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Sports

January 11, 2014

Patriots' balanced offense can set a tone

One fact sticks out this week for the Indianapolis Colts’ defense: They’re not facing Alex Smith anymore.

Smith played a tremendous game for the Kansas City Chiefs last Saturday. In fact, his passer rating was the best of any quarterback who played in the wild-card playoff round. He threw four touchdown passes, no interceptions. It might have been the best game of his life. The Colts were pushed to the limit.

But he’s not Tom Brady.

Smith made some mistakes late, such as missing a couple wide-open receivers and taking a grounding penalty. With all due respect to coach Andy Reid, Smith didn’t have Bill Belichick designing a game plan to protect a surprisingly surmountable 28-point lead.

The New England Patriots’ Brady and Belichick have had two weeks to prepare for this game, to assume they’d be facing the Colts and to analyze vulnerabilities in the Colts’ defense.

Brady doesn’t have the depth of talent around him that the Patriots’ greatest teams possessed. In a way, that makes him even more dangerous. An impressive running game sets up the pass, and the man can still pass.

The Colts play the Patriots in their AFC divisional-round playoff game at 8:15 p.m. EST on Saturday in Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.

Brady is one of the most pivotal performers in the game.

“We know how potent that offense is,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We know the signal caller is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. With (LeGarrette) Blount running the ball the way he is and (Stevan) Ridley, they’ve got a stable of backs. (Shane) Vereen on third down. They are very balanced.

“You can’t just go in and say, ‘Hey, you got to get after Tom and put pressure on him and get him off the spot and try to frustrate him.’ “

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