Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots quarterbackTom Brady
(12) throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots headed to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on Andrew Luck and the high-flying Indianapolis Colts in a pivotal AFC showdown. The Patriots and Colts saw the Denver Broncos lose to St. Louis Rams earlier in the day adding additional drama to this match-up. The Patriots have had some rust coming off the bye week and the first half was no exception as the Patriots continued to keep Indianapolis in the game with non-Patriots type mistakes.
The second half was a different story as the offense clicked with four consecutive touchdown drives. The Colts simply could not keep up with the offensive attack by the Patriots as they mixed the running and passing game to precision and eliminated their first-half mistakes. The Colts abandoned the running game but had success with tight end Coby Fleener finding gaps in the zone defense. Indianapolis was still in the game for a while in the second half thanks to Fleener, but the New England offense was simply too much for them. The Patriots ended up winning in impressive fashion 42 to 20 over the Colts.
The Patriots opened the game forcing a quick three-and-out of the Colts as they initially went with cornerback Kyle Arrington on T.Y. Hilton who was in the slot and Darrelle Revis on Reggie Wayne. The Patriots came back with a long drive behind the running game after some strange formations to open the game. The Patriots had tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, wide receiver Brian Tyms and running back Jonas Gray opening up the game.
Brian Tyms had a drop on the first drive and later Brady threw an interception trying to get deep. Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola were finding themselves matched-up on cornerbacks Greg Toler and Darius Butler in a mismatch when New England had that matchup. Guard Ryan Wendell who was questionable with a knee injury was looking good early as he was blowing Colts defenders back five yards and opening holes for Gray in the running game.
The Patriots on defense rolled different coverages at Andrew Luck and had some disguises up front with the linebackers standing at the line of scrimmage and mixing an occasional blitz. There was an occasional three-man rush and dropping eight defenders. One look in coverage was showing Cover-3 and that was the coverage when Luck went for 46 yards down the seam to Reggie Wayne. Luck followed conventional wisdom by attacking the seam against a Cover-3. Luck moved McCourty out of position and went back to Wayne. It looked like Revis thought he was passing him off to McCourty and no one was there.
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) gets chased out of the pocket by Indianapolis Colts linebackerErik Walden
(93) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots held the Colts to a field goal on the drive and then had their first interception. The interceptions were what hurt the Patriots as Brady threw both under a rush. On third-and-one right before the half Brady audibled out of the run and tried to hit tight end Rob Gronkowski deep downfield. His pass was easily intercepted as it was well underthrown and the Colts had a short field and cut the 14 to 3 Patriots lead to 14 to 10 going into the break.
The first half was all about the Patriots running game as Jonas Gray ran in both touchdowns and the team was well over 100 yards rushing at the break. Brady was unspectacular and uncharacteristically inaccurate and made some bad decisions. There were a few mix-ups on defense, but the big defensive work was done by Vince Wilfork and the run-stuffers who held the Colts to just ten yards rushing on eight attempts. The Colts were able to get some space in the passing game for tight end Coby Fleener between the zone, but big play wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was kept in check.
The second half opened with quarterback Tom Brady ready to put the first half behind him as he got the passing game in gear working his way down the field with precision and finishing with a touchdown pass to tight end Tim Wright. The Colts came right back driving down into New England territory before stalling and having to bring out the ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri to kick a 53-yard field goal.
The Patriots came right back with another drive for a score. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell who was slowed during the week with strep throat re-entered the offense with a few second half receptions. With rookie tackle Cameron Fleming coming on as the sixth offensive lineman the Patriots were able to continue their theme of overpowering the Colts defense by pounding Gray up the middle for his third touchdown of the game and a 28 to 13 lead.
The Patriots almost caught a break as the Colts could not pick-up the kickoff and booted it into the end zone. Instead of it being 30 to 13 and the Patriots getting the ball back it was ruled a touchback rather than a safety. On the first play the Colts found Fleener for 45 yards and then another third down conversion for 22 yards. The Colts went for it on fourth down-and-one at the three yard line and just barely made the conversion to end the third quarter with New England still up 28 to 13 but the Colts with a first-and-goal at the two yard line.
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray (35) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New England Patritos at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The running game remained the story with Luck having 15 of the Colts 18 yards on the ground through three quarters. New England had just under 200 yards rushing with Gray with 143 of those yards. Brady was 16 of 26 through three quarters for 195 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Luck was 20 of 28 through three quarters for 272 yards a touchdown and an interception. He opened the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown to tackle-eligible and former Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo to cut the lead to one score again 28 to 20.
Again the Patriots had to answer the Colts as they could not quite pull away at any time. Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman had key catches on the drive while Gray kept pounding the ball forward and topping 150 yards for the game early in the fourth quarter on the drive. Credit to Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, and Wendell in the middle of the offensive line as they continued to overpower the Colts defensive front. The drive ended with New England going back ahead 35-20 as Gray pounded in his fourth touchdown and Gronkowski topped it off with a 15-yard penalty after the score by driving Colts safety Sergio Brown about 15 yards out of bounds into the camera crews.
With no chance of the Colts running the ball and ahead by 15 points, the Patriots pass rush started teeing off on Luck as they hit him all three pass attempts and helped force three interceptions. The Colts went for it on fourth-and-ten and the ball on their own 32 yard line and Reggie Wayne could not hold on with tight coverage from Revis. The Colts were clearly feeling the pressure of having to score immediately with just over eight minutes to play and only New England stopping with turnovers themselves on offense.
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts safetyMike Adams
(29) tackles New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots punctuated their fourth drive of the second half with their fourth touchdown to make it 42 to 20 as Rob Gronkowski continued his beating upon the Colts defense. On third-and-four from the 26-yard line as he refused to go down and swatted Colts defenders away before vaulting into the end zone for the touchdown. Clearly still fired up from the last drive, Gronkowski punctuated the game with the touchdown.
Another stop on fourth down saw New England back out trying to get the clock down and rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stepping in for garbage time hand-offs to Gray. Gray continued to push his yardage totals up as he converted a first down to get the clock down and get New England to an impressive road win.