When the Patriots offense confronts the Colts defense Sunday night, execution will matter more than scheme. The Colts are blitzing more under new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, but they are able to pressure quarterbacks with their excellent front four and sprinkle in blitzing out of their core defensive package.
“I wouldn’t classify them as a blitzing team, but you can’t go to sleep on it or they will pressure you,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Most of the time they get a lot of pressure from those front four and they use all of them. It’s not just [Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis, although it’s certainly them, but it’s [Raheem] Brock, [Keyunta] Dawson, [Daniel] Muir – all those guys – [Antonio] Johnson, but they have them extend some pressure probably a little more than they have in the past and they’ve gotten some plays out of it.”
The Colts, like the Dolphins, pretty much line up and play. They don’t deploy exotic looks like the Ravens and Jets are famous for. The pressure their defensive line provides helps their damaged secondary, which is playing without Marlin Jackson, Bob Sanders, and Kelvin Hayden while starting a pair of rookie cornerbacks. If the Patriots stop the Colts' basic pass rush and force them to blitz, Brady could pick apart their under-manned secondary.
“Dwight Freeney, he lines up and he rushes the passer,” Brady said. “That’s what they want him doing, they don’t want him dropping 15 yards into coverage, unfortunately. I wish they did, but they want him to rush and you build your team around the style and the scheme of your defense and the Colts have done a remarkable job at that.”
The speed of the Colts’ defensive line puts the onus on the offensive line. They’ll have to beat the man in front of them. It will be an especially big week for Sebastian Vollmer, the 6-8 rookie who has proved capable in two games.
Freeney provides Vollmer a difficult matchup, by far his most difficult yet. Freeney’s reaches quarterbacks because of his quickness and speed. But he also beats tackles by getting under their pads and using leverage. That will be a dangerous weapon because of Vollmer’s height.
“Two of them guys got 17 sacks already,” guard Nick Kaczur said, referring to Freeney and Mathis. “I mean, they’re great up front. They get to the ball well. They’re real fast. They don’t need to blitz to get a rush. If you can do that up front with four guys, that makes it a lot harder, because they can keep their guys in coverage.
“It’s all about getting pressure on the quarterback. They have the talent and personnel that can do it with four guys, which is rare in this league.”
The Colts’ ability to create havoc without blitzing much indirectly helps their preparation. When they practice against the Patriots’ plays, they can be confident they’re seeing it during the week as they see it Sunday.
“They can practice against your core plays all week in practice because they’re pretty much lined up in the same defense, they have the same look, they have the same read,” Brady said. “If you run 10 different coverages, the chance of them practicing a play that you’re going to run in the game is almost nothing.”