Colts Treating Patriots As Just Another Game

When the Patriots play the Colts, it's NOT just another game. Opposite what is being said, this game is much more than "just another game." The winner of this contest holds the lead to becoming the best team of a decade in NFL history.

It's New England week once again.

While the Colts and the Patriots aren't in the same division anymore (they were both in the AFC East from 1970 to 2001), the rivalry is still as strong as ever.

Of course, the fact that Indianapolis and New England have met three times in the playoffs since 2004 and have played each other every year during the regular season since 2003 probably adds a lot of fuel to the fire. Also, there are the yearly comparisons between the Patriots Tom Brady and the Colts' Peyton Manning.

Brady has won three Super Bowl titles, Manning one. Brady has been the winning quarterback in two of the three postseason meetings between the teams. Manning has won three of the past four regular-season games.

Indianapolis beat the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. Manning has captured three NFL Most Valuable Player awards (2003, 2004, 2008) while Brady (2007) has one. Brady has been the Super Bowl MVP twice (2002, 2004), Manning once (2007).

Colts first-year head coach Jim Caldwell understands the rivalry, both from a team perspective and the friendly personal one as well. But Caldwell is adamant that Sunday night's nationally televised matchup will be treated as just another regular-season game.

"We're not going to prepare any differently. We're not going to do anything any differently than we do any other week," he said. "Obviously, it's a big game. A very, very talented opponent. And that's how we're going to address it. It's the next (game). The next one for us is a big one. The next one for us is the most important one."

While Indianapolis remains as one of the league's two undefeated teams, along with New Orleans, Caldwell said that there is still a lot of work to be done.

"We try to divide (the regular season) into four quarters," he said. "We were 4-0 in the first quarter. We were 4-0 in the second quarter. We can't do any better than that, in terms of our record. We certainly think we can play a lot better. At this point in time, we're just kind of sputtering a little bit. Probably not finishing drives like we'd like to on offense.

"From a defensive standpoint, we're having some really great stretches along the way and playing pretty well, but we'd still like to play a little bit better. That's the good thing about this team. We've got room to improve. Our kicking game, our coverage units have been very good. They continue to improve every week, but we'd like to ramp it up a little bit in terms of our return team. Overall, I think it's a team that has a lot of room for improvement and that can get better. And that's a good thing."

NOTES
--QB Peyton Manning's 40 attempts in the first half of the Houston game allowed him to become the first quarterback since Oakland's Rich Gannon in 2002 to throw at least 40 passes in the first half. Gannon did it against the Seahawks.

--Rookie RB Donald Brown doesn't like sitting out of practice or games. Brown suffered a shoulder contusion two weeks ago against St. Louis and has not been able to play against San Francisco or Houston. He was able to return for practice last Wednesday and Thursday, but the injury has not allowed him to play. His status for the Patriots game will depend on how he does in practice this week and how much soreness remains.

--WR Reggie Wayne is officially 0-for-1 in the passing department. Wayne attempted a throw off an end-around play in the fourth quarter of the Houston game. It was intercepted by S Bernard Pollard. He had injured his throwing hand earlier in the drive and had thought about calling the play off, but he tried the pass anyway. Wayne was trying to fire the ball out of bounds when WR Pierre Garcon was covered. It didn't quite work out that way.

"Next time, I'll aim for the blonde in the front row," he said. "I was trying to throw it away and just threw a bad ball. That's another mistake on my end."

--WR Austin Collie says that he'll be OK and should be able to play Sunday night against New England. Collie suffered a sore neck after making a 16-yard catch and hitting the turf hard midway through the fourth quarter of the Houston game.

"It was just a neck issue. As long as you make the catch, you'll be fine," he said. "I'm perfectly fine."

--TE Dallas Clark is on pace to catch 120 passes this year. Clark had 14 receptions for 119 yards in the win over Houston. Through the first eight games this year, he has hauled in a team-leading 60 passes for 703 yards and three touchdowns.

--CB Jerraud Powers is just a rookie, but he certainly doesn't play like one. Not yet, anyway. The Colts' third-round draft pick from Auburn has drawn raves from the team's coaching staff for the way that he has played so far this season.

"He's wise beyond his years," coach Jim Caldwell said recently. "He plays like a much older guy. He doesn't play like a rookie."

--LB Clint Session recorded his first interception of the season and the third of his three-year NFL career against the Texans. Session had a pair of interceptions against the Chargers as a rookie in 2007.

Unofficially, he also had a team-leading 14 total tackles (13 solo) in the Houston game.

--DE Dwight Freeney knows that he has a pretty good streak, sack-wise, going on right now. Freeney has now recorded a sack in nine consecutive regular-season games, setting a team record in the process. He is one shy of tying the NFL record that is shared by Denver's Simon Fletcher and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware. His eight-game sack streak to open the 2009 season ties the league mark set by teammate Robert Mathis.

"It's not like I'm sitting there like, 'Oh, I've got to get (a sack).' My mentality is I have to get three or four every game. Some games, it's just there. It's just happened to be there every game (this season), at least once," Freeney said.

--RB Joseph Addai knows what the perception is around the league about the Colts' running game the past two seasons. But Addai thinks that things are beginning to come together.

"All we can do is to keep working at it and trying to get (the running game) where we want it to be," he said. "Some times it takes a while to get into a rhythm (running the football), and I think we've showed that the last few weeks late in games. We've been able to run the football a lot better."

--S Melvin Bullitt understands his situation. While Bob Sanders is the Colts' primary strong safety, Bullitt has been able to take over that role the last two seasons while Sanders has battled an array of injuries.

His development in the defensive backfield has made it a lot easier to withstand the loss of a player like Sanders.


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