Facing an AFC Championship matchup with the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows his team has to be prepared for both anything and everything. Fresh off their 35-31 divisional round win against the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots pretty much threw the kitchen sink and a bag of tricks at Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh and his staff last weekend.
First, New England drew the ire of Harbaugh when the Patriots offense lined up with 4 ineligible offensive lineman, as well as running back Shane Vereen (also ineligible). Harbaugh complained that it was a “substitution trick” and didn’t give his Ravens defense a fair opportunity to match up, as his defenders weren’t sure who to actually cover. Harbaugh objected to the obvious gamesmanship and ran onto the field, promptly drawing a 5-yard penalty on his team:
Regarding the Patriots’ tricky formations this past Sunday, the Colts’ Chuck Pagano noted (per ESPN):
"“They only had four linemen in on those plays, had three wideouts, two tight ends and a running back and a quarterback,” Pagano said. “It made it difficult for the defense to get lined up, especially if you’re in a man-to-man situation and you’re trying to figure out who is eligible, who’s not, who’s on the ball, who’s off the ball, all those types of things. You don’t have a lot of time. Officials aren’t going to slow the thing down and let you get lined up so to speak.”"
However, unfortunately for Harbaugh, his nightmare was only beginning. With 4:20 left in the 3rd quarter, Patriots wideout Julian Edelman received a behind the line of scrimmage pass from Tom Brady. Deceptively appearing as a wide receiver screen to Edelman in the outside flat, the Ravens’ secondary initially bit on it. Yet, rather than take off, Edelman (a former collegiate quarterback at Kent State) then proceeded to throw a pass down the field to fellow wideout Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown reception:
For Pagano, he’s well aware of what lies ahead if last Saturday’s Patriots game was any indication. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are notorious for adding wrinkles or in this case, tricks to their weekly offensive gameplans. While they used up two pretty good ones against the Ravens, it’s a bit unsettling to think about what else may be in store from their big back of tricks against the Colts this weekend.
Perhaps, Pagano said it best when he abruptly put it, “We have to be prepared for everything obviously.”
Game on, Bill Belichick.
Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (R) talks with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports