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Pats coaches see well-balanced, fumble-forcing Colts team

The Patriots can expect to have their hands full with a talented Colts team that is looking to insert themselves into the AFC playoff picture.


During the 2000s, no rivalry in the NFL compared to that of Patriots-Colts. After beginning the decade in the same division, it carried over into a collection of conference battles that defined where the rematch playoff games would be played.

There were no shortages of big games in Indy, from Willie McGinest and the goal-line stand in 2003, to the 2006 AFC Championship and 2007's come-from-behind win in a battle of unbeaten and now, the two teams will renew hostilities with very new rosters.

The days of Brady-Manning are long gone, but this is the start of Mac Jones vs. the Colts, a team fighting for their playoff lives and one that features one of the most potent weapons in the game. The Patriots have been road warriors this season, going 5-0, with last Monday's win in windy Buffalo their most recent victory, but the dome of Indy will present a different kind of challenge for Jones and offense.

Carson Wentz has been resurgent after being reunited with Frank Reich, throwing 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Jonathan Taylor is an MVP candidate who can do it all from the backfield. Combined with Nyheim Hynes and the Colts backfield will be a major challenge for both the Patriots' run stoping and pass coverage.

"The Colts are a well-balanced team," said Bill Belichick on Monday morning. "It starts with the offensive line. They have a lot of experience on the line with [Ryan] Kelly, [Quenton] Nelson, [Mark] Glowinski, [Braden] Smith, and [Eric] Fisher. They definitely know what they're doing and they've done it together for a while, other than Fisher.

"The backs have a good feel for the line," continued Belichick. "[Jonathan] Taylor's a hard guy to tackle. He's strong, runs through a lot of arm tackles, and then he's very fast. Not many players, defensively, that can catch him.

"He catches well. He's got total yards from scrimmage. Some of that's in the passing game. He's really been effective when he's been able to get through the line of scrimmage and break a 60 or 70-yard run. It's hard for teams to count on that in the running game. He's been able to deliver for them with his speed and running ability."

"Taylor is just a guy who runs with good pad level, great contact balance, as soon as he gets going he's a problem," said Jerod Mayo. "He's very fast. I watched him in college as well and I didn't think he was that fast but this guy when you watch him now in the pros, he's pulling away from people.... If you take your foot off the gas for one second this guys out the door."

Defensively, the Colts lead the league in forced fumbles with 14, highlighting how important ball security will be on Sunday.

"Obviously, Matt [Eberflus] has put a big emphasis on it," said Belichick. "They've done a good job. They have a lot of players who are very good at it, starting with [Darius] Leonard, [DeForest] Buckner, Kenny Moore. Just as a team, they have good quickness. They're very fast. They run well. They get to the ball.

"They're very well-coached in that area. All their players have good ball awareness, like Leonard, who has six forced fumbles. That's a lot. Good coaching, good playing, good awareness, and a lot of players that are disruptive."

"Great instincts, great range, really long, as probably as good as zone linebacker in terms of you've got to be careful when you're throwing the ball near him because he gets his hands on a lot of balls and he's incredibly disruptive at punching the ball out," said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels of Leonard. "Anytime he's near the football there's a chance he's going to get it off you."

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