Here are this week’s New England Patriots game grades:
Passing Offense: B+
Tom Brady had one of the worst first halves of his career against the Colts, completing 10 of 19, for 84 yards and two picks. The offensive line was struggling to protect him on play-action passes, and he made one awful decision towards the end of the half. However in typical Brady fashion, he turned it around in the second half, going 9-11 for 173 yards, and two touchdowns. He was accurate, made excellent decisions, and converted on more than one crucial third downs.
Rob Gronkowski led the way with four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, and Brandon LaFell turned in an excellent performance, making a few huge acrobatic catches on the outside in the second half. His ability to win 1-on-1 matchups outside the numbers will be huge for the Patriots in the postseason.
Rushing Offense: A+
The offensive line dominated, and Jonas Gray had himself a career day against a Colts defense that was overwhelmed from the start. The Pats came out on their first drive and set the tone, gaining 77 of the 89 opening drive yards on the ground, doing a lot of their damage with an extra offensive lineman on the field. The offensive line, helped by Rob Gronkowski and James Develin, opened up huge holes for Gray to hit, and he capitalized, nearly gaining 200 yards on Sunday night.
What I love about Gray’s running style is it is no-nonsense. He hits the hole hard, he has a very physical playing style, and his 230-pound frame is extremely tough to bring down. The Patriots were scary enough with Tom Brady dominating through the air, but now you add an offensive line that can line up and simply beat the living tar out of you? Absolutely terrifying.
Pass Defense: A-
Darrelle Revis was lights out on Reggie Wayne, and Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty shut down T.Y. Hilton, which is enough to give this group a good grade. The Colts came into the game with the best passing offense in the league, and while Andrew Luck did eventually go over 300 yards once again, his offense never got into a rhythm, and he only put 20 points on the scoreboard (7 of those belong to Brady). New England’s secondary was physical with the Colts (sound familiar?), they kept Andrew Luck in the pocket, and they limited the amount of explosive plays Hilton and company made.
Coby Fleener had an awesome day, catching seven balls for 144 yards, but I think this was all part of the plan for Bill Belichick. ‘The Hoodie’ is the best ever at taking away your top weapons and making you beat him with secondary guys, and the Colts weren’t able to do that. Belichick was fine with Fleener making plays, as long as he kept Hilton and Wayne in check. This strategy has worked for over 13 years, so I see no reason why he should stop deploying it now.
Run Defense: A+
Indianapolis’ running backs amassed four yards on 14 carries on Sunday. That is a ridiculous stat, and it is the number one reason the Pats won this football game. Vince Wilfork and that front seven set the tone early, holding the line of scrimmage, getting off blocks, and making the play before Ahmad Bradshaw or Trent Richardson had an opportunity to make anything happen.
The Patriots made Indy one-dimensional, which is why it was so easy for Darrelle Revis and the pass defense to dominate Luck’s aerial attack. It doesn’t matter how good you are through the air, you need to be able to run the ball in this league to excel, and Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and the big boys up front made it impossible for the Colts to do that.
Special Teams: B
Nothing good, nothing bad to report here. Stephen Gostkowski didn’t attempt any field goals, and Ryan Allen‘s only punt was a boomer, as it went for 59 yards. Danny Amendola did make a bad decision to field a punt at his own five-yard line, which set up the Pats with bad field position.