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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick downplay Colts matchup, but we know it's payback time

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to the sideline in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Aug. 28, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Credit: Grant Halverson

Don't believe a word of what any of these guys are telling you.

The Colts-Patriots matchup Sunday night in Indianapolis, the first game between the teams since their AFC Championship meeting that set in motion a controversy the likes of which we've never seen before, means everything to everyone involved. Even if no one is willing to admit it.

It means Tom Brady, who insists he's no more motivated for this game than any other, has a chance to stick it to the Colts over accusations that the Patriots played with purposely deflated footballs in the Jan. 18 game at Gillette Stadium.

Same with Bill Belichick, who simply said his team is getting ready to play a game and "that's what we do." Beneath whose dispassionate outward expression lurks a bubbling cauldron of intensity all too willing to exact revenge on his opponents.

And for Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who says he hasn't given it a thought since it happened exactly nine months ago, it's a chance for his team to overcome a Patriots team that has outplayed and outsmarted him at every turn.

This is the game that will feature the rawest of emotions for both teams, given that it comes on the heels of a debate so heated that it reached into living rooms and across kitchen tables across the country.

Thus the spectacularly melodramatic backdrop for Sunday night's nationally televised game. Even if the protagonists have declined to elevate the intensity even further.

"I really haven't given it any thought, to be honest with you," Pagano said. "Our focus has been on this football team getting ready for our season, the offseason program, training camp, preseason and now we're into Week 6. It's preparation for the upcoming game, period."


Brady was asked every which way if the game means more to him because of the circumstances involved, and he skittered away from the question as niftily as he would a pass rusher.

"I'm always pretty motivated," he said. "It'll be an exciting game. They're a confident team, so it's going to take a great effort to beat them."

So no extra incentive to beat the team that made your off-season so miserable?

C'mon, Tom.

"Well, like I said, I'm always pretty motivated, regardless of the opponent, regardless of the team or the week, whether it's a preseason game, whether it's a regular-season game. They're all important, because there are so few of those where you get an opportunity in your life, so I don't take it for granted."

A reporter asked Brady if there is at least a human side of him that wants it just a little extra this week. "I'm a human," Brady cracked. "There's no doubt. I'm definitely human."

And he definitely wants it more, regardless of what he's saying.

Same with Belichick.

"I mean, look, it's the same questions every week," he deadpanned. "We're getting ready to play a game on Sunday. We're going to do the best we can to prepare for it and be ready to go and perform well on Sunday night. That's what we do."

No doubt motivated in part by the DeflateGate controversy, the 4-0 Patriots have outscored their opponents 149-76. Brady has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions and has the Patriots looking a lot like the 2007 version, when they became the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 during the regular season.

The Colts, meanwhile, have yet to beat the Patriots in the Pagano era.

Andrew Luck, who is expected to play after missing two games with a shoulder injury, is 37-16 (including playoffs) against the rest of the NFL, with 94 touchdown passes and 52 interceptions, but is 0-4 with six touchdown passes and 10 interceptions against the Patriots.

In the AFC Championship Game, Luck was 12-for-33 for only 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

He understands how difficult it will be on his fifth try.

"They do a great job of sort of taking your strengths away and forcing you to play lefthanded in a sense," Luck said. "They do it with very good football players . . . We need to make sure that we don't get in bad situations and don't play catch-up because they're the masters of closing games out."

The Patriots hope to close out another one Sunday night, and they hope to do so in unequivocal terms. Even if they would never admit to it.

Yes, this one means more.

A lot more.


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