Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney was one of the starters coach Jim Caldwell used sparingly in a 29-15 loss to the Jets on Dec. 27 that ended their shot at a perfect season. Although he played only in pass-rush situations that day, Freeney knows the rematch in Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium will be a different kind of animal.
Asked in an interview Tuesday on ESPN Radio to describe that first meeting, Freeney said: "It was a very physical game on both sides, and we understand what kind of game this will be coming up. Low scoring, a defensive-minded type of game.
"They're a good team, regardless of what people may say about the Jets coming in through the back door and some teams maybe not playing their 'A' games or 'A' starters. It doesn't matter now. Once you get to the playoffs, you can erase the regular season. It's going to be a tough matchup and definitely a physical game.''
If the Colts held the playoff door open for the Jets, they have taken advantage with wins at Cincinnati and San Diego. One Indianapolis columnist suggested the Colts should be careful what they wished for. The AFC's fifth-seeded team has succeeded in running the ball down everybody's throat for seven of the past eight weeks.
Rather than focus on rushing Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, Freeney must hope the Colts' 24th-ranked run defense can control running backs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene well enough to put him in a pass-rush situation.
"Our main concern is stopping the run,'' Freeney said. "Everybody knows they're going to run the ball, and they still run the ball effectively. We have to get them one-dimensional. If we can do that and get Sanchez throwing the ball, that would be the best situation for us.''
Overall, the Colts' defense ranks 18th, and they are 31st in third-down defense. But Freeney maintains the numbers are "skewed'' because the Colts rested people the last two weeks and often were ahead in games when opponents in catch-up mode gained ground. When it comes to points allowed per game, the Colts rank eighth.
"We're getting better week by week,'' Freeney said.
Comparing this 15-2 team to the Colts' Super Bowl champions from three seasons ago, Freeney added: "It definitely feels like very similar teams. It wasn't always offense and how many points we scored. We would win on defense and special teams, and we're doing the same thing this year.''