Quick-hit thoughts from New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia from their conference calls held on Monday:
Luck's mobility. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is lighting up defenses with the pass, but he also possesses the athleticism to make plays with the run. “Obviously you are talking about a tremendous athlete, very strong, big, powerful guy that really is a complete package of athletic quarterbacks at this point,” Patricia said. “Tremendous job of reading coverage and getting the ball downfield to his skill players from the standpoint of athleticism and moving around. He does a great job of feeling the pressure in the pocket, being able to extend plays out of the pocket or just moving within the pocket into spaces where he can step up and throw the ball.”
On the Colts' backfield. The Colts have a tandem backfield with running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, who both present issues on the ground. Bradshaw is also a weapon as a receiver in the red zone. “Bradshaw and Richardson do a great job of utilizing space in their short-space quickness to find creases in the defense and they explode through the hole very fast,” Patricia said. “They have excellent burst to get positive yardage. Very rarely do you see these guys take a negative run, they can push quickly into the defense and create problems as far as tackling is concerned.”
Matching up with the physical Colts' cornerbacks. McDaniels is glad the Patriots have physical cornerbacks to help their receivers prepare for a matchup with the Colts' Vontae Davis and Greg Toler. “They have more than one [physical corner] but Vontae is definitely a physical guy, plays at the line of scrimmage, uses his hands well,” McDaniels said. “He's a physical guy who can disrupt you at the line of scrimmage. Toler has done a great job on the other side. He has long arms.”
Is the Colts' defense like the old Ravens' defenses? With Colts head coach Chuck Pagano having experience with the Ravens' defense from 2008-2011, the Colts have adopted a look similar to the Ravens' old defenses. “I definitely think there is an element of that,” McDaniels said. “Certainly with Coach Pagano, obviously that's his background so there is some of that there. But I also think there is a great blend here and they've kind of created their own little package, they do different things off of it each week. I think they really present a lot of different issues for you. They blitz quite a bit more than most of the teams we've played, which I would say will be a very critical factor in the game, our ability to handle that.”
McDaniels' thoughts on the run game. The Patriots' running game wasn't great against the Broncos (2.6 yards per carry), who have a tough defensive front. McDaniels wants to stay committed to the run because of its versatility and ability to help the offense as a whole. "Sometimes the averages are misleading, but nonetheless we'd love to see our running game be productive however we choose to use it each week to be able to produce good second-down situations, first down, when we run the ball on second or third down, score touchdowns in the red zone or at the goal line," McDaniels said. "If you continue to stay committed to it, you force teams to defend it."