INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Antoine Bethea enjoys a good chess match as much as the next guy — especially when the opponent is Tom Brady.
The Colts' safety has spent years trying to get the upper hand on a three-time Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and Bethea relishes the cat-and-mouse game that will be renewed Saturday night when Indianapolis and New England meet in a divisional-round playoff game.
"Still the same Tom, making those good throws, control of the offense and just continuing to be that elite quarterback," Bethea said.
Since being drafted by the Colts in 2006, Bethea has faced just about every big-name quarterback.
Every four years, he gets a shot at one of the NFC's best — Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers. Twice, he has faced Ben Roethlisberger. In October, Bethea and the Colts lined up against Peyton Manning for the first time outside of practice. And while Philip Rivers has won six of the last seven against the Colts, facing Brady has always been unique.
Perhaps it's because Brady made his first NFL start against the Colts way back in 2001. Or perhaps it's because Brady has handed Indy 10 of its 78 losses (12.8 percent) since making that first start. Or maybe it's because the former AFC East foes never really split up after realignment in 2002. Instead, they've played every year since 2003 and provided the league with some of its most enduring images over the last decade.
—New England and Indy traded AFC championship game victories following the 2003 and 2006 seasons. The Pats won in the snow; the Colts won with one of the great comebacks in playoff history.
—In 2007, the Brady-to-Randy Moss connection derailed Indy's quest for perfection — on the same day the Pats' continued their march toward 16-0.
—In 2009, Manning took advantage of Brady's inability to convert on fourth-and-2 from deep in his own territory late in the game to rally the Colts for an improbable 35-34 win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Brady has won all three games since that mind-numbing finish including last season's 59-24 thumping in frosty New England. But Indy won the last playoff game, seven years ago. And while many of the names and faces have changed over the years, the challenge never really did. In 14 career games, Brady has carved up Indy's defense for 3,456 yards and 27 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions.
"The biggest thing is that Tom's going to get back there and make sure his playmakers get the ball in their hands and get the ball down the field," defensive end Cory Redding said. "We've got to get pressure on him. First and foremost, you have to get him rattled. You can't let him get comfortable in the pocket. And that's going to help out our back end as well. You can't cover these guys all day, so we have to get pressure on the quarterback."