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How the New England Patriots Will Contain T.Y. Hilton and the Explosive Colts

James Christensen@@nepatriotsdraftContributor INovember 12, 2014

Can the Patriots slow down T.Y. Hilton?
Can the Patriots slow down T.Y. Hilton?Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

In the not-so-distant past, Bill Belichick could have dispatched Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in one fell swoop. In today's NFL—with Manning in Denver and Andrew Luck lighting up scoreboards in Indianapolis—it will take two games over 14 days to do the trick.

In his third year with the Colts, Luck has the offense humming. The Colts are the No. 1 offense in points (32.2), total yards (451) and passing yards (337) per game. Playing from behind and against light AFC South competition may have inflated his statistics—and greatness—just a bit.

Greg Bedard from The MMQB questioned Luck's station as a top-level quarterback in the league, recalling last year's playoff game against New England as an example:

Go back to the playoff loss to the Patriots last year. On the third play of the game, Luck stared down LaVon Brazill, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard jumped the route and returned it to the 2-yard line to set up a Patriots touchdown. Down 21-12 before halftime, Luck threw behind fullback Stanley Havili and it went off his shoulder for an interception. Down 36-22 with 12:55 remaining, Luck threw a mindless interception into triple coverage, pulled in by linebacker Jamie Collins.

Even if Luck isn't in the realm of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers just yet, the Patriots defense will have a much more difficult job this time around.

In the playoffs, Luck had LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen on the field for 95 combined snaps according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In Week 11, those snaps will be soaked up by Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief.

While the supporting cast has changed, T.Y. Hilton has remained the standout at the receiver position. Looking at a couple of plays from the Colts' 33-28 win over the Houston Texans—Hilton went for over 200 yards in the contest—gives New England some clues on how to combat the electrifying Colt.

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NFL Game Rewind

Hilton is given a clean release off the line, with the cornerback an astounding nine yards off in man coverage. This allows Hilton to get up to speed quickly, and he blows by the cushion with ease. Luck ends up dropping a touch pass over Hilton's outside shoulder for a 40-yard gain.

It is safe to say that Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner or any other Patriots defenders won't give Hilton a free pass into his route. Disrupting him at the line of scrimmage will wear him down—just ask Demaryius Thomas—and give the defensive line an extra beat to get to Luck in the pocket.

The cornerbacks aren't the only defenders who need to do their part on Hilton.

NFL Game Rewind

The cornerback gives Hilton a clean release again, but stays over the top of him. He knows that he should have help underneath in the form of his middle linebacker.

NFL Game Rewind

Unfortunately, Luck's play action sucked the linebacker up. Failing to get depth on his drop, you see two Texans occupying one zone. Hilton curls into space for a simple 17-yard gain.

Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower will need to be cognizant of Luck's play-fakes if they are going to have success in zone. It wouldn't be shocking to see Tavon Wilson or Browner to see some time inside as a "Money" defensive back to aid in covering the middle of the field.

While it may be Luck's first option, stopping Hilton—or all of the Colts receivers—doesn't guarantee success. Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are two talented tight ends whom Luck enjoys finding in big spots. However, if you can't take away option No. 1, Luck will take it all night long.

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