FORT WAYNE – Anthony Castonzo knows a little something about the Colts’ rivalry with the New England Patriots, having watched it closely during his time as a player at Boston College.
“I’ve always seen it, and now I get to play in it, so it’s very cool,” said Castonzo, a rookie left tackle with the Colts, who play at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
But Castonzo never envisioned he would be playing for an 0-11 team, protecting his third quarterback of the season, none of whom have been named Peyton Manning.
“I think we all just kind of focus on our own job,” said the 6-foot-7, 311-pound Castonzo. “My job is to protect the passer, to block people in the run game, and that’s all I’m really worried about. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on around us.”
Dan Orlovsky will make his first start for the Colts, in place of Curtis Painter. Painter was benched after completing 54.3 percent of his passes for 1,541 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions in eight starts. In the last five games, Painter threw one touchdown pass, and the offense scored only two touchdowns.
The Colts also fired defensive coordinator Larry Coyer this week, elevating linebackers coach Mike Murphy. His task is to contain the Patriots (8-3), who average 30.1 points per game, third most in the NFL.
Castonzo will have to help the offense outscore the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady has passed for 3,627 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptons this season.
Castonzo has played in seven games this season – he missed four with an ankle injury – and the Colts have allowed 23 sacks, 15th fewest in the league.
“He’s a very talented guy who I think has had a lot of bright spots during the course of the year,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “But he’s also had some of his ups and downs, too. It’s a difficult game, and you have a little different challenge every week with some of the different fronts that you face and the different people that are involved in those. He’s been able to adjust well. Obviously, he missed some time, but I think we all feel very good about the future with him.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick also praised Castonzo.
“We saw a lot of him,” Belichick said. “He’s got good size, he’s a good athlete, and he’s a smart guy.
“The thing I see with Castonzo, as the game goes along, he continues to get better. Sometimes something happens early in the game that he’s not quite ready for or it’s a new thing or he just hasn’t had enough experience playing against certain players or certain situations. But I see him get better as the game goes along pretty much in every game, which I think is a good sign that the player is smart.”
The Colts have won five of seven against the Patriots, who won last year at Foxborough, Mass., 31-28.