FOXBORO, Mass. — While there's a lot of discussion this week over the guy who won't play when the Colts visit the Patriots, plenty of Indianapolis' stars will suit up Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Quarterback Tom Brady knows a pair of them all too well.
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will bear down on Brady and try to make life miserable for the NFL's reigning MVP. Freeney typically lines up at right defensive end, which will put him over left tackle Matt Light, and Mathis will be on the opposite side over rookie right tackle Nate Solder, who is expected to start in place of the injured Sebastian Vollmer.
It will put a lot of emphasis on New England's tackles, but the Patriots will also call upon the blocking services of tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Kevin Faulk, among others.
"Make sure they don't get their pass rush going," Faulk said. "That's about it. Get [them out of] their rhythm. That's what Matt Light and them do, try to protect the quarterback, and it's our job to try to make sure [Freeney and Mathis don't] get that edge on them or get inside on them. Just make sure that they don't get there."
Freeney (99.5 career sacks) and Mathis (79.5) are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in Colts history in that department. They've reached double-digit sacks in the same year on four occasions, including 2010, and they have combined for 77 sacks in the Colts' last 56 games.
The tandem has done it against New England, too. Mathis has five sacks and two forced fumbles in seven games against the Patriots, and Freeney has three sacks in six games against the Pats.
Brady said Wednesday he is hoping to get a chance to say hello to injured Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday, but he wants nothing to do with any introductions to Freeney and Mathis.
"I've played Dwight Freeney a bunch," Brady said. "I wish he was out this week, but he's in there again. He's a phenomenal player. If I could be a defensive end, I'd be like him, and Robert Mathis on the other side. Both those players can really wreak havoc and [get] strip sacks. [Bill Belichick] said it this morning, Freeney's got like 99 career sacks and 43 forced fumbles. So, almost half the time that he sacks you, he strips the ball from you. He's a great player."