Indianapolis Colts rush end Dwight Freeney acknowledges what we all suspect. It's always more fun to sack Tom Brady.
Freeney and his partner in pursuit, Robert Mathis, have a chance to get their hands on Brady this afternoon when the Colts play at New England in the biggest game of Indy's new era.
The old-era sack artists can't wait.
“Tom's an amazing player,” Freeney said. “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 plays and how to get rid of the ball and not get hit. I guess that's the formula of him playing for so long is to have that. So, yeah, it's a little bit special. I always like to get Tom.”
Mathis agrees with Freeney's assessment of Brady's elusiveness. Brady's not a big-time scrambler. He doesn't run like the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers or even like Colts rookie Andrew Luck. He anticipates and avoids.
“It's very hard because he's a smart quarterback,” Mathis said. “You tip your hand and he'll make you pay.”
The Colts (6-3) play the Patriots (6-3) at 4:25 p.m. today in Gillette Stadium.
One major positive point for the Colts is the fact Freeney and Mathis might be on the field together. Due to their various injuries, they've rarely played at the same time this season. Despite changes in the Colts' defensive approach, the pass rush is more intimidating and effective when the duo is on the field together. They've combined for 194 sacks in their Colts careers.
Brady was asked this week about the quarterback matchup, with Luck stepping into the rivalry once manned by Peyton Manning. He's not too worried about the other quarterback.
“My focus has been on what that defense does,” Brady said. “It's always the Colts defense and it's always centered around two players and those two guys are still there. “
Brady's protection has been decent this season, allowing him to throw for 2,645 yards, 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. But he has been sacked 15 times.
Colts defensive end Cory Redding will also try to get in on the Brady pursuit.
Brady again has plenty of weapons, including wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, along with a solid running back in Stevan Ridley. But weapons can be neutralized if Brady doesn't have time to find them.
“That's really the challenge for us this week, trying to figure out how to block that entire front,” Brady said. “There are a lot of different looks from the last time we played them, trying to understand the scheme and how they're doing things. But they're good and they really rush the passer and that's a big challenge.”
Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said he is looking forward to having Freeney and Mathis on the field together again. Mathis has had at least one sack in eight consecutive games played. His personal record is nine straight games.
“I'm really anxious to see them play two or three weeks together,” Arians said. “I think we could really build a defense that is formidable against the run and the pass when we have those guys in there. Right now, once we get Vontae (Davis) back, we'll have all hands on deck for hopefully as long as we can and avoid the injury bug down the stretch. I think we could be a very, very, solid, excellent defense.”
The Colts will have no better test this season of their defensive acumen than trying to slow Brady. If Dwight Freeney is saluting and Mathis flexing, it'll be a good day for the visitors.