While a lot has changed about the Colts over the last two years, two defensive constants remain — outside linebackers Dwight Freeney  and Robert Mathis . The 32-year-old Freeney has been part of the rivalry since he arrived in Indy as a rookie in 2002, while the 31-year-old Mathis joined the Colts in 2003 and has been banging heads with a variety of New England tackles on a regular basis since then.
While he won’t be going against Matt Light  this time around (at his retirement, Light said Freeney was the toughest opponent he ever faced), Freeney is looking forward to starting a new chapter in one of the best rivalries of the last 20 years.
‘A lot of history between us and it never gets dull,’ said Freeney. ‘For a few years there, it was like they were a division opponent. We would see them twice a year. It’s always been a battle. I’m sure it will be another one.’
‘[There’s a mutual respect, because both teams have that history,’ said Mathis. ‘Neither team takes each other for granted and it’s not an automatic win. You have to come out and play the game.’
Freeney said he isn’t concerned by the fact that this will be the first taste of the rivalry for many of his younger teammates — he’s been working with them to try and get them ready for Gillette Stadium .
‘You just have to prep them on the history, and I’m sure there are some guys that will be throwing the bird up on the way to the stadium,’ Freeney said. ‘You’ll see a little bit of that. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It’s going to definitely be a football atmosphere and I can’t wait to be a part of it again.’
Even though there are new faces on both sides of the ball, the priority for Freeney and Mathis is the same as it ever was: get after the quarterback.
‘Tom’s an amazing player,’ Freeney said of Brady. ‘To be able to get to him, he’s not the fastest guy and all that, but he throws that ball quick and he understands the timing of certain pass plays and how to get rid of the ball and how not to get hit. I guess that’s the formula of him playing for so long is to have that. So yeah, it’ll be a little bit special. I always like to get Tom.’
‘It’s very hard because he’s a smart quarterback,’ Mathis said of the New England quarterback. ‘You tip your hand and he’ll make you pay. We just have to eliminate that and just try to stay on top of things.’
At the same time, the Patriots have gotten more production from their running game than they have in the past.
‘Yeah, this year they’ve kind of got back to that ground game. That makes them that much more dangerous because you have two facets of their offense that you have to get ready for. You just can’t rely on (Brady) throwing the ball,’ Mathis said. ‘[Stevan Ridley is] going to hit it. You just have to get on him and stop him from getting up on our (defensive backs) that quick. Our front seven, we have to be on our jobs this week.
‘[It’s] classic New England,’ he added. ‘They are going to come out and do what they do better than anybody else does. You just can’t let that happen.’