The team names are synonymous with football dominance in the 21st century.
Sunday night, at Gillette Stadium, two of the National Football League’s pre-eminent franchises will meet in the AFC Championship Game. The game will mark the fifth time the franchises will collide in a playoff game. New England has won three of the four previous games against the Colts.
And those facts mean exactly nothing to Bill Belichick.
“I don’t think any game in the past really has much application to this one,” Belichick told reporters earlier this week. “So what [happened in] some other year, in some other game, I don’t really care about. I don’t think it really matters.”
Indeed, the only thing that will matter to the two teams is the opportunity to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Az.
While Super Bowl appearances are old hat for the Patriots, this is new terrain for the Andrew Luck-era Colts. In his third season, the 2012 first overall pick, has stewarded the Colts to the franchise’s first AFC Championship Game appearance since 2009.
Luck threw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns in the regular season, and added 641 yards and three touchdowns in Wild Card and Divisional round wins over Cincinnati and Denver.
“He [has] a lot of strengths,” Belichick said. “No weaknesses. He’s got a great future in front of him. He’s already done a lot in the time that he’s been in the league, and I’m sure by the time he gets done he can pass a lot of guys by.”
Still, in order for the Colts to advance the Super Bowl for the first time since the 31-17 loss to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010, at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fl., Luck will have to do something he hasn’t accomplished in his NFL career:
Beat Belichick and Tom Brady.
In three career games against the Patriots, Luck threw for 968 yards and six touchdowns, but was intercepted eight times. As such, Andrew Luck and the Colts lost the three games against the Patriots by an aggregate 144-66.
“Hey, the harder the better,” Luck told reporters in Indianapolis Wednesday. “Let’s go and try and make it happen. We are just excited to play a really good Patriots team on the road. Maybe there’s a little extra excitement because of that, but to be in the AFC Championship that is great. But we got to go out and win.”
You can follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman