INDIANAPOLIS — Hello Tom Brady.
Thanks to the San Diego Chargers’ 27-10 AFC wild-card playoff win over Cincinnati Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Foxboro, Mass. to play Brady’s New England Patriots on Saturday night (8:15 p.m.).
While it will be the fourth postseason meeting between New England and the Colts, it will be the first head-to-head playoff match-up between Hall of Fame-bound Brady and Indianapolis second-year quarterback Andrew Luck.
The two franchises squared off in a regular season game at Gillette Stadium last year with the Patriots coming away a 59-24 victor. Brady completed 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in that game. Luck, meanwhile, connected on 27 of 50 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Indianapolis players and coaches had to wait until the conclusion of the Chargers/Bengals game before knowing their next playoff opponent. The Colts advanced to the divisional round of the postseason with a wild 45-44 come-from-behind victory over Kansas City at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night.
Had Cincinnati won on Sunday, Indianapolis would have visited Denver’s Mile High Stadium for a rematch with the AFC West champion Broncos. The Colts won this year’s meeting with Denver, 39-33 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, speaking to the team’s media during a teleconference prior to the conclusion of the San Diego/Cincinnati game, didn’t care which Pro Bowl quarterback – Brady or Peyton Manning – his team faced this week.
“Either way it’s a huge undertaking and a huge challenge as we know,” he said, adding that the Colts have a lot of work to do in order to clean up mistakes from the Kansas City win. “Two of the best that ever played the game. We’ve faced both. We know both. Again, it’ll be a huge challenge. As far as a difference between the two of them, they’re both great quarterbacks. I know that. They’re both winners. Got Super Bowl rings to prove it. It’ll be a huge challenge.
“Obviously things are heightened as you move on in the tournament and playing the teams that you’re going to play. I think when you look at it, it’s like any game. Everything that’s on that tape is correctable. Certainly we can do a lot of things better and we’ll go back to work when they come back in here once we find out who we’re playing and what day we play on. We’ll come back in here like always and go back to work and try to get better.”
Indianapolis came out of the Chiefs game with a couple of injuries, most notably cornerback Greg Toler’s groin as well as wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) and safety LaRon Landry (concussion).
“They’re all being evaluated as we speak,” Pagano said. “I’ll have more information at a later date. They’re getting scans and MRIs and things like that. Landry, of course, we know had the concussion and he’ll go through the protocol and be day-to-day.”
Facing New England on a short week may be the biggest issue. Indianapolis came out of its win over Kansas City with some very tired players and coaches. The Colts rallied from a 38-10 third-quarter deficit to post the second-largest playoff comeback victory in National Football League history.
“I think everybody is whipped, mentally and physically,” Pagano said. “By the grace of God, you get out of there with a victory, you’re able to go home and sit on the couch, turn the TV on and find out that it did happen. It is real. It wasn’t surreal.”
The memorable win over the Chiefs was highlighted by tweeks made by the Indianapolis coaching staff over the course of the second half. While Indianapolis didn’t completely slow down Kansas City’s offense, it was able to slow it down enough to enable Luck to engineer the comeback.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like it,” Pagano said. “These guys are able to put things behind them. Never too high, never too low. Stay with the process. From day one, they’ve bought into that theory, that philosophy. That’s why they’re able to do the things that they’ve done to this point over a two-year span.
“To be able to come back. Call it amnesia, focus, whatever you want to call it. Pretty resilient bunch that plays one play at a time and doesn’t look at the scoreboard and doesn’t judge. They’ll just go as hard as they can. They understand the mistakes that were made and they put it behind them and they move on.”