by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
It seems, dear readers, that we are dealing with two different Patriots teams this year, each of which has shown itself in the past two weeks. We can only hope that the fired-up, hard-hitting squad that humbled Pittsburgh 39-26 decides to come back to Foxboro to face the Colts.
New England hasn’t beaten Indianapolis since 2007. We need not review the various ways the Pats have lost, else we end up punching ourselves to distract from the internal pain. That just means we have any, many things to worry about this week.
Manning The Helm: Oh, that’s why this game scares the bejeebus out of us. Quarterback Peyton Manning has gotten the Colts to 6-3, doing so with only slightly fewer weapons than a Quaker. Despite the absence of running back Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark, among others, Manning has tallied impressive stats, including 16 touchdowns against a mere four interceptions. Can New England’s young secondary get the better of Manning? Probably not, but their ability to contain Indy’s passing attack will determine how Sunday goes.
Oh, Thank Devin: Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty has surprised many with his level of play, but even he had a rough time at the end of Sunday night’s contest. Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the secondary like a crow on roadkill, targeting McCourty’s man much of the time. McCourty and Kyle Arrington need to play their best, and Brandon Meriweather needs to work on his timing – somewhere between arriving too late and committing pass interference.
Go Fourth And Prosper: Even if New England gets a lead going into the fourth quarter, how big does it have to be? These guys have been giving up sixes like a New Hampshire package store. A scary thought vs. an offense with such potential.
Walking On Aaron: The Pats’ tight ends were two-thirds exceptional, but Aaron Hernandez proved an exception to the exceptional. He dropped one more pass than he caught last week. A quick look at his player page reminds us that Hernandez just turned 21 this month. We remember that age, and our inability to focus on anything beyond a) “What are we doing tonight?” and b) “Who’s bringing beer?” The Patriots will need Hernandez’ talents vs. Indy. Can the young guy recover from an off week?
Planning A Reception: While Deion Branch and Wes Welker played more like the cagey vets we expect, and Brandon Tate had a shiny, 45-yard catch, we’re still waiting for the breakout of Julian Edelman. The sophomore has been limited to four catches this year. Put into perspective, your mailman has only four fewer NFL receptions. With the collective knee problems of Branch and Welker, it wouldn’t hurt to have a dependable fourth receiver to throw to.
The Play’s The Thing: Speaking of Tate, can the Pats dial up a few more of those big plays in the near future? The visitors had a consistent, efficient attack at Pittsburgh, which is great, but is this turning into a “bend don’t break” offense? If New England drops one pass or gets one illegal motion penalty, it crushes their chances of converting. The Colts live by big plays. Seems a shame for the Pats not to try them more often.
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