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When the defending Super Bowl champions visit town, it's a highly anticipated event for any team wanting to put on a show in front of their home audience.
When Tom Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion, is also on the team, the spotlight shines even brighter.
Preparing for that scenario was a big subject in the third episode of Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts, which aired Wednesday night, and their Week 12 clash provided an exclusive look at how teams are targeting Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers on and off the field.
Brian Baker, the defensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts, had a simple goal in mind.
"What's the most important thing? Hit this guy!" Baker declared to his unit while watching tape of Brady. "Make him get up to see completions. Hit this guy -- hit this guy! Pressure in his face first, collapse on the sides. Make him throw out of a coffin -- make him think he's back in his hyperbaric chamber thing that he sleeps in."
Aside from breathing down the 44-year-neck old's the whole game, the Colts' game plan for the Bucs included forcing turnovers. The Colts defence leads the NFL with 27 takeaways, resulting in a plus-12 turnover differential, which is the best in the league. Forced fumbles and interceptions are led by linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Kenny Moore II, respectively. Moore's underappreciated qualities as a cover player were highlighted in the episode, as were Leonard's amazing ability to force fumbles with a precise punch at the ball.
Early in the first quarter, Leonard tried the approach to force a turnover when Bucs wideout Chris Godwin sprinted upfield after receiving a ball. Leonard has forced five fumbles this season, which leads the NFL. Despite how worked up they get to defeat Brady, the play also provided a moment that demonstrates the immense respect that players have for him.
"I got the punch-out, right?" Leonard explained to a teammate. "So, you know how I always go celebrate. He's right here, you know how I talk s---. I said, ain't gonna do it. I got too much respect for him. I ain't gonna do it."
During a timeout, an NFL referee complimented Leonard on his remarkable playmaking skills.
"How you do that punch stuff?" the official asked. "The ball just be loose," answered Leonard, who said he also trains in boxing in the offseason. "It's all about hand-eye (coordination), that's it. They're looking for me to hit them and not protect the ball."
Despite the Colts' quick start, which saw them lead 24-14 at halftime, the Buccaneers scored 24 points in the second half to win 38-31. With the Colts' five turnovers to the Bucs' two, the turnover battle that the club emphasised as a key element ended up being an obvious earmark of its performance.
When Brady, who won his 238th regular-season game, singled out Moore after the game, he demonstrated that respect is reciprocal.
"Way to play dude," Brady told Moore, who allowed just 16 yards passing on four receptions. "Great job out there. Keep it going. You got a great career going. You know what to do. I already seen it for the last four years."