Harrison vs. Law highlights matchup

The Patriots DBs vs. the Colts WRs will be huge when the Patriots host the Colts in AFC championship.

Updated: January 15, 2004, 10:21 AM ET

The Matchup:
Colts WRs vs. Patriots DBs

The Game:
Colts at Patriots, 3 p.m. ET, CBS

The Question:
Who will have a bigger impact on the game? Click here to vote!

Ty Law Marvin Harrison
Ty Law Marvin Harrison

By Eric Allen

This isn't going to be an easy game for the Patriots secondary. It is facing one of the hottest quarterbacks in football (Peyton Manning), a stud running back (Edgerrin James) and a talented receiving corps. The Patriots defensive backs have to look at the type of personnel and talent they're facing. Obviously, Marvin Harrison is one of the best and most dangerous receivers in the game. But, now the Colts have worked two more skilled receivers into their offense with Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley.

The Patriots have a smart secondary that is very physical and that physical play will help against the Colts. They do a great job calling for help in the secondary and recognizing opposing offenses audibles. Not to take anything away from the Colts' amazing run through the playoffs thus far, but they haven't faced a secondary this strong yet. But as good as the Patriots are, they aren't going to completely shut down Harrison. He's too good and the Colts are too reliant on his big-play ability for him not to get the ball.

To stop the Colts receivers, the Patriots are going to have to take options away from Manning and force him to make quick decisions. It might be a good idea to play bump-and-run coverage occasionally while blitzing to throw Manning and his receiver's timing off, which will result in sacks or incompletions.

By Merril Hoge

First and foremost, opponents are forced to respect the tremendous speed of the Colts' wide receivers. Marvin Harrison, because of his quickness getting in and out of breaks, is the best in the NFL at creating separation. Double-teaming Harrison is always a premium, but hardly a guarantee because of his ability to identify double-coverage situations and how to avoid and break out of them.

And while Harrison is drawing double coverages, the Colts have the advantage of turning to Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley to create mismatches. Mathematically, when one guy is doubled up, the others are in single coverage, and they've got to win those matchups. Both Wayne and Stokley are not only making plays, but they're making plays consistently.

The Colts wide receivers run routes with tremendous discipline which helps break down and/or take advantage of the defensive coverage. They don't break off their routes to try and get open to be "the guy" -- Peyton Manning, who is a big part of this equation, will find the guy based on what coverage is there. If the defense makes a slight error or hesitates for just a moment, he'll make you pay.

There's also a lot to be said for a team finding its rhythm. And right now, the Patriots have to account for the Colts' playoff rhythm.