INDIANAPOLIS – In the past two weeks, the Indianapolis Colts defense has shut down the No. 1 overall draft pick and a popular MVP contender.
But Tom Brady is a different challenge all together.
When the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, the Colts will need a new game plan. Indianapolis had success disguising coverages and fooling Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence in the last two weeks.
That’s not going to work against Brady.
“No, you’re not fooling Tom Brady,” Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Linebacker Bobby Okereke said the Bucs will test Indianapolis’ fundamentals. It will be imperative to be in the right place at the right time, using the right technique.
Any lapse will be exploited by Brady and a fleet of offensive weapons that includes wide receivers Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Leonard Fournette.
And Brady will get the ball out to those weapons with lightning-quick efficiency.
“That’s when you got to stay fundamentally and disciplinely sound,” Okereke said. “Because you’re thinking, ‘Ball is getting out quick. OK, I’m going to start hitting those checkdowns a little bit faster.’ Then he’s hitting the little in-cuts behind you or the seven routes. So you just have to play good fundamentals and make him earn it all the way down the field — hopefully, if they have to have those long drives — and really earn it all the way down the field. Hopefully, our offense is explosive enough to wear them out.”
Much of the defensive focus will center on the line. That unit played one of its best games of the season against the Bills, despite recording just one sack.
The Colts consistently altered passes and timing, intercepting Allen twice and holding him to a 72.2 quarterback rating. A week earlier, Lawrence was sacked three times and completed just 45.7% of his passes against Indianapolis.
Both those players are greater threats to run than Brady. So the approach will change a bit Sunday.
“Watching film, you notice the teams that got consistent pressure on him all game, they benefited from it and ended up with a win,” Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “We have to do a good job up front. Really, interior wise, too, getting that pressure in his face and constantly just applying pressure all day.”
THEY SAID IT
“I don’t know how serious that ever really got. Obviously, I love Philip (Rivers) and was very interested in Philip from the start. I’m not sure anyone thought that was ever really serious on either party’s (part), but I’ve always thought that he’s the best ever. I mean, he’s incredible, an incredible player. I just marvel at his arm strength at 44 years old. As much as anything, it just boggles my mind. So still playing at a high level, obviously a ton of respect.” – Colts head coach Frank Reich on how close the Colts came to signing Brady as a free agent in 2020.
Former Indianapolis stars Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis were among 26 semifinalists for the 2022 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday.
Wayne is a semifinalist for the third time, and Mathis is in his first year of eligibility.
Mathis will be inducted to the Colts’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game.
Running back Jonathan Taylor was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 185 yards and setting a franchise-record with five touchdowns against Buffalo.
Left guard Quenton Nelson (ankle) was the only player not to participate in Wednesday’s practice. Reich also believed the three-time All-Pro would not participate last week but was surprised when the team took the field for its first practice.
“I should’ve checked with him,” Reich said with a laugh. “It figures Quenton would do that. It didn’t look like he was going to, but he’s just so tough, and he wants to be out there. I love and appreciate that about him, but I don’t think he’ll practice today. Then we’ll take it day-by-day for the rest of the week.”
Cornerback T.J. Carrie (knee), wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (toe) and linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) were limited.