INDIANAPOLIS — For years, the Patriots-Colts rivalry was flooded with stars and drenched with drama.
But for all the must-see matchups over the years, there hasn’t been a postseason episode since 2007.
So much has changed since then.
For one, the Colts seemingly immovable object under center ended up moving to Denver (he’s done all right for himself).
The only Colt who was on the field for Indianapolis’s 38-34 win in 2007 that’s still in the locker room is wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
And he’s been out since October with a season-ending knee injury.
Still, when the Colts come to Foxborough for their divisional-round battle Saturday night, they expect the feel of the game to be the same, even if the faces aren’t.
“This is a whole different team,” said linebacker Jerrell Freeman. “Not the same atmosphere, but winning atmosphere with both teams. It’s two great organizations going against each other, so from that standpoint, I guess it’s the same.”
In 2007, after having lost their other two playoff meetings to New England in 2004 and 2005, the Patriots were the roadblock the Colts needed to bust through to win their first Super Bowl since 1970.
But for these teams, everything’s essentially been rebooted.
Their only recent history was a 59-24 Patriots blowout in December 2012.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano joked he had no clue if film from that game still existed.
“We tried to look for it,” Pagano said. “I think they burned it to be honest with you. Now technology is so good you’ve got it on iPads now so it’s hard to throw away the iPad. They cost too much to replace.
“I obviously watched it from afar last year and then again. Obviously you’re going to look at it and see what they did. You’ve got to cover all your bases.”
Of course, even before he took over, Pagano was a part of another fierce Patriots rival as defense coordinator of the Ravens.
Baltimore’s excruciating 23-20 loss in the 2012 AFC Championship Game, which came down to an errant Baltimore field goal, still nags at him occasionally.
“Close but no cigar,” Pagano said. “It was a great ballgame. We just didn’t finish it. They made more plays than we made. We had an opportunity right at the end. I saw a ball in a guy’s hand and thought we had a touchdown for the game-winner and a guy made a great play and popped that ball out of Lee Evans’s hand. A field goal that went wide left and the rest is history. I guess had we won that game, I probably wouldn’t be standing here having this presser today.”
It’s no secret Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (40 sacks) spent more time on the turf this season since his second year in the league, when he was sacked 41 times.
But Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said there’s a reason Brady has been sacked so often this season, ninth most in the NFL.
“You know he’s not a mobile quarterback,” Redding said. “He’ll drop down and take the sack as opposed to just standing there and forcing something down the field, letting you make a turnover and return it for a touchdown.
“He’s definitely not going to do that. He trusts himself and he trusts his guys enough to if he has to take a down, then that’s what it is. We just have to come up with a good plan, figure out who’s around and attack whoever it is and get pressure on the quarterback as much as possible.”
Crippling weather left thousands in the Indianapolis area without power, canceled hundreds of flights, and made getting to the practice facility a battle for the Colts. When he was told the weather was forecasted to be mild in Foxborough on Saturday, Colts cornerback Darius Butler joked, “Anything is mild compared to what we have up here.” . . . Andrew Luck needs 21 pass attempts to leapfrog Jim Harbaugh for third place on the Colts all-time postseason list.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.