The New England Patriots can score 50 points on anyone – especially when the defense gets involved.
The Patriots returned two interceptions for touchdowns and Julian Edelman returned a punt for a score and nearly busted a second one as New England steamrolled the Indianapolis Colts 59-24 on Sunday night in Foxborough.
Newcomer Aqib Talib, acquired by the Patriots from Tampa Bay during the bye week, introduced himself to the faithful at Foxborough in the 2nd quarter, picking off an errant pass from Indianapolis’ rookie quaterback Andrew Luck and zig-zagging his way for a 59 yard touchdown.
Less than a minute earlier, Edelman returned an Indianapolis punt 68 yards for a touchdown that tied the score at 14, and then Talib’s pick-6 gave the Patriots a lead that they would not relinquish.
The Patriots’ offense took over from there.
Scoring touchdowns on five of their next 8 drives, New England tied a franchise record for points scored in a game. Quarterback Tom Brady was his usual efficient self, going 24 of 35 for 333 yards and 3 scores, with All World tight end Rob Gronkowski hauling in two of those scoring passes, delivering thunderous spikes after each.
Not to be outdone, Reciever Julian Edelman threw down an impressive spike of his own after catching a 2 yard touchdown toss from Brady. Rookie defensive back Alfonzo Dennard returned an interception 87 yards for a second defensive touchdown and Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen rounded out the scoring on offense, each finding paydirt on short bursts.
But this game belonged to Edelman.
Racking up 222 yards of total offense, the former college quarterback averaged 55 yards per punt return, scoring once and nearly breaking another. His 47 yards on the ground was best in show for a New England running game that struggled getting untracked, and his five catches for 58 yards trailed only Gronkowski and the steady Wes Welker.
What makes this mark even more impressive is that Edelman accumulated his yardage on only 8 touches – his two punt returns, five receptions and just one rush for the 47 yards – a whopping 28 yards per touch.
The Patriots’ defense again gave up more than 300 passing yards, but after a slow start, held the Colts’ running game in check. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck had 2 touchdown throws but also threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble on a strip sack by Rob Ninkovich, who always seems to be in the middle of the action.
The aggressive scheme of the defense paid dividends throughout the game. The Patriots’ pass rush didn’t get to Luck many times, but came close enough on several occasions to alter his throwing motion. The rebuilt secondary took advantage with their three interceptions and kept his receivers covered well enough that he could only manage to complete 27 of his 50 passing attempts.
By no means was it a clean performance on the defensive side, but with the acquisition of Talib and with Devin McCourty looking like the real deal at free safety, there is a core for optimism for the secondary.
The top scoring offense is good for an average of 35 points a game, so as long as the turnovers don’t dry up for the defense – the Patriots lead the NFL in turnover differential – New England is going to be a tough team to beat down the stretch…and a really tough out in January.