Safety Artrell Hawkins talked about the difficulty in keeping the Colts'
receivers in check.
"That's what you want to do. You want to take their most potent weapon away, but, like I said, these guys are good. And they've been very good for a long time," he said. "Just look at their stats. I don't care who you are. I don't care if you're Deion Sanders. I don't care who you are. It's very hard to hold up against that tandem by yourself. It's just something that doesn't really happen. You don't really see it."
And with an offense as potent and diverse as Indy's Hawkins knows New England will have to play their best game of the season to come out on top.
"We go in with the mindset to win the game, and you obviously want to contain not just Marvin [Harrison] and Peyton [Manning], but Reggie [Wayne] on the other side, who is in his own right a number one receiver, and Dallas Clark, who is one of the better tight ends in the game," he said. "And their running game has been coming on lately and they have played a lot more physical in the past couple of weeks than people have kind of give them credit for. So you go into the game with the mindset that you're going to compete and that when it comes down to it you just want to make the plays that count, that are going to help you win the game."
Having been on the field with that level of offensive talent before, Hawkins
bristled at the suggestion that the Colts' offense was off their game.
"What's off? They get the ball with eight minutes to go last week, [with the game] on the line, and they hold it for eight minutes," he said. "They run 12 out of 13 plays against one of the best defenses in the NFL. I don't see that as off."
|Patriots LB Tully Banta-Cain (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)|
"You just try not to get blocked as long. If we blitz, we have to get there. If we don't, the guys who are rushing have to get there," he explained. "A big part of pass rushing is the coverage behind you, too. If the guys are back there covering, it makes him hold the ball. It's a team effort to get to the quarterback. Hopefully we get to him.
"You can never let off the gas pedal. You have to just keep coming at him. He's going to make plays. You know that. He has great weapons. He's a great quarterback. He reads the field. He reads the defense. You can't allow him to capitalize on the mistakes that we make."
Banta-Cain also showed his respect for the Colts' rookie running back Joseph Addai as he talked about Indy's offense.
"He's a young, up-and-coming running back. He's improved. He doesn't seem like a guy who has hit that rookie wall," he said. "He is playing great in the playoffs. He can pose a lot of problems. He's fast. He can make strong cuts. He breaks tackles. Him and [Dominic] Rhodes are doing a great job."
"You try not to. I understand the situation we're going into and the type of player he is," he said. "At the same time, you have to go out there and have confidence in yourself... keep a positive attitude the whole time and go out there and play the way you know how to, and keep doing what you [did] to get here, as far as physical football and having fun.
On the other side of the ball, running back Heath Evans and the Patriots
offense were studying the film of the Colts and sees a real collective effort by
their defense that was missing at times during the season.
"You see guys making tackles. You see guys making big hits. Everyone loves to throw the name Bob Sanders around, and believe me, I give him all his due, but really as a team they have really come together," he said.
Special teams will undoubtedly play a huge role in Sunday's game since giving up good field position to either offense would be a mistake. LB Larry Izzo, who is the special teams captain for the Patriots, said, "We feel that we have been improving steadily throughout the year and we need to continue to play well, cover well and return well and help our team with field position."
And Izzo reinforced the notion that familiarity with your foe isn't
necessarily going to be the deciding factor in the outcome of a game like this
one where everything is on the line.
"They know us. We know them. It is going to come down to execution-who executes the game plan best, plays the best," he said. "It doesn't matter how familiar you are with an opponent, if you're not going to go out and executing your job, it is going to be tough to win.
"We know we have a big, tough battle ahead of us, going on the road against a great team. They have played well all year long. It's the AFC Championship game. It is going to be a big challenge for us. We're going to have to play our A-game and hopefully get it done."