Having an extra week to prepare for an opponent allows time to find perhaps even the smallest tendency or preference. But Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels probably didn’t need more film sessions to learn what the next opponent likes to do on defense.
McDaniels is getting ready for the Colts, a team that has won six of its last seven games and has a defense that has kept four opponents to 17 points or less, including a Week 7 shutout against the Bengals.
“They blitz quite a bit more than most of the teams that we’ve played, which is going to be a very critical factor in the game, our ability to handle that,” McDaniels said Monday during the weekly coaches’ teleconference. “They play a lot of tight man coverage, they have guys that do a really good job of covering man-to-man, one-on-one situations on the outside, they ask their safeties and linebackers to do the same thing [and] they’ve got guys that can do that.
“They’ve been stopping the run, creating turnovers, and getting to the quarterback, so there’s not a lot of holes.”
The Patriots visit Indianapolis for a Sunday night game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Both teams are coming off their bye week, and both lead their respective divisions: At 7-2, the Patriots are two games up on the Dolphins and Bills in the AFC East; the 6-3 Colts also enjoy a two-game lead in the AFC South, over Houston.
During their five-game win streak, the Patriots are averaging more than 40 points per game, with Tom Brady passing for 320 yards per contest while totaling 18 touchdowns and just one interception.
Indianapolis has the 18th-ranked defense in the NFL: ninth against the run, 27th in passing yards allowed. The Colts have registered 24 sacks, while the Patriots have allowed just six sacks in the last five games.
Vollmer deal revised
It appears Sebastian Vollmer won’t have to play as much to get paid more. The right tackle had his contract for this season revised, and won’t need to log as many snaps to reach playing-time incentives that could add as much as $2 million to his 2014 pay, according to an ESPN report.
Vollmer had incentive clauses that would pay him $1 million if he played 80 percent of the offensive snaps this season, and $2 million if he played 90 percent. According to the report, the Patriots have changed those percentages: Now Vollmer needs to play 70 percent of the snaps to earn an additional $1 million, and 80 percent for $2 million.
Barring injury, the new numbers should be attainable. Through nine games, Vollmer has been on the field for 91 percent of the offensive snaps.
Vollmer, who has spent six seasons with the Patriots after being selected in the second round of the 2009 draft, signed a four-year deal in March 2013.
Seen them before
The Colts’ secondary will have a Patriots look, since two players who began their NFL careers in New England — safeties Sergio Brown and Darius Butler — are now starting for Indianapolis. Butler was a second-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2009, but lasted just two seasons and is now in his third season with the Colts. Brown appeared in 26 games for the Patriots in 2010-11 after going undrafted, and is also in his third season with Indianapolis.
“I’d say Darius has been in pretty much the same role that he was in last year as a nickel back,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Sergio’s had a big role in the kicking game and then when [LaRon] Landry was out the last four or five weeks, then he had a lot of playing time at safety on defense and has been a little bit less involved in the kicking game.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Monday that Landry — who recently completed a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy — won’t start against the Patriots. Brown has taken his place in the lineup and started the past five games.