianapolis' 0-11 record.

Hot Topic:  Winless Colts Pose No Threat

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