Foxborough, Mass. - One doesn't have to read in between the lines to extract Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's true feelings about the Indianapolis Colts.
By late yesterday afternoon, Belichick and the Patriots learned the Colts would be their next opponent in this Sunday's AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium, by virtue of their 49-24 shellacking of the Denver Broncos. Monday, Belichick offered up his thoughts about the match up by opening with the topic in his first press conference of the week.
"Obviously, Indianapolis looked very impressive against Denver," Belichick said. "We know that Denver is a really good football team, but 400 yards at the half and a 35-3 lead pretty much said it all there."
The Colts offense was on full display in the 25-point win, as the numbers attest to. Quarterback Peyton Manning completed 27-of-33 passes for 457 yards, the second-most in playoff history, with four touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 145.7. He set a post-merger record with 360 yards passing in the first half, while wide receiver Reggie Wayne set franchise records with 10 receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns, and tight end Dallas Clark (six receptions for 112 yards and a score) also had a big day.
So it's not surprise much of the talk this week will focus on the high-powered Indianapolis offense against the injury-depleted Patriots defense. The Patriots will run with the Colts without starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, who were both present in the Patriots 27-24 season-opening win. Belichick, however, offered up a differing opinion, saying he doesn't expect Sunday's contest between AFC rivals to be decided by just one aspect the game.
"In the end, it's going to be how our football team plays against their football team," Belichick said. "Their offense is one-third of it, their special teams is one-third of it and their defense is one-third of it. And vise-versa. Everyone is going to have to play a role in this game, it's going to have to be a complimentary game. I don't think it will be decided by any one aspect of it. It will be a combination of all three of them.
"I think all three aspects will be important. In the end, it will be whichever team can collectively play better with all of them combined. I don't think any one phase is either going to win it or lose it."
The Patriots and Colts know each other well - they have played three times in the last 14 months, with the margin of victory totaling 17 points in three New England wins. Even with the recent success, their perspective is that the past doesn't matter. The Patriots are steering clear of using the recent history as any type of indicator for the future.
"I don't even want to reflect on the past," linebacker Willie McGinest said. "None of that matters now. Nothing in the past matters this week. Nothing else matters. None of the Super Bowls matter, nothing we did in the regular season or [even] in the last post-season matters. We're going into a fresh, new playoff scenario."
Added Belichick, "I think when you start talking about other games in other years and other comparisons and all that, it's really, it's meaningless."
Patriots Fill Roster with Poteat
The Patriots filled the final spot on the active roster Monday by signing free agent cornerback Hank Poteat. The roster spot was made available when the team placed Law on the injured reserve Friday. Poteat, 27, is a former third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers who has played in 42 career games. He was most recently with the Carolina Panthers before being released in August.
"It's certainly not an ideal situation at this point, but we'll do what we think is best," Belichick said before making the transaction.
When asked about Law, Belichick also noted he didn't have anything to add regarding the decision to place the veteran cornerback on the IR since his initial statement released over the weekend. Law, who missed the final nine games of the season with a broken foot, said as recently as early Dedember that he remained hopeful he would return for the playoffs.
"I don't have anything to add to it," Belichick said. "That's really all there is. I've said pretty much all I could say about it last week. I couldn't really add too much more, there isn't anything to it."
It remains to be seen who Belichick will elect to go with on punt returns in the playoffs. While veteran Troy Brown has the most experience and running back Kevin Faulk leads the team with 20 returns in that role this season, wide receiver Bethel Johnson had what amounted to a one-game audition in the season finale against San Francisco. Johnson officially returned four punts for eight yards, but also had an 86-yard touchdown return called back by penalty.
"I have confidence in all the players on our team," Belichick said. "If I didn't, then they wouldn't be out there, somebody else would. Who ever is out there, that's who we have confidence in."
A Team Thing
It was brought to Belichick's attention during Monday's press conference that quarterback Tom Brady has a 5-0 overall record as a starter, including the playoffs, against the Colts. Belichick took an exception to the statistic, saying the wins over Indianapolis are a product of a team effort.
"Tom [Brady] doesn't play defense, Tom doesn't return that kickoff against them at the end of the half when we played them up there last year," Belichick said, referring to Johnson's 92-yard kick return in Week 13 last season. "Those are team wins. They're not Tom Brady wins. They're team wins. Tom played an important part in them, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that. Tom is a good quarterback and he's played well and he's played well in some important games. But he can't win them by himself, and he can't lose them by himself. There's 44 other guys out there, and they had a lot of contributions in those games too."
Belichick held his usual 11:45 a.m. press conference Monday, with an open locker room session later in the day. Linebackers McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Rosevelt Colvin and defensive end Ty Warren had large media crowds at their lockers. ... Bruschi and offensive tackle Matt Light were recently named to NFL.com's All-Interview Team. ... Patriots owner Bob Kraft made an appearance in the locker room late during Monday's session. ... The Patriots held to their normal Monday schedule, with players reporting for meetings and workouts, and will return to the practice field tomorrow. Belichick will hold a 10:45 a.m. press conference Tuesday, which can be heard live on Patriots.com. ... Belichick had no update on Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour, who missed the final game of the season with a left knee injury.