Colts could finally have Pats' number
The numbers have added up against the Indianapolis Colts. So have the frustration and misery.
They hit a brick wall when it comes to playing the New England Patriots, and the wall always wins.
Regular season, playoffs, conference championship, indoors in Indianapolis, outdoors in the chill of winter -- it hasn't made any difference in this battle between the NFL's three-time Super Bowl champion super power and the Colts. The Patriots have found ways to win.
Monday night's game at New England has been circled on the Colts' calendar since the day the schedule came out in April. Seldom has a mid-season game been as important to a quality team as this game is to the Patriots.
New England has owned the Colts, winning six straight times. The Patriots have eliminated the Colts from the playoffs the last two years in their drive to back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
New England's defensive backs mugged the Colts' receivers so thoroughly in a 24-14 victory in the AFC championship two years ago that it prompted the NFL to tighten the rules on defensive players making contact with receivers beyond the legal 5-yards.
Last season, after Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had blistered defenses for a league-record 49 touchdown passes in the regular season, it was more of the same in the divisional playoffs. The Colts went to New England looking for redemption.
Instead, they played like they had frostbite. The Colts didn't score a touchdown in a 20-3 loss.
If there ever was a time when it looked like the Colts should have the Patriots' number, it is Monday night. So many factors tip the Colts' way. For example:
• Indy (7-0) is the NFL's only unbeaten team. The Patriots lead the AFC East, but their record is only 4-3, and they've been hit hard by injuries. Edge: Colts
• The Colts' defense, long a trouble spot in a franchise that committed to building an offense around Manning, ranks fourth in the league. Robert Mathis is tied for the league lead with eight sacks. Dwight Freeney, a fearsome rushing end, has six. The Colts are first in the league in sacks per play. New England is 22nd. Edge: Colts
• The Colts are plus-eight in turnovers. New England is minus-six. Edge: Colts
• Edgerrin James of the Colts is the league's rushing leader with 801 yards. As a team, the Patriots have 587 yards. Cory Dillon, who has been injured, leads the Patriots with 401. Edge: Colts
• Manning is having a mortal season, with 11 touchdown passes. Tom Brady, a three-time champion from Michigan, has nine. Edge: Colts
Stop now and you'd think it's a blowout.
But some things add up on the Patriots' side. Like winning.
Manning is 0-7 in road games against the Patriots and 2-10 against them overall. Brady, of course, has won six straight against Manning.
Brady has thrown 10 touchdown passes with four interceptions against the Colts and has a passer rating of 98. Manning has nine TD passes, 10 interceptions and a rating of 73.3. We're talking Scott Mitchell stuff against the Patriots, not a superstar bound for the Hall of Fame.
The Patriots are at their best in games they have to win. Brady has never lost a playoff game. Manning's playoff record is 3-5.
Colts coach Tony Dungy told a reporter a week ago the game probably means more to the Patriots in the standings, and more to the Colts for self-confidence.
Sooner or later, the Colts have to break through. It should happen Monday night.