After you identify where Robert Mathis will be on each play, what is the next thing you look at?
“He's a good place to start. He's a great player and been a great player for a long time. We've played these guys a bunch over the years. We kind of know what we're up against. He's having one of the best years of his career. They have a good defense. They are Top 10 in a bunch of categories. They really have some good safeties that cover a lot of ground, really fast corners. They're physical. They have a good team. We just have to outscore them, I think. We have to go out there and put points on the board. That's what our job is going to be.”
What do you think about your former teammate Darius Butler and the job he's done for their defense?
“He's done a great job. I always had a lot of respect for Darius and what he was able to do. He's an incredible athlete. I've thrown him a lot of interceptions on the practice field. Hopefully, I don't throw him one this weekend.”
Does seeing the Colts come back from that 28-point deficit change in your mind how you see that team and can you relate to a comeback like that?
“It was a great game, a great team win and they got into a hole there and just had to dig their way out. Like I said the other day, once you get some momentum going on your side, it's pretty remarkable to be able to do that. Down 28 points there in the third quarter – they just made a bunch of good plays and it took them until the very end to win and the defense made a great stop there in the fourth quarter with two minutes to go. There's going to be a lot of close games – we've been in a lot of close games, they've been in a lot of close games, probably more than anybody in the league. They find a way to win them. That's how they got to this point. Hopefully, we can go out and be the team that goes out on top.”
Is there a notion on either side of a lead that no lead is safe and that if you get down that anything is possible?
“Yeah, they were 11-5 in the regular season and 12-5 now. They've had a great year and been tough to beat. They beat some of the best teams in the league – teams that are still in the playoffs now. They can play with anybody. There's no question about that. They have plenty of skill and plenty of playmakers on offense and defense. They have great special teams, one of the best kickers of all time. They're good in all areas and you don't get to this point without being one of the best teams. It's pretty easy to see why they're playing this weekend.”
We asked Andrew Luck about the motivating factor of playing in the same playoff game as you. What about for you personally – when one of the great young players is coming to challenge you in a playoff game?
“I don't necessarily approach it like that. My motivation is pretty simple. I just try to win, that's what I try to do and try to be part of the reason why we're successful. That's part of doing my job and trying to be the best I can be for the team. It really doesn't have anything to do with anybody on the other team and their motivation might be. To be a professional athlete and to play at this high level with this level of competition, winning is the only thing that's important. That's one goal and one objective that I've had for a very long time.”
You can impart your wisdom upon the younger players who have never appeared in a playoff game before. But in reality do you have to play in it for a while to understand the intensity and pressures of what the playoffs are all about?
“I think you just try to play it really well. There's a first time, really, for everybody, so I don't think that can be used as an advantage or an excuse. It was my first time in 2001 when we played in a playoff game and we did pretty well. Like I said, the difference is that there's no second chances. You have to get it right and you try to get it right against the other best teams in the league. The other teams have earned the chance to get this spot; we earned a bye to advance to this part in the playoffs. Now we have to go out there and try to advance to the third round but you have to play really well. This team makes you earn it. You could have a 28-point lead but it really doesn't matter unless there's no time left on the clock. This is a team that's good in all three phases, they put pressure on you to do the right thing on every single play. Hopefully, that's a skill set of ours, too. Hopefully, we can go out there and play well on every single play and see if they can slow us down.”
I think Robert Mathis has sacked you more than any quarterback outside his division. What do you think when you see him coming after you? What goes through your mind?
“I can't really run away from him, so that option's out the door. You have to understand where he's at. He really has a sense of urgency. It's one thing to sack the quarterback. It's another thing to strip-sack him and the ball's flying all over the place. You have eliminate those types of plays. They've had a lot of those types of plays this year which have been a big benefit to their team where he runs the edge, the quarterback's standing back there, here he comes and strip-sacks him. We just really can't let that happen. That's why he's one of the best players in the league – because he makes those types of plays happen. He makes them on a regular basis, it's not a fluke when he does it. That's a trademark of their team and we have to try to stop one of their strengths, probably one of their best strengths and still go out there and be aggressive enough to move the football and get the ball in the end zone.”
How have you changed your approach in the playoffs since your early seasons? There's footage of you head-butting teammates before your first Super bowl. Do you still do that before games? Do you still get that excited?
“I'm pretty emotional. It just depends on the moment. I'm a pretty emotional player. All the guys are emotional and they try to bring it and it's an emotional sport.”
Do you still head-butt people before the games?
“I have, yes.”
People have really enjoyed the Colts/Patriots rivalry. How have you seen that rivalry throughout the years?
“Yeah, when I first got in the league they were a division rival, so we played them twice a year. I don't know if that lasted one year or two years. I started in 2000. I don't know when they did the realignment, but we've always had a great rivalry with those guys. They've always been one of the best teams in the league. We played them last year, they were very good last year, a playoff team. And obviously they've had a great year this year. To overcome a 28-point deficit like they did last week is incredible. They have a lot of good players. They got a good scheme. They're well-coached. They play well together. So we got our work cut out for us.”
And again with the rivalry, maybe it's appropriate that your first start was against these guys.
“Yeah, that's right. I know. My first start was against the Colts. It was a cold, windy day in Foxboro. We got the best of them that day. They were off to a great start that year. I think they were 3-0 at that point? We've had a great history with that team and it's fun to be a part of. Hopefully, this is an exciting game for everybody to watch.”
You've seen the Colts transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck and you've seen this team grow. Do you look at that and kind of think it's cool, or is that an Indy thing and you don't get tied up in it at all?
“Well, Peyton's been one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. I was fortunate to be able to watch him play for a lot of years and certainly compete against him at the Colts. And Andrew, I've only really competed against him one time. He's obviously off to a great start in his career. His team really thrives on his leadership. He's a great player and a great young quarterback. He obviously has all the ability. Our defense has got to be up for the challenge. There's no lead that's too safe against the Colts, as was evidenced last week against K.C.”
We asked Andrew Luck which quarterbacks he watched growing up and he mentioned you and Peyton. Is that a compliment or does that show you how young he is and how old you are?
“(Laughs) Well, I still feel like I'm a young guy. I've been around for a few years and I got to watch Andrew play when he was at Stanford, I grew up out there. So I've always been a fan of his. He's really come into the NFL and done everything you could ask for out of a young quarterback.”