News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 8, 2014

Colts, Patriots, both with many new faces, to meet in playoffs for fourth time

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Here we go again. Yet another Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots playoff game.

The two franchises have met in the postseason three other times, with New England winning the AFC championship at the end of the 2003 season (24-14) and then an AFC divisional game in 2004 (20-3).

Indianapolis, though, was able to turn the tables in the 2006 AFC championship game with a 38-34 come-from-behind victory.

And so here we are again.

But there are some big differences. There’s no Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Jeff Saturday, Dwight Freeney, Gary Brackett or Marlin Jackson for the Colts.

Now it’s Chuck Pagano, Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Coby Fleener, Donald Brown, Samson Satele, Jerrell Freeman and Vontae Davis. And a couple of old faces as well in outside linebacker Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea.

There are some different faces in New England too. But there are two very important constants — head coach Bill Belichick and veteran quarterback Tom Brady.

Which makes Saturday night’s AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium all the more interesting.

Due to all of the personnel moves made by the Colts over the last two seasons, coach Pagano doesn’t think the postseason history between the Patriots and Indianapolis will matter much.

“I think obviously we know them. [And] they know us from an organizational standpoint. They’ve got what they’ve seen on tape from this year. There’s been so much turnover [on the Colts’ roster]. In today’s NFL, that’s kind of how it is,” Pagano said. “I don’t see how much effect it’s going to have on this ballgame.”

There is, of course, a certain amount of respect that the Colts have for New England.

“They’ve done it for a long time. That system has been in place for a long time. Obviously, [the Patriots] got a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Tom Brady that is under center running that whole thing. Their personnel department does a great job and they bring in guys that can adapt and adjust and certainly the quarterback, again, makes that whole thing go,” the Indianapolis coach noted.

“They’ve done a good job of bringing guys in and plugging them in. That system has been in place. They make adjustments here and there. But [Brady] has done a great job with adjusting to life without [injured tight end Rob Gronkowski], life without some of the other guys. It’s going to be a huge challenge.”