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Bill Belichick impressed by Andrew Luck and ‘explosive’ Colts offense

01.05.14 at 7:50 pm ET

A lot has changed about the Patriots-Colts rivalry, but the Indy offense the Patriots will face in Saturday’s divisional playoff game at Gillette looks just as explosive as the vintage version New England faced a decade or so ago.

In many ways, the only thing that’s different is that No. 12 is under center instead of No. 18.

“[They’re an] explosive football team –€“ we all saw it the other night, how quickly they can score, how explosive they are,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Colts on Sunday, who put up 35 second-half points Saturday night in their wild-card win over the Chiefs. “They’€™ve done a real good job of not turning the ball over; haven’€™t given up a lot of negative plays, very few penalties — like 50 penalties or something like that, whatever it is, not very many.

“For the most part this year they’€™ve played mistake-free and have an explosive, well-balanced attack. Obviously [Andrew] Luck has done a great job and they have a tremendous passing game, but their balance, their running game, their offensive line, production out of their tight ends has been solid too.”

Belichick was impressed with just about every aspect of the Colts’ comeback win over Kansas City, one of the best come-from-behind wins in the NFL playoff history, including the mental toughness needed to come back from a 28-point second-half deficit.

“[Saturday’s] game was about as good as it gets,” Belichick said. “To be that far behind in the third quarter, it didn’€™t look too good for them — and then, all of a sudden in a hurry you could feel them coming back, or at least I could. If they could get it back to a two-score game in the fourth quarter, and then finally if they could get it to a one-score game and they were able to quickly drive it down and score and take the lead.

“I think they’€™re a very explosive and dangerous team.”

Belichick touched on a number of Indy-related topics in his Sunday afternoon conference call with the media.

On the Colts’ offense: “It looks like they’€™ve gone to a no-huddle, up-tempo type of game. [They] get a lot of people involved. They’€™ve had some balance in their running game, with the quarterback also being part of the running game there. T.Y. Hilton has had a great year for them but they’€™ve gotten a lot of production from the backs, the tight ends, the other receivers. It’€™s a solid group up front, they’€™ve protected well.”

On the progression made by Luck: “He’€™s obviously a smart guy. He works hard, he’€™s tough, he has good leadership skills. He’€™s athletic, he can make plays with his feet and his arm: scramble plays, designed plays, plays that play out kind of the way they’€™re drawn up but he can improvise and make plays on his own. He does a good job of seeing down the field. He throws a very good deep ball, has good touch on some of the short and intermediate plays: screens, crossing routes, again some touch plays in the red zone, things like that.

“There’€™s no question he’€™s a complete football player and one of the top quarterbacks in this league already. He has a great career in front of him but I think he’€™s already established himself as a very poised and talented player that can do a lot of things to beat you and he manages his team well and plays good situational football.”

On how much the Indy defense has changed since the days of Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell: “I’€™d say it’€™s quite a bit different. Chuck [Pagano] comes from the Baltimore tree, so I think you see the elements of the Baltimore system there with their mix of coverages and pressures. They have a good balance of attacking the offense with their multiple coverages, multiple-type blitzers — linebacker blitzes, secondary blitzes, zone coverages, man coverages, they mix it up and do a good job keeping the offense off balance. They don’€™t just sit in one thing.”

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