INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Colts defense is well aware of the task at hand. The players know exactly what Tom Brady is capable of.
“Probably the best quarterback in the NFL right now,” Indianapolis cornerback Greg Toler said. “A Hall of Fame quarterback with three Super Bowls,” added defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.
The mission, right now though, for the Indy defense is to stop Brady when the Colts (6-3) host the New England Patriots (7-2) on Sunday night.
With two solid offenses going head-to-head, the outcome could come down to which defense makes a game-changing play or at least slows down Brady or his counterpart, Andrew Luck.
Indianapolis is the top overall offense in the NFL and the Patriots, who averaged 40 points over the last five games, are No. 9 in the league.
There’s one method the Colts know they can use to stop Brady — by harassing him for four quarters. Just how easy will it be, though?
“This week, everything has to be detailed, everything has to be crisp,” Jean Francois said. “Nothing can be out of the ordinary. If one person gets out of sync with us, you already know what Tom Brady can possibly do.”
Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has seen it too often while watching film. Brady making big plays and completing passes to receivers in double coverage.
“You just have to get him off his spot,” Manusky said. “That’s what everybody tries to do. They try to get him off his spot and get him to move. It’s that split second when you think you have him and then all of a sudden somebody scoots away that he can fire it in there.”
Manusky and the Colts are focused on finding a groove defensively and settling in for the second half of the season. They returned safety LaRon Landry to the lineup over the bye week from a five-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Indy plans to start Sergio Brown against the Patriots, but expect to include Landry as well.
The Colts have struggled to find much consistency through injuries and suspensions to key defensive players.
Indy held Cincinnati scoreless last month and gave up 51 points to Pittsburgh the following week. Then the Colts rebounded with a win against the New York Giants two weeks ago.
“It depends on week to week,” Manusky said. “That’s the way it’s been for the season this past year. We’re just trying to get some guys back healthy after the bye week.”
Defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle) and linebacker Erik Walden (quad) each saw limited participation and Manusky is hopeful the two will play this week against the Patriots.
“Maybe we’ll get into that situation where we played the way we did against Cincinnati and not against Pittsburgh,” Manusky said.
The Colts have already faced two of the league’s most potent offenses — Denver and Philadelphia. Toler, who has totaled 16 tackles over the last two games, says Indy learned a thing or two in losses to the Broncos and Eagles and plans to apply the lessons this week.
“We were close to putting those games away,” Toler said. “We were playing halves of football and we know we can’t play just a half of football against New England.”
Notes: Tackle Gosder Cherilus hasn’t practiced all week with a groin injury, but linebackers Henoc Muamba (toe), Victor Butler (hamstring), and Josh McNary (ankle) all returned to full practice on Thursday.