After strong performances against the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos, the Colts represent perhaps the greatest challenge as the league’s top scoring team. Two of the Patriots' key defensive players, cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, broke down the matchup during their media sessions Thursday afternoon.
“They’re playing good ball -- real good ball,” Wilfork said. “You talk about a team that plays well together. Offense, defense and special teams. Especially at home. Sunday night, we know it’s going to be a battle. They’re a physical football team. They have a quarterback that’s so competitive. He hates to lose. Every play they compete. We see that.”
It starts third-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who leads the league in passing yards (3,085) while ranking second in touchdowns (26) and just outside the top 10 in completion percentage (63.6). Although Luck has struggled in his two career games against New England, including last year’s divisional-round playoff matchup, the Patriots are well aware of the threat he presents on the field.
“He’s a complete quarterback when you look at it,” Wilfork said. “He’s going to be a great one at this level. You can just tell, the way he operates that team. Put him in a situation, he’s unfazed. Get hit, he’ll get up. He’s just a tough quarterback all around. He’s probably one of the toughest quarterbacks in this game, physically and mentally. Just watching him play, playing against him a couple of times. He has the tools to be great and he’s been showing it.”
Revis is also impressed.
“He’s a talent,” Revis said. “He makes plays with his legs; he makes plays extending plays and he makes some great throws down the field. I give him all the accolades that he deserves.”
Much of Luck’s success stems from the receivers, most notably T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has been the Colts' top receiving option this season, especially in recent weeks. The third-year receiver has three touchdowns in his past four games, averaging 139 yards per game in that span.
“He’s very fast and very explosive. He makes big plays,” Revis said. “I think he’s a No. 1 receiver at making big plays.”
Don’t forget about the Colts' other receiving option, Reggie Wayne. Currently in his 14th season, Wayne has returned from an injury-riddled campaign last year to again being a top option. He’s the team’s second-most-targeted receiver behind Hilton.
“He’s just an elite receiver,” Revis said. “He’s been doing it for 14-plus years now. You never see any downfall. I never see a downfall in his game, so that tells you something.”
Wilfork had similarly high praise for Wayne, whom he described as being like family due to their University of Miami connection (Wayne played there from 1996-2000, Wilfork from 2001-2003).
“I don’t care what anybody says -- coaches, media, whatever it may be -- we’re family,” Wilfork said. “It’s good to see him still playing at the rate that he’s playing it. It goes to show you a lot about what football means to him. He’s very prepared. I know him personally. I know we’re going to get his best. I know he’s going to be ready to play.”
Not to be forgotten is the Colts' running game, anchored by Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. The two virtually split equal time in the backfield, with Richardson getting the majority of the reps on the ground while Bradshaw is a more dangerous receiving option (six touchdowns through the air, second on the team). Of course, the Patriots are very familiar with Bradshaw from his work with the New York Giants, especially in Super Bowl XLVI, when he fell into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
“I think he’s so underrated as a running back,” Wilfork said. “He’s a small guy, but he packs a punch with running the ball, [blocking], [catching] the ball out of the back field, yards after contact. He’s a complete back. Like I said, he gets overlooked by a bunch of big names nowadays in the league but I’ll tell you what, we don’t overlook him.
“When they can get that running game involved and get Luck to get the ball out to his receivers and tight ends, they’re a tough team to stop.”