The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Pro Sports

January 11, 2014

Colts ready to battle Pats, elements

ANDERSON — After a week spent puzzling over which schemes Bill Belichick might use to slow down T.Y. Hilton, it appears Mother Nature might do the job herself.

The forecast in Foxborough, Mass., for tonight's AFC divisional playoff game calls for a high of 55 with winds at 23 m.p.h. and a 100 percent chance of rain. Far from ideal conditions for the Indianapolis Colts' hurry-up spread attack that has produced 75 total points in the past two weeks.

But Hilton, the speedy receiver who has 24 catches for 379 yards in his past two outings, won't use the weather as an excuse.

"Growing up, you play in all types of elements," he said. "Right now, you can't let that be a factor. You just got to go out there and perfect your game."

Conventional wisdom favors the home-standing New England Patriots in adverse conditions, especially with the recent rise of running back LeGarrette Blount. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer broke free for 189 yards in the regular-season finale and has four combined touchdowns in the past two games.

New England quietly ranked ninth in rushing offense overall this season, with Blount leading a bruising stable of backs.

"The running game has been critical to the success of our team this year," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "It's really been a strength of ours. Offensive line and the way the backs have been running and how physical they've been has really contributed to what our production on offense has been."

Brady has played without many of his long-time targets for much of the season.

Wide receiver Wes Welker defected to the Denver Broncos as a free agent, and the starter opposite him — Brandon Lloyd — also was let go. Injuries have limited Danny Amendola — signed to replace Welker — to 12 games, and tight end Rob Gronkowski appeared in just seven games before being placed on season-ending injured reserve.

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