The last quarterback the Patriots faced is a legend thanks to his head and his arm. What separates Denver's Peyton Manning from his successor in Indianapolis, however, is Andrew Luck's ability to run.
Just ask any Patriots defender.
"He's a talent. He makes plays with his legs, extending plays, and he makes them with throws down the field," cornerback Darrelle Revis raved.
"Luck's definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in the league," concurred linebacker Dont'a Hightower. "He can do it with his arm, with his feet, he's a smart guy. I think they lead the league in explosive plays. He's very accurate down the field, and he's got some great guys to throw the ball to. I think it's more about him, getting outside the pocket, extending those plays, and giving those guys a chance to go up and make catches.
"Luck's a smart guy. Not saying he's as smart as Peyton, but he doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Just have to be aware of where he's at. He'll run and get 20, 30 yards on the quick. Have to control him when they get down to the red area because he'll be quick to run there."
"Just by looking at him of film," observed defensive lineman/co-captain Vince Wilfork, "he's great to have as a teammate. He's a leader, he's everything you want in a football player, especially a quarterback. And he can hurt you on the run, running the ball if he has to. When he scrambles, he's trying to get the ball downfield. And if he doesn't have it, he's smart. He'll tuck it and run and get what he can. He's a complete quarterback."
Check out photos from access to players and coaches during Week 11 as the Patriots prepare to play the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night.
"He's going to be a great one at this level. You can just tell, the way he operates that team. He has the tools to be great, and he's been showing it."
New England is riding a five-game winning streak, but the team knows it will take a concerted effort to make it six straight on the road at Indy this week.
"They're playing good ball. Real good ball," Wilfork continued. "They play well together – offense, defense, special teams – especially at home. Sunday night, we know it's going to be a battle. They have a quarterback that's so competitive. He hates to lose. Every play they compete. We see that. The running backs are tough: [Trent] Richardson and [Ahmad] Bradshaw.
"We can't look back to anything from last year or earlier this year. It's going to be about execution. Just going out and executing well on the road. It's going to be tough. I don't care if they're down or ahead, they fight to the last whistle. We're going to have to match their intensity, create some plays for ourselves, our offense, try to steal a couple of possessions. All three phases, we're going to have to play well to win this ball game, and if we don't, it'll be a long plane ride home."
His skills aren't Wayne-ing
Revis called Colts WR T.Y. Hilton "very fast and very explosive," but offered considerable praise as well for his other counterpart on the Colts offense, 14-year veteran wideout Reggie Wayne.
"He's still playing at an elite level," maintained Revis. "I've played Reggie in the past and he's an elite receiver. What, 14 years now? He's still doing what he used to do. I've got a lot of respect for Reggie. I've never seen a drop-off in his game. That tells you he's doing something right, being a professional, his work ethic."
Hey, I know you
Sunday's Colts matchup will feature former Alabama teammates Hightower and Richardson on opposite sides of the football. The two won national titles together for the Crimson Tide in 2009 and '11.
"That's my guy. Yeah, I still talk to Trent. Looking forward to going against Trent," Hightower acknowledged. "It's been a couple years since we actually got to go toe-to-toe. I definitely see Trent playing a lot better than he did in his first couple of years [in the NFL]. Maybe he has a better grasp of the playbook now. He and Bradshaw are a really good 1-2 punch in the backfield."
Any urge to lay a big hit on his good buddy?
"It's football," Hightower grinned. "I want to hit everybody."
Hightower also revealed that he's friends with Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, through a coaching connection at Alabama.
"Me and Dwayne are great friends. I talk to him every now and then. He came down [to Tuscaloosa] a couple times and we stayed in touch after that."
The Patriots got some good news on the injury front when rookie DL Dominique Easley (right knee) returned to practice for the first time since last Wednesday. The only active roster player not on the field was DE Chandler Jones (hip). There is still no sign either of IR/designated-to-return DL Sealver Siliga, who is in the eligible period to get back to practice.
The weather in Foxborough was gorgeous and crisply autumnal Thursday, but to prepare for the indoor conditions of Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday night, the Patriots practiced for a second straight day inside their Dana-Farber Field House behind Gillette Stadium.