Hello Tom Brady.
Thanks to the San Diego Chargers’ 27-10 AFC wild-card playoff win over Cincinnati on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts will be traveling to Foxboro, Massachusetts to face Brady’s New England Patriots Saturday (8:15 p.m.).
While it will be the fourth postseason meeting between New England and the Colts, it will be the first head-to-head playoff matchup between Brady and Indianapolis second-year quarterback Andrew Luck.
The two franchises faced off in a regular-season game at Gillette Stadium last season with the Patriots coming away with a 59-24 win. Brady completed 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in that game. Luck, meanwhile, connected on 27 of 50 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Indianapolis players and coaches had to wait until the conclusion of the Chargers-Bengals game before knowing their next playoff opponent.
The Colts advanced to the divisional round of the postseason with a wild 45-44 come-from-behind victory over Kansas City at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday evening.
Had Cincinnati won on Sunday, Indianapolis would have been visiting Mile High Stadium in Denver and a rematch with the AFC West champion Broncos. The Colts won this year’s meeting with Denver, pulling off a 39-33 win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano, speaking to the team’s media during a teleconference prior to the conclusion of the San Diego-Cincinnati game, didn’t care which Pro Bowl quarterback — Brady or Peyton Manning — his team faced this week.
“Either way it’s a huge undertaking and a huge challenge, as we know. Two of the best that ever played the game. We’ve faced both. We know both. As far as a difference between the two of them, they’re both great quarterbacks. I know that. They’re both winners. Got Super Bowl rings to prove it,” Pagano voiced, adding that the Colts have a lot of work to do in order to clean up mistakes from the Kansas City win.
“Obviously things are heightened as you move on in the tournament and playing the teams that you’re going to play. I think when you look at it, it’s like any game. Everything that’s on that tape is correctable. Certainly we can do a lot of things better and we’ll go back to work when they come back in here. We’ll come back in here like always and go back to work and try to get better.”
Indianapolis came out of the Chiefs game with a couple of injuries, most notably cornerback Greg Toler (groin) as well as wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) and safety LaRon Landry (concussion).
“They’re all being evaluated as we speak. I’ll have more information at a later date. They’re getting scans and MRIs and things like that. Landry, of course, we know had the concussion and he’ll go through the protocol and be day-to-day,” the Colts coach said.
Facing New England on a short week may be the biggest issue. Indianapolis came out of their win over Kansas City with some very tired players and coaches. The Colts rallied from a 38-10 third-quarter deficit to post the second-largest playoff comeback victory in National Football League history.
“I think everybody is whipped, mentally and physically. By the grace of God, you get out of there with a victory, you’re able to go home and sit on the couch, turn the TV on and find out that it did happen. It is real. It wasn’t surreal,” Pagano explained.
“Those guys, our players, they lay it on the line week in and week out. They truly left nothing, nothing, out there. Again, it just speaks to the type of kids we have and the character. Special, special group man. Just a special group of men. Players and coaches. We’ll find a way to muster up just enough to try to move on.”
The memorable win over the Chiefs was highlighted by tweeks made by the Indianapolis coaching staff over the course of the second half. While Indianapolis didn’t completely slow down Kansas City’s offense, they were able to slow it down enough to enable Luck to engineer the comeback.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like it. These guys are able to put things behind them. Never too high, never too low. Stay with the process. From day one, they’ve bought into that theory, that philosophy. That’s why they’re able to do the things that they’ve done to this point over a two-year span,” Pagano said.
“To be able to come back. Call it amnesia, focus, whatever you want to call it. Pretty resilient bunch that plays one play at a time and doesn’t look at the scoreboard and doesn’t judge. They’ll just go as hard as they can. They understand the mistakes that were made and they put it behind them and they move on.”