If there's anyone to blame for the New England Patriots' transformation into the most prolific offense in the NFL it's ... the Indianapolis Colts?
The New York Times makes that point today in a feature, saying that the Pats loss in the AFC Championship Game forced New England to identify and then plug the gaps in their team.
"They didn't feel like they had what they needed last year with the receiving corps and felt they needed a little more pressure on defense, so they added all those guys," Colts defensive back Marlin Jackson told the Times.
"That's the N.F.L. Whatever team is at the top of their game, teams are going to find different ways to beat them, be it bringing in new coaches or bringing in new players. This off-season, the New England Patriots did those things."
The Indy-New England rivalry has become one of the best in the NFL - perhaps even one of the best of all time, according to an interesting feature in today's Dallas Morning News.
The story charts the match-ups between some of the more heated rivals in NFL history, including Dallas-San Francisco in the '90s, Oakland-Pittsburgh in the '70s, and Cleveland-Detroit in the '50s. Here's a sample:
*The Colts and Patriots played in the same division for 32 years but had little in common except their AFC East lodging. There was no real rivalry. *
*The great rivalries in the NFL are divisional – Bears-Packers, Chiefs-Raiders, Cowboys-Redskins and Steelers-Browns immediately come to mind. There's passion in the stands for those games regardless of the team records. *
The only other way to develop an intense rivalry is to play a series of meaningful games over a period of time. That's how this Indianapolis-New England rivalry heated up.
Back to the whole "running up the score" debate which has been raging for several weeks now. In The Boston Globe today, you'll find a piece detailing a four-week span in 2004, during which the Colts beat their opponents 49-14, 41-10, 41-9, and 51-24.
Here's the point that author makes:
You know, it's funny, I don't remember one person whining about them running up the score.
*In fact, quite the opposite happened. The Colts were celebrated as the bright and shining star of the NFL. Following the 51-24 win over Tennessee, the Indy Star's Bob Kravitz wrote, "At this point, we're not just watching football anymore. We're watching history. Every week, the Indianapolis Colts' offense uses the football field as its canvas, and every week, it creates an art form that is distinct from everything else in the copycat NFL." *
Flash forward almost three years, and the very same Kravitz wrote about the juggernaut New England Patriots, "In the last three weeks, New England has scored 48, 49, and 52 points, inspiring inquiring minds to wonder, 'Did the Patriots pile on?' And every week, the obvious answer is, 'Duh.'"
The article goes on to point out other potential flaws in the Pats' detractors' arguments.
With all the talk about offenses this week, USA TODAY offers a close inspection of the Pats and Colts defenses.
One newspaper north of the border isn't convinced that Sunday's showdown will be a classic.
Monday Night Football announcer Ron Jaworski discusses Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a fun read from the Indianapolis Star today.