One fact sticks out tonight for the Colts defense: It isn't facing Alex Smith. Smith threw four touchdowns for the Chiefs last week, and the Colts had to stage the second-biggest comeback in playoff history to win 45-44.
But he's not Tom Brady, whom they face in tonight's AFC division playoff game.
"We know how potent that offense is," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of the Patriots. "We know the signal-caller is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. With (LeGarrette) Blount running the ball the way he is and (Stevan) Ridley, they've got a stable of backs. You can't just go in and say, 'Hey, you got to get after Tom … and try to frustrate him.' "
Brady doesn't have the depth of talent around him that New England's best teams possessed. But he does have more balance.
Ridley and Blount combined for 1,554 yards. They and fellow running back Shane Vereen also are threats in the short passing game.
"Some of our best playmakers are in the backfield," Brady said. "And our offensive line has really taken a lot of pride in establishing a certain level of physical play."
Early in the season, Brady — without Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski — garnered attention for yelling at his young receivers. But the chemistry between them has developed. He has found a Welker replacement in Julian Edelman (105 catches, 1,056 yards, six touchdowns) and also uses Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins.
But there's another difference in this season's Patriots. Brady has been sacked 40 times, one off his career high set in 2001, his first season as a starter. That's where Colts linebacker Robert Mathis comes in. He led the league with 191/2 sacks.
"You try to put guys around him and double-team him," Brady said. "But he still seems to be making all the plays. I just know I don't have a lot of time back there in the pocket to sort things out. We've got to try to get the ball to our guys as quickly as we can."