Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray (35) breaks through the line against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. New England defeated Indianapolis 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
This week hasn’t been moving by at record speeds by any means, but it is moving a hell of a lot fast than last week was. It’s just something about the first playoff game of the year, and the Baltimore Ravens that makes the week absolutely drag on forever. This week? Not so much. Obviously with it being the AFC Championship game, I am extremely anxious, but I feel much better about this matchup than I did the Ravens one.
Yesterday I took a look at the last game the Colts and Patriots met to get a feel for how this game would go. Here are a few notes:
Jonas Gray Will Return
Jonas Gray absolutely abused the Colts on the ground the last time these two squads met, going for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries. And for the most part, this was just him hitting the hole hard, and being physical with the second level. New England’s offensive line obliterated Indy’s front seven, which made Gray’s job extremely easy.
Now, there are two injury changes that will affect the Pats’ game-plan, as defensive tackle Arthur Jones will be back this week for the Colts, and center Bryan Stork will likely not be available for New England. I’m speculating on Stork, as there has been no official word yet, but his injury didn’t look good on Saturday. This doesn’t mean the Patriots won’t try to cram the ball down the Colts’ throat, it just means they won’t run the ball 50 times. Arthur Jones is a quality player on the inside, and Stork has been big for the Pats this year.
However with that said, I fully anticipate them to hit Indy in the mouth with Gray and LeGarrette Blount, and establish a nice running game throughout.
Timely Pressure On Luck
Based on the last matchup, the Patriots will play a conservative, contain-type rush on Andrew Luck, in an attempt to keep him from hurting them with his legs. However in key spots, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins will be coming hard after the young signal caller. Nearly every time they pressured Luck up the middle, good things happened for the Patriots. On key third downs, and in the red zone Belichick was aggressive with those calls, so expect that once again on Sunday.
Aside from that, it is going to be up to Chandler Jones and company to win individual 1-on-1 matchups to consistently get to Luck. Jones struggled mightily last week against the Ravens, so he needs to step up his game against Indy. I would also like to see Akeem Ayers get more snaps, as he has been lights out when he gets playing time.