Bill Belichick's Wednesday morning meeting with the gathered media at Gillette Stadium didn't seem to reflect the expected hype for this week's Patriots battle in Indy with the Colts. It was a normal but not oversized media gathering.
The Sunday night affair is a rematch of last January's AFC title game, the contest in which Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson and the Colts hierarchy got the ball rolling on the Deflategate scandal that's hung over New England and the entire NFL ever since.
The topic was touched on tangentially in Belichick's presser, but the coach did his usual impressive job directing the conversation to the task at hand.
Here's a trio of key point's from Belichick this morning as his team gets ready for a trip to the Midwest looking to remain undefeated on the season:
1. Belichick doesn't shop for groceries!- Bill Parcells famously left New England because the dictatorial coach felt in football lexicon he wasn't allowed "to shop for the groceries." Wednesday morning, we learned that's apparently not a real-world issue for Belichick. A local TV reporter tried to address the topic of New England having extra motivation against the Colts by wondering if Belichick had been approached by Patriots fans at the grocery store telling him they would like to see the team "kick Indy's butt." Not surprisingly, the rah-rah question went over like a lead balloon with the myopic head coach.
"I haven't been to the grocery store in a couple years," Belichick responded dryly.
A couple follow-up queries about the coach maybe hearing from friends or family with a similar sentiment brought Belichick to his simple message.
"Look, it's the same questions every week. We are getting ready to play a game on Sunday," Belichick said. "We're going to do the best we can to prepare for it and be ready to go and perform well on Sunday night. That's what we do."
2. Colts still soft against the run? -The last three times the Patriots have played the Colts, New England has run the ball at least 40 times for at least 177 yards with at least a 4.4-yard average on the ground. Whether it's been Jonas Gray's breakout 201-yard, four-touchdown game last November or LeGarrette Blount tallying a combined 314 yards and seven touchdowns in a pair of playoff blowouts of Indy, New England has run at, through and around the overmatched Colts defensive front. That might lead one to assume a similar approach is in store for New England Sunday night, with Blount seemingly hitting his stride in recent weeks averaging 4.7 yards per attempt on the young season. But Belichick did his best to portray the Colts as a different, more successful run defense, noting that Indy is "leading the league in negative plays against the run." The Colts are actually allowing only 3.8 yards per attempt on the ground through five games. While Belichick said there "haven't been a lot of changes in their scheme" on defense, he did note that rookies Henry Anderson and David Parry have done a solid job as first-year starters at end and nose tackle, respectively.
3.Colts "explosive" offense - On paper, Indy has the No. 23 offense in the NFL in terms of yards and a No. 24 ranking in points scored. Thanks in large part to Andrew Luck's poor start the attack has turned the ball over 12 times in its 3-2 start to the young season. But Belichick is clearly not taking anything for granted. He pointed out the Colts have won three straight and emphasized that the team is still an "explosive offense," the core of a group that had the No. 1 passing attack and was the No. 6 scoring team a year ago still very much intact. While Luck is the key figure in that – attempting to return from a shoulder injury that's sidelined him the last two games and improve on a passer rating that ranks 34th in the league – the weapons are still a challenge for a Patriots pass defense that's very much a work in progress. Belichick declared that Colts leading receiver T.Y. Hilton (27 catches, 382 yards, 14.1 avg.) "hits you at all three levels of the defense." In fact the coach said the same is true about complementary targets Donte Moncrief, veteran newcomer Andre Johnson and rookie Phillip Dorsett. "They are all very explosive," Belichick said. "Overall it's a hard group to defend."