When the New England Patriots found out they were going to face the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, they must have been excited. The Colts offered the best possible matchup for them, especially because of their suspect defense. Tom Brady and the New England offense will have plenty of opportunities to score, especially since they will undoubtedly neutralize Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis.
Containing Mathis, who led the league in sacks this season, will be top priority for the Patriots this Saturday night. Mathis is the one Colts defender who has the ability to single-handedly stop Brady and the New England offense — which is exactly why he won’t.
The Patriots are good at a lot of things, but the one constant that has kept them in contention for over a decade now is their ability to recognize what their opponent does best and devise a game plan to shut it down. Especially when what they do best is pressure the quarterback. Last year the Patriots also hosted the reigning sack king in the playoffs, and they took J.J. Watt out of the game, holding him to only a half of a sack on their way to a victory. Then they took on the Baltimore Ravens and Terrell Suggs, who proceeded to go without even as much impact as Watt managed.
There are a few undeniable truths heading into the matchup with the Colts. One is that if they don’t get pressure on Brady the New England offense will tear them apart, and another is that if the Patriots hold Mathis in check they won’t get pressure on Brady. Much of the responsibility for stopping him will be up to left tackle Nate Solder, but Bill Belichick won’t hesitate to give him help in the form of a running back or tight end if Mathis starts to get going.
The Patriots are the favorite heading into the game, but the Colts are riding a wave of momentum after their epic comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Indianapolis might just be able to pull off the upset in Foxboro, but it won’t be because Mathis has his way with the New England offense.