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January 7, 2014

The next challenge

Patriots look for ways to attack Indy's defense

(Continued)

“Kansas City took advantage of a few opportunities and really made some big plays in critical situations,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “I think the turnovers, a few big plays here or there, can certainly change the complexion of any game and seemed to do that the other day. That being said, this is a tremendously disruptive group.”

It’s led by Robert Mathis, who will try to speed up Tom Brady’s throws or tackle him before he can make them.

The linebacker topped the NFL with a career-high 19 ½ sacks and forced nine fumbles.

“He seems to be getting increasingly better as the years go on, which, as an offensive coach, you tend to hope it goes the other direction,” McDaniels said. “He’s as disruptive a player on the edge as we have played or will play.”

Speed, acceleration, effort. Mathis has it all, McDaniels said.

“You can’t ever assume that, ‘Well I did enough,’ because if you assume that then usually he ends up finishing the play better than you did,” he added, “and a lot of times that ends up in a bad situation for the offense.”

Mathis has five sacks against Brady in 12 games, the most he has against any quarterback not in the Colts’ AFC South.

But he lines up in different spots on different plays, so Brady’s blockers must be sharp.

“No one’s more explosive than him,” Brady said Monday on his contractually obligated appearance on WEEI radio. “Once he gets to the quarterback, it’s not as much sacking him, but it’s the strip sacks. The fumbles and the fumble recoveries is where he’s really dangerous.”

Six minutes into the third quarter last Saturday, Mathis did just that against Kansas City’s Alex Smith. Kelvin Sheppard recovered for the Colts and they capitalized with Luck’s 3-yard scoring pass to Donald Brown. The 38-10 deficit early in the quarter was down to 38-24.

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