FOXBORO, Mass. — Week 11, be damned. Bill Belichick still was effusive in his praise for the Indianapolis Colts.
The New England Patriots beat the Colts 42-20 less than two months ago — in Indy, no less — but Belichick still called them the top team he’s faced.
“I’d like to start off by saying on behalf of the team and the organization it’s a great honor to be in this game, to have the opportunity to compete for the AFC Championship,” Belichick began Wednesday’s news conference at Gillette Stadium. “It’s something that the teams worked obviously extremely hard and long to get to this point, to have this opportunity. We’re excited about it. We have a tremendous amount of respect for our opponent.
“I think this is the toughest team that we’ve played all year. The Colts are a very good football team, really done a good job in the kicking game. They’ve got a great kicker, a great punter, added (Josh) Cribbs in the return game. They’re at the top of the league in kickoff coverage, kickoff returns. They do a great job with field position.”
That’s high praise, since the Patriots lost 26-21 to the Green Bay Packers, who are playing for the NFC championship, in Week 13. The Patriots also played the Denver Broncos with a healthy Peyton Manning and squeaked by the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs on Saturday.
So, what makes the Colts so difficult?
“Defensively, (they’re) a little bit different than the team we saw a couple months ago, but certainly (LaRon) Landry has given them a big lift, Art Jones,” Belichick said. “They’re very disruptive up front with (Erik) Walden, (Cory) Redding, (Jonathan) Newsome. The front is good with (Josh) Chapman and Redding, Jones, (Ricky Jean) Francois, (Montori) Hughes, all those guys. They do a good job.
“The linebackers are active, run well. D’Qwell Jackson is probably one of the most instinctive players in the league. (Mike) Adams, the safety, the same thing. They’ve got big corners with (Greg) Toler and (Vontae) Davis, and those guys do a great job for them. I thought they played extremely well in the playoffs, especially last week against the great Denver receivers. Very good football team, well coached, good fundamentals, and offensively they’re as explosive as it gets.”
Belichick gave Colts quarterback Andrew Luck the ultimate compliment.
“He’s a great player,” Belichick said. “He does everything well. He’s got a lot of strengths, no weaknesses.”
Belichick is no stranger to praising the opposing team, even complimenting lowly teams like the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets throughout the season. The Colts certainly look better than they did in Week 11, but calling them the toughest team that the Patriots have faced might be an overstatement.
Of course, Belichick did say the Colts are the toughest team the Patriots have faced all “year” not all “season,” so perhaps he was intentionally precise in his choice of words. The Colts are only the second team that the Patriots will face in 2015.
Thumbnail photo via Charles Krupa/Associated Press
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