Brady Looking To Play "Keep Away"
By Site Staff
"It's going to be important for us, like we did when we've played them in the past, to possess the ball offensively," Brady said, looking ahead to Monday night's home showdown against Manning and the rest of the undefeated Indianapolis Colts. "The best defense against that offense is having our offense out on the field. We need to be better on third down than we were last week."
In a 21-16 comeback win over Buffalo, the Patriots were 1-of-7 on third down and failed to pick up more than one first down on five of their first seven drives.
Thanks to a key takeaway by their defense, the Patriots heated up in the fourth quarter, rallying for two touchdowns to escape with the win. Yet the Bills dominated in time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
The Patriots know that formula well. In last year's AFC divisional playoff win over the Colts, New England hogged the ball for nearly 38 minutes, keeping Indy's record-setting offense cooling its heels in a steady snowstorm.
That was last year, though, and despite some impressive yardage totals from Brady, this year's Patriots offense still isn't clicking like the 2004 version. Brady acknowledged as much before the recent bye week, cautioning that the Patriots' problems would not be solved by a short vacation.
"I don't know if one week cures everything," he said. "I don't know if you sit there and say, 'Wow, we had this bye week, everything is all figured out.' It's going to take some time for us to put it out on the field and see what kind of improvement we make. It's a gradual process."
The Patriots, who are No. 14 in the league in scoring, would like to accelerate that process against the Colts, who are No. 1 in scoring defense. Indy also has forced 16 turnovers, tied for fifth in the NFL.
"We're just going to try to score some points," Brady said. "No one's scoring points on them."
The Patriots certainly have in the past. In Brady's six career starts against the Colts, the Patriots have scored 20, 27, 24, 38, 38 and 44 points. Yet this seems to be an improved Indy defense (albeit one that hasn't played a demanding schedule) as well as a hit-and-miss Patriots offense.
The Patriots running game, which trampled the Colts for 210 yards in last year's playoff victory, ranks 28th in the league and has been hampered by having two rookies on the left side of the offensive line. Plus, there are injury problems at running back with Corey Dillon (ankle) not at 100 percent, fullback Patrick Pass (hamstring) hobbling, and third-down back Kevin Faulk (foot) out since Week 3.
The talented tight end trio of Dan Graham, Benjamin Watson and Christian Fauria has receded into the background again after what looked to be a breakout game in Atlanta in Week 5. Graham in particular could be removed as a receiving option this week if the Patriots feel they have to use him as an extra offensive lineman against Indy's pass rush duo of Robert Mathis (eight sacks) and Dwight Freeney (six).
In past games against the Colts, the Patriots have run their spread-the-wealth passing game to perfection. Brady's 18 completions in last year's playoff win, for example, were divided up among 10 different targets. This year, though, receivers Deion Branch (40 catches for 529 yards, two TDs) and David Givens (38-413-1) have carried the bulk of the load.
Last week against the Bills, Branch and Givens combined for 10 of the Patriots' season-low 14 completions with Branch catching one TD and making big plays to set up the other two.
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