Colts LB Darius Leonard: 'Too much respect' to trash talk Tom Brady

When the defending Super Bowl champions are scheduled to come to town, it's a highly anticipated date for any team looking to showcase itself in front of a home crowd.

When seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is also on that team, the focus is even greater.

Preparing for that scenario was a major theme in the third episode of Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday night, and their Week 12 matchup offered an exclusive glimpse at how teams are gunning to topple Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers on and off the field.

For Colts defensive line coach Brian Baker, the objective was put simply.

"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-old's neck all game, creating turnovers was another integral part of the Colts' game plan for the Bucs. The Colts defense leads the NFL with 27 takeaways to support a league-best plus-12 turnover differential. Linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Kenny Moore II lead the team in forced fumbles and interceptions, respectively. The two playmakers were spotlighted in the episode with features on Moore's underrated abilities as a cover man and Leonard's uncanny skill of being able to cause fumbles with an accurate punch at the ball.

Appropriately, Leonard used the tactic to create a turnover early in the first quarter after Bucs wideout Chris Godwin ran upfield after catching a pass. The fumble forced was Leonard's fifth of the season, which leads the NFL. The play also offered a moment which exemplifies the great respect players have of Brady despite how worked up they get to beat 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."

Leonard's impressive play-making ability even warranted a compliment from an NFL official during a timeout.

"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' hot start, which ended with a 24-14 lead at the half, the Buccaneers scored 24 second-half points to win, 38-31. The turnover battle in which the team counseled as an important factor ended up being a glaring earmark of its result with the Colts' five giveaways to the Bucs' two.

Brady, who earned his 238th regular-season victory, showed that the respect goes both ways when singling out Moore after the game.

"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."

Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max and will run until the end of the Colts' season.

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