The Indianapolis Colts’ star wide receiver knows this much about Sunday night’s 16th go-around at Lucas Oil Stadium— Belichick’s penchant for creative defensive strategy, whatever it might be, will force the home team to adjust.
Wayne considers a Patriots secondary with cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner as the most talented New England has had since the receiver entered the league in 2001. The pass catcher’s religious film study provides the insight that those two cover corners do their jobs so well, it frees up the front seven to mix it up, be it coverage or rushing the passer.
“One thing I do know about a coach Belichick-coached team is they’re not going to let you go out there and do what you do best, and do it comfortably,” Wayne said Friday. “They’re going to try to make you play left-handed, and if you just dribble with one hand, then it’s going to be a long game.
“It’s something that we’re going to have to take heed to and understand that they’re not just going to let us pass up and down the field. It’s a chess match. We’ve got to take what the defense gives us and hopefully, like I’ve said, we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot and play from behind.”
That’s something these Colts know something about.
In last January’s AFC Divisional playoff game at Foxborough, Mass., the Colts fell behind 21-7 in the second quarter and the closest they came after that was a seven-point deficit in the third quarter in a 43-22 end to Indy’s season.
In a 2012 regular-season meeting at Gillette Stadium, the Colts led 14-7 after one quarter but trailed 24-17 by halftime and the Patriots scored 35 second-half points for a 59-24 rout.
“The last two years we’ve played them from behind, it’s not worked so well,” Wayne said. “That comeback stuff can only go so far, you know?
“Hopefully it’s a grinder, which I know it will be. If all things go right, for what everybody wants to accomplish in this locker room, we’ll come out on top.”
If the Colts (6-3) can defeat the Patriots (7-2) it opens up all kinds of possibilities for January playoff seeding. Lose, however, and the Colts probably can’t overtake either New England or Denver (7-2) to earn one of the top two seeds and a first-round playoff bye. Denver defeated the Colts 31-24 in the season opener, so tiebreakers would be against them in either case.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has had his share of run-ins with Belichick’s teams. In an ironic twist of fate, New England might be responsible for bringing Pagano to Indy. He was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator when the Patriots sent the Ravens home 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game in January of 2012. Had Pagano won that game, perhaps the Colts would have looked elsewhere for a new head coach.
Considering the recent history, Pagano was asked if everyone, himself included, should have short-term memory about the recent losses or are the experiences helpful in learning more about what it takes to defeat Belichick’s Patriots?
“You know what? You always go back and you look at all those games,” Pagano said Monday. “You remember them, obviously, and you remember all the plays, and you remember everything; certain things had to happen in that game in (2012), otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here today probably talking to you guys.
“Not necessarily reminiscing on those things, but you go back and study the tape and try to find the things that may help you in this ball game. Look at our two games, our playoff game from last year, and in 2012 we went up there and played, try to learn from those, clean up the mistakes.”
The Colts last played the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2009, the infamous “fourth-and-two” game. Belichick went for a first down from his own 28 in the final minutes and a controversial fourth-and-two pass play came up inches short. The Patriots thought they were robbed on a bad spot. The Colts capitalized with Peyton Manning throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Wayne for a memorable 35-34 primetime victory.
It’s hard to believe that was five years ago.
“Yeah it is, man,” Wayne said. “For a change, we can expect and know what the weather’s going to be (because Lucas Oil Stadium’s roof will be closed). It’s weird, but it seems like we always play there. I’m kind of used to it, but it’s always exciting to play this team at home because you know exactly what our 12th man is going to bring to the table.
“It’ll be fun. I’m excited. I think everybody in this locker room is excited, I’m sure they’re excited. It should be somewhat of a playoff atmosphere, so this will be a good test run for us.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.