The New England Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday in the divisional round of the playoffs, an extension of the exquisite rivalry that has delivered its fair share of memorable contests.
But much of the Patriots' ballyhooed history with the Colts stems from the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis, when the now-Denver Broncos quarterback barked audibles and fired off passes to the likes of Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garçon, Dallas Clark, and Marvin Harrison. Those Colts teams battled in epic fashion with Tom Brady and company.
This Colts team, led by second-year quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano, has a new flavor of football to it that's both excitable and explosive. But it's most certainly different. Brady is 10-4 against the Colts, including 2-1 in the postseason. The Patriots are 47-29 against the Colts franchise.
But Brady's Patriots have faced Pagano's team only once, last season on Nov. 18, 2012. It was a dominant showing for New England, which won 59-24 and scored in all three phases of the game.
Here are some notes from that game:
1. The difference maker -- Julian Edelman had quite an outing, catching five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown, returning a punt 68 yards for another score, and breaking off a reverse for 47 yards. His punt return and receiving touchdowns marked the first time since 1985 the Patriots had a player score in both ways since Irving Fryar did it, also against the Colts. Edelman was also the Patriots' leading rusher that day with that sole carry.
2. Luck wasn't so great -- Much like Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts quarterback had his struggles before finishing strong. He was 27 of 50 passing for 334 yards and two touchdowns. But that came with three interceptions and a lost fumble over the course of the game. Two of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns and just one play after his fumble Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 24-yard touchdown. But it's key to remember that he was a rookie then playing in only his 10th game.
3. T.Y. Hilton was just as good -- Hilton didn't get the start for Indianapolis but he quickly became a large part of the Colts' game plan. He caught six passes for 100 yards, including two touchdowns. He beat Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib for both of his scores, setting up what we're sure will be a great matchup this time around.
4. Talib made his debut -- It was his first game in a Patriots uniform after being traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He made an impact right away, picking off Luck and going 59 yards for a touchdown. But he also got burned twice. He had a mixed game.
5. Alfonzo Dennard mades a big play -- Dennard got in on the fun, intercepting Luck and returning it 87 yards for a touchdown. It was a terrible throw by Luck, but it was a better runback by Dennard. He had to beat the speedy quarterback to get into the end zone. Tavon Wilson intercepted a pass as well.
6. Donald Brown was an afterthought -- The Colts' running back, who has been an integral part of Indianapolis' season this year, was just a bit player last time around. In spot duty, he had four carries for 17 yards and caught two passes for six yards. He was essentially a non-factor. Also inactive for the Colts in this particular contest, cornerback Vontae Davis and tight end Coby Fleener.
7. Gronkowski goes down with an injury -- The seemingly never-ending spiral of Rob Gronkowski injuries started when he broke his forearm on an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter. Prior to the injury, he had caught seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He was a big factor in the win.
8. The offensive line was good -- The Patriots were helped in part by a clean pocket against the Colts. Brady was only hit a couple of times, once by Robert Mathis and once by Dwight Freeney. And that was without their starting guards. Both Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly were out with injuries. Donald Thomas, now a Colt, and Nick McDonald (free agent) held it down in their place.
Despite the Colts' last showing against the Patriots, they've shown growth in the past year. After the way Indianapolis came back to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Saturday's wild card game, it appears that the quality of the rivalry between Patriots and their rival will continue to be played at a high level.