Stopping Manning Is The Key For Patriots

The Indianapolis Colts visit the Patriots in Foxboro for what has become "Must see TV." Peyton Manning knows the Patriots perhaps better than any other QB in the NFL and he's on a tear winning 5 of the last 6 matchups. If New England wants to win, they need to slow Manning down.

You can only throw crafty schemes at an opposing quarterback so many times before he's finally seen everything you have in your arsenal.

That appears to be what has happened to Peyton Manning after so many years of being shut down by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. During the Patriots' dynastic run in the mid-2000s, Manning's high-powered Colts always fell short against New England. Observers claimed Belichick was in Manning's head, and wondered if he'd ever break the Belichick hex.

Say no more. Since 2005, the Colts have won five of their last six against New England, including the 2006 AFC Championship Game at the RCA Dome. The only loss during that stretch came in 2007 when the Patriots won every game during the regular season. Other than that, it's been all Colts, which will certainly be in the back of the Patriots' minds as they prepare to host Indianapolis on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

"(They look) good at a lot of things: good on offense, good on defense, they don't beat themselves. They really force you to play a good football game against them to be competitive," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said.

"They've got a lot of good players. They're well-coached. They're sound; they're tough. They do a lot of things well, so it will be a big challenge for us this week. They have their own style of play and it's very effective. We'll have to make adjustments to get in the mode to be able to handle that."

The difference this year is the Colts haven't gotten off to as fast a start as they have in the past, even though their 6-3 record ranks them among the top teams in the AFC. Indianapolis is still ranked fourth in the league in total points despite the loss of tight end Dallas Clark and they've been good enough to survive defensively, allowing 20.6 points per game, which is 11th in the NFL.

"The difficult thing about them is that their style of defense, there's only one team that plays it and that's them," quarterback Tom Brady said. "It's by far the fastest, quickest defense in the league. They have two of the most dynamic pass rushers in the game. They do a lot of things well. They have some young guys on defense who are good players. We got our work cut out for us. This will be a huge test for us.

"I'm glad we're finally playing these guys at home. We haven't played them at home in a while. I'm sure the crowd will be rocking."

The big weapon in Indianapolis, as always, is Manning, who is off to one of his best starts ever despite the lack of a consistent running game. With Austin Collie emerging as a star receiver (502 yards and six touchdowns) and Reggie Wayne his usual self, Manning has completed 64.2 percent of his passes and has 16 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

"They do a good job on checking and making changes if the defense gives them a good look or bad look, however you want to call it," Belichick said.

"Defensively, they're as fast as any team in the league -- faster than most. They have a good mix on man and zone coverage, with a real good pass rush. They're a fast team. And in the running game, you just have to block speed and quickness, compared to what you have to do a lot of other weeks."

Even without Clark, they're as good as ever, which makes this another huge week for the Patriots -- perhaps even more difficult than facing Pittsburgh on the road.

"They're still real good in the passing game," Belichick said. "They've used a variety of different things -- differences in their formations. (Jacob) Tamme's done a good job for them there. They've really played four different tight ends, primarily three, after (Dallas) Clark, so, they use a lot of different people, different combinations and it comes down to team offense. They're effective moving the ball regardless of who the tight end is or who anybody is. (If) you take something away from them, they find somewhere else to go."

This report courtesy of the Sports Xchange.

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