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Could A.D. be "After Dallas"?

Posted by Albert Breer  November 14, 2009 10:46 AM

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The Ravens threw the kitchen sink at Clark, a trademark trait of Ryan's defenses.

And in doing so, it hampered the Colts' ability to convert in the red-zone, with Indy kicking five field goals to score the win. Baltimore's defense didn't shut the Colts, but it did enough to keep that one a game throughout.

"We took advantage of our opportunities," Thomas said. "Every team gives you opportunities, you have to take advantage of them, and taking advantage of those, keeping them out of the end zone was big, because you keep them out of the end zone, you give yourself a chance. It’s 15 points vs. 35 points, and you’re right there in the game."

Red-zone offense, and defense, is sure to be a key on Sunday. The Patriots' offense is 26th in that category, and since losing Donald Brown three weeks ago, the Colts have had similar struggles in that regard.

I don't think I'd be speaking out of turn to say that these two teams will move the ball on each other between the 20s tomorrow. So it might be the defense that performs best in that critical red-area that carries the day.

"You don’t want to let them get there in the first place, but if you do, it’s not over," said Thomas. "You can hold them to a field goal. A lot of times at the end of the game, that matters a lot. It can be the difference between a 3-point game and a 7-point game. It’s always important that you finish the drive.

"That’s B instead of C. You don’t want them to get in there, A, but if they get in there, B, let’s hold them to a field goal."

To get back to the tight-end matchup, my guess is -- whether it's Thomas, McGowan, a combination of the two or someone else -- stopping Clark is the defense's top priority on Sunday.

Because of the Colts' offensive line issues, Manning's getting rid of the ball quicker this year than in the past, and Clark is often his "hot" receiver in those spots.

But beyond just that, Bill Belichick's history says Clark would be the focus this week. I remember two years ago, when people focused on how the Patriots would handle Terrell Owens in Dallas, the coach was busy trying to figure out how to deal with Jason Witten. And that was because Witten was the guy Romo went to when he was in trouble. Clark's that guy for Manning.

So whomever it is out there covering, expect to see something different thrown at Clark at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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