It's time to retire the checkers versus chess comparison between coaches in completely different stratospheres.
Bill Belichick was conducting an orchestra, with the strings and woods in perfect harmony, and the winds with the perfect amount of air. Chuck Pagano was the frat boy playing Wonderwall.
Belichick was a surgeon, commanding the operation room, with the scalpels and clamps opening perfect lanes and providing easy access to view, evaluate, and tackle the organs and guts. Pagano accidentally took Nyquil instead of Dayquil.
Indianapolis' original game plan was to use running back Dan Herron as a dangerous runner and as a check down option. They also wanted to attack the Patriots linebackers whenever they were in coverage of a tight end, like Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, or Jack Doyle.
For the first half, the Colts did a good job of sticking to their plan, to moving the ball, and to keeping with their match-ups. They had two extended drives in the first two quarters, picking up ten first downs in the first half. If not for a missed field goal, the Patriots would have gone into half time with a one score lead.
The issue? The Colts offense wasn't sustainable. Three of these first downs came via penalty, and each rescued the Colts from 3rd and long situations. Three were to Herron, who did well until he started to drop all passes in his direction. Three were to Fleener in the coverage of linebackers. The tenth was a gorgeous miracle throw to T.Y. Hilton.
The next first down the Colts earned was with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, while the Patriots were up 31-7.
So what'd the Patriots do to adjust? Nothing fancy at all.
The Patriots played their game and left Kyle Arrington on Hilton, erasing him for the second time in a row with Devin McCourty over the top. The linebackers became more aggressive in attacking Herron out of the outfield once it was clear Luck was overly reliant on their running back. The New England secondary adjusted and it wasn't a rare sight to see Darrelle Revis in coverage of Fleener in motion.
That's it. The Colts tipped their hand early and didn't change it. The Patriots adjusted, eliminated the Colts match-up advantage, and pulled away to eliminate Herron as a factor.
This marks another fantastic game plan on defense by Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia who, apart from the Divisional Round hiccup against the Ravens, put together a fantastic season and a strong resume against some of the best quarterbacks in the league.
It took pregame savvy to bait the Colts into the same match-ups Indianapolis enjoyed in the first match-up, and in-game adjustments to take it away.
This New England roster is full of both Super Bowl caliber players and coaches. The Patriots didn't just force the Colts to play left handed; they handcuffed them to the sideline.