TAMPA — Tom Brady has created a lot of enemies in 21 seasons, perhaps none bigger than the Colts and their fans. The team with the horseshoe on its helmet that once had a quarterback named Luck never has had much of it against him.
Brady owns a 15-4 record versus the Colts, including a 4-1 mark in the postseason. He made his first NFL start against Indianapolis in 2001, winning 44-13 in Foxborough, Mass. He met Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship Game in 2003 on the way to two straight Super Bowl wins.
There also have been some numbing losses for Brady.
Brady and the Patriots lost 38-34 in the 2006 AFC Championship Game when he was intercepted by Marlin Jackson late in the fourth quarter.
Even in victory there has been defeat.
Brady threw three touchdowns in a 45-7 rout of the Colts in the 2014 AFC title game. Then came reports that he had used deflated balls, which eventually led to the quarterback serving a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season.
Now as the Bucs’ quarterback, he faces the Colts again, Sunday at Indianapolis.
“It’s a team I’ve played a lot of games against and pretty meaningful ones,” Brady said Thursday. “I don’t think any of those will have an effect on this game this weekend. It’s a totally different opponent. It’s a totally different style of play. … It’s going to be a great game.”
The Colts have won five of their past six games and are riding a three-game winning streak that includes a 41-15 rout of the Bills on Sunday.
Unlike when Brady often played them, the Colts no longer are quarterback-driven. Running back Jonathan Taylor leads the NFL in rushing and is coming off a five-touchdown game against the Bills.
Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich knows how hard it is to win as the visiting team in Indianapolis. He quarterbacked the Jaguars in the same AFC South from 2003-06.
“That’s always been a tough place to play, especially the old place, the RCA Dome,” said Leftwich of the Colts, who now play in Lucas Oil Stadium. “You’ve got (defensive end) Dwight Freeney and (linebacker Robert) Mathis with their hands in the ground. That was a tough place to play, man. Holy moly, right? But they were so good in those times, right?
“They look like they’re back to that point now. They’ve been doing a good job up there. A playoff team. So it will be fun. … We’ve just got to be able to make sure we match their energy.”
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The Bucs snapped a two-game losing streak with a 30-10 win over the Giants on Monday night. It was one of the most complete performances of the season for the Bucs, who had a near-perfect first offensive series that featured some of Leftwich’s best creativity. There were two end-arounds with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. There were tunnel screens to running back Chris Godwin, including one that resulted in the first touchdown. Brady completed his first 10 passes.
“We’ve got to get guys the ball in different ways,” Brady said. “It’s nice that everyone was able to feel a part of it early (Monday). Those are important plays. The best part of it was the execution was good. We’ve just got to keep executing well.”
Brady also knows the Bucs’ slow starts on the road can’t continue.
“We’ve got to try to keep the crowd out of it, so I think getting the lead is always important,” Brady said. “(Indianapolis) is a team that runs the ball really well. They like to control the pace of the game, but we’ve got to do a good job of (preventing) that by playing good offensive football.”
Brady has done that against the Colts, as evidenced by his 38 touchdown passes, a per-game average of 252.1 passing yards and a career 98.0 quarterback rating.
He has always said the NFL season begins after Thanksgiving, and there’s no better way to “start” than to continue feasting on the Colts.
“This is when a lot of the work you’ve done just really starts to pay off,” Brady said. “A lot of it is you’ve got to build an inventory of things you’re doing right consistently, and it may not show up in four weeks or eight weeks. But over the course of (17) games, it all plays itself out.
“A lot of teams lose hope at this time of year. A lot of teams work less hard. This isn’t the time, in my opinion, to do less. If anything, you’ve got to do more. You’ve got to put yourself in a position to succeed and put yourself in a position to play well every week.”
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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