2014 NFL Playoffs: Colts Linebacker Robert Mathis Key to Success Against New England
The Indianapolis Colts travel to Massachusetts on Saturday night looking to reach the AFC Conference Championship for the first time since 2009. Standing in their way is the Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots who boast a formidable 5-1 Divisional Round record at Gillette Stadium. Much of their postseason success can be attributed to the play of three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who needs to win just one more Vince Lombardi trophy to tie the all-time record alongside Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Stopping Brady is key to stopping the Patriots’ offense, and the Colts have just the man for the job.
In seven games against the Patriots, Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has sacked Brady five times and will be looking to add to that total coming off the best regular season of his career. Mathis led the league with 19.5 sacks, eight more than his previous career-high and his eight forced fumbles on the year was also an NFL best.
After Mathis, the highest sack count on the Colts roster belonged to Jerrell Freeman with 5.5. Mathis accounted for roughly 46 percent of all Colts sacks and embraced the defensive leadership role, which he had shared with long-time teammate Dwight Freeney before his departure at the end of last year.
Brady was sacked 40 times during the regular season, the highest number since 2001 when he was dropped 41 times in his first full year as a Patriot. This will surely be a source of optimism for a defensive unit which failed to create an effective pass-rush when the teams last met in Week 11 of the 2012 regular season.
Brady threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns as the Colts failed to record a single sack. As a result, the Patriots cruised to a 59-24 victory, the widest margin of defeat for the Colts during Andrew Luck’s reign at quarterback. If Indianapolis wants the opportunity to travel to Denver or host the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Conference game, Mathis will have to be at his brilliant best once again.