The Colts have some familiar quality names on defense; do they have enough talent to hold the NFL’s top offense in check enough to win on Sunday?

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Indianapolis Colts Defense
Points Per Game: 22.3 (tied with Pats for 15th)
Yards Per Game: 351 (18th)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 120 (22nd)
Yards Per Carry: 4.7 (29th)
Passing Yards Per Game: 23 (15th)
Yards Per Pass Attempt: 7.4 (21st)
Opponent Passer Rating: 96.5 (27th)
Interceptions: 4 (31st)
Sacks: 21 (14th)

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Even if Aaron Hernandez cannot play, the Colts’ will have a daunting task limiting the New England offense enough to keep it close. The Patriots have had a great deal of success running the ball this year, while the Colts have been very inconsistent on rush defense. After being run over by Jacksonville (185 yards), Green Bay (149 yards) and the Jets (252 yards) on the ground, Indy has tightened up: 55 yards vs Cleveland, 112 at Tennessee, 84 vs Miami and 37 at Jacksonville (with no Maurice Jones-Drew). Players like Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney and Corey Redding may be decent pass rushers but they range from average to an outright liability against the run. From what I have seen ILB Kavell Connor is the only player that the Patriots really need to account for when running the ball.

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While I am sure the Colts would love to stop the run so that their pass rushers can pin their ears back to get after Tom Brady, I just don’t see that happening. They have surely improved since that Jets debacle, but those teams they played in their four wins are extremely offensively challenged; they rank 29, 26, 25 and 31 in Offensive DVOA.

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Indy does get OLB Robert Mathis (who has a team-high six of the Colts’ 21 sacks) back after missing time with a back injury; he and Dwight Freeney are still more than capable of making life miserable for Brady and the offense. Up front Cory Redding and Fili Moala are okay defenders but it looks like the Colts will once again be starting our old friend Darius Butler at corner due to Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis being sidelined. As much as Butler might love to play well against his former team, you have to think that Brady and the Pats receivers are fully aware of how to take advantage of him. As is the case with most NFL teams the Colts don’t have an adequate answer to covering Rob Gronkowski, and with their being thin at corner Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd should be able to get open on a regular basis.

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So maybe the Colts can keep it close by getting some turnovers, like they did last week? I wouldn’t count on that even if I was the most die-hard Colts fan. What happened last week (three turnovers) was an anomaly based on their level of competition (one-win Jacksonville, who by the way got their only win against the Colts). Indianapolis ranks dead last in the NFL in takeaways (6), while the Patriots are the best team in the league at holding on to the ball with only 7 giveaways.

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If Indianapolis is to win this game they’re going to have to either hope for some fluke turnovers, or win in a shootout and score more points than the Patriots offense does. The Colts have won four games in a row, but the level of that competition (Browns, Titans, Dolphins, Jaguars) does not compare to that of the Patriots.

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Tomorrow I’ll take a look at Indy’s offense, which is much more of a problem for the Patriots.

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This Day In Patriots History

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November 16, 1969:
Boston Patriots 25, Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Nippert Stadium

Jim Nance ran for 125 yards and Mike Taliaferro threw touchdown passes as the Pats got just their second win of the season. Carl Garrett added another 85 yards as the Pats rushed for 210 yards to control the game. Ron Sellers and Charley Frazier both had a touchdown reception and Gino Cappelletti kicked three field goals.

The Patriots defense forced five turnovers, including interceptions by Jim Cheyunski, Tom Janik and Daryl Johnson while also recording four sacks and a safety.

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November 16, 1975:
Dallas Cowboys 34, New England Patriots 31 at Schaefer Stadium

Jim Plunkett threw three touchdowns in a toe-to-toe battle against Roger Staubach but a late rally fell just short in a loss to the Cowboys. After Dallas built a 24-10 lead Plunkett connected with Russ Francis for a 37-yard touchdown and the Pats were down by only one score entering the 4th quarter. Staubach, who earlier threw two touchdowns to Drew Pearson, hit Golden Richards on a 41-yard pass and after a field goal Dallas led 34-17. The Pats came back on two touchdown passes from Plunkett to Daryl Stingley to close the gap to three points but were unable to get the final score they needed.

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November 16, 1980:
Los Angeles Rams 17, New England Patriots 14 at Schaefer Stadium

Steve Grogan ran for one score and threw a 35-yard touchdown to Don Hasselbeck but the Rams shut the Pats out in the second half to escape with a win. Steve Nelson had an interception he ran back 33 yards and Tim Fox had a 23-yard pick as the defense did its part; unfortunately the offense turned the ball over five times.

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November 16, 1986:
New England Patriots 30, Los Angeles Rams 28 at Anaheim Stadium

On the final play of the game Tony Eason threw a Hail Mary down the right sideline which Stanley Morgan leaped over the L.A defenders to tip, and Irving Fryar dove to catch for the game-winning score.

Eason threw for what was at that time franchise records for completions (36) and passes (52), finishing with 375 yards passing. After the game he admitted that he was just throwing it up for grabs and simply was trying to keep the ball in bounds; perhaps he can give pointers on his technique to Tony Romo.

On the final drive the Pats faced a 4th-and-7 at their own 42 but Eason hit Tony Collins with a 7-yard pass to keep their hopes alive; Eason also had key completions of 18 yards to Morgan and 13 yards to Fryar on the drive.

It was the second touchdown of the 4th quarter for Fryar, the first coming when the Pats trailed 28-16 after a touchdown from rookie Jim Everett to Henry Ellard. The other New England points came on three Tony Franklin field goals and a blocked punt that was returned 31 yards by Rod McSwain. Morgan finished the game with seven receptions for 118 yards for the Patriots, and Collins had a combined 93 yards rushing and receiving.

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November 16, 1997:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, New England Patriots 7 at the Old Sombrero

The famed Warren Sapp-Derrick Brooks-John Lynch Bucs’ defense that started the season 5-0 was in full display and on top of their game, holding the Pats to no first downs and 16 yards in the first half. The only reason this game was not a shutout was a 6-yard pass from Scott Zolak to Lovell Purnell in garbage time just before the clock read 00:00.

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November 16, 2003:
New England Patriots 12, Dallas Cowboys 0 at Gillette Stadium

The pupil schooled the teacher as Bill Belichick’s defense blanketed and blanked Bill Parcells’ Cowboys and their top ranked defense.

The Patriots held on to the ball over while forcing Dallas to go on long drives, and eventually turn the ball over three times. The Pats benefited greatly from big plays when Dallas blitzed – a 46 yard completion from Tom Brady to Deion Branch and a 57 yard completion from Brady to David Givens – which led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal and an Antowain Smith touchdown run for a 9-0 halftime lead. Defensively the team was led by Rodney Harrison (9 tackles), Roman Phifer (8 tackles) and Tedy Bruschi (7 tackles).

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♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯

November 16, 2001:
The first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, opened in theaters in the US.

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November 16, 1968:
Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience became the number one album, replacing Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company. Songs included Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile, All Along The Watchtower, and Voodoo Child (Slight Return).

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Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

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