Happy with the Pats win? Upset with the narrow margin of victory? Here’s a look at some of the immediate reaction to the 9-3 Patriots’ 31-24 victory over Indianapolis, who falls to 0-12.
You should have taken the points. And many Patriots fans, audibly angry with their team giving up most of a 31-3 lead, clearly did not.
The Patriots’ defense was booed off the field following Pierre Garcon’s touchdown with 36 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that made the score 31-24 in favor of the home team. New England had done enough to wrap up the victory in the game’s middle 30 minutes, but the home crowd was unhappy with how they finished up the final fifteen. The Patriots gave up the final 21 points of the game to turn a blowout into something different.
Patriots players were upset with how the game ended.
“It’s a mindset,” said defensive end Andre Carter, who has become the face of the team’s nascent pass rush. “It’s just knowing what you have to do and just trying to go out there and execute. Unfortunately toward the end, toward the final stretch of the game, Indy was just able to make big plays, and that’s something we’ve got to eliminate.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT
‚Äď Wes Welker caught 11 passes for 114 yards (Rule No. 144 of Sucking for Luck ‚ÄĒ never double the league‚Äôs most productive receiver). Welker now leads the NFL with 93 catches and 1,257 yards. This was, somewhat surprisingly, only the second time Welker has reached the double-digit total in catches (he does have two games with eight and two with nine).
‚Äď Vince Wilfork was a force early in the game (when it was a game), blowing (no, really) past Ryan Diem for a sack of Dan Orlovsky, tacking Donald Brown for a loss, pressuring Orlovsky twice more and later stopping Brown for no gain on a 1st-and-goal rush at the NE 1, all in the first half. Again, tough to measure against the Colts, but it‚Äôs hard to remember Wilfork playing a more dominant stretch this season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
‚Äď Not much from the running game, as the Patriots averaged just 3.3 yards per rush on 19 carries. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a one-yard TD rush in the second quarter, but totaled just 14 yards on six carries. Danny Woodhead was also quiet, picking up only 12 yards on three carries.
‚Äď The Patriots defense was largely effective against Dan Orlovsky and the Colts, with the lone exception (when it mattered, anyway) being a 19-play, 67-yard drive in the first quarter. The Colts converted four third downs on the drive, which ended with a 31-yard (yup, a 31-yard FG after 1st-and-goal at the 1) Adam Vinatieri field goal. This is picking nits, I guess, and we will truly have no idea about this defense until they face an A-list QB, but allowing a 19-play drive to Orlovsky raises an eyebrow.
Defense carved up but strong in red zone when it counted: Things weren‚Äôt looking good for the Patriots‚Äô defense on the Colts‚Äô second offensive drive. They were losing the battle on third down as four conversions advanced the ball to the 1-yard line and chewed up the final 9:30 of the first quarter. But as has been the case all season, the D seems to be at its best inside the 20. A run was stopped for no gain, and it was followed by an incomplete pass. A false start penalty pushed the Colts back and the Patriots ultimately forced a field goal. That was a win for New England on the Colts‚Äô 19-play drive, and while the defense showed significant vulnerability at other points in the game, it held its ground enough on a day that the offense blitzed the Colts in the second and third quarters.
Fourth center of the season & offense doesn’t miss beat: An easy-to-overlook storyline is that the Patriots went wire to wire with¬†Nick McDonald at center, as he was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday because of injuries to¬†Dan Koppen (IR, foot),¬†Dan Connolly (groin) and¬†Ryan Wendell (calf). He is the fourth center to start for the Patriots this season and there were no issues with the shotgun snap. The offense didn’t break stride.
-Nick McDonald got the start at center and actually had a pretty good game. Reason no. 1,683 why Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the history of football.
-Matt Slater, Nate Jones and Niko Koutouvides all got starts on defense. Slater played alright, he had a nice forced fumble, Jones and Koutouvides looked fine, but I‚Äôll be happy to see the full defense again in the next couple weeks.
-Arrington and McCourty seemed to struggle a bit today. I‚Äôm not sure what‚Äôs going on with McCourty this year, but it will have to change before the playoffs. McCourty was probably the Patriots most important player on defense last season and this season‚Äôs he‚Äôs been very mediocre.
-Sterling Moore should only ever see time at safety. He gets really burned at corner.
-No Julian Edelman on defense. I was very disappointed.
-No Antwaun Molden either, which was surprising. I guess that probably means that Belichick had confidence that Edelman and Molden can get the job done.
-Not a ton of pressure on Orlovsky, which I was fine with. I‚Äôm not sure if I even saw a blitz and there‚Äôs no reason to show your hand against the Colts.
-This was probably the Patriots worst defensive performance since the Steelers, but consider who was playing on defense before you overreact.
-I think once the games are important again, we‚Äôll see a ton of no huddle
Yeah, we covered the spread anyway. And Orlovsky looked better in the pocket than Painter ever did. Turnovers killed us, as did absolutely horrid coverage in the secondary. The DBs had no clue where the 1st-down markers were the whole day.
Who ever said three heads are better than one (Bill Polian, Chris Polian, and Jim Caldwell).? Why did it take 12 games to find a Colts QB who threw for 350 plus yards? Look at it this way, the big three did not want to do what the fans wanted this year they may have had a perfect season, so they are trying to make up for that by having the Colts go 0 – 16. Oh my, what a wow factor, thanks Bill, Chris, and Jim. Another great judgement move to go along with pulling your starters from the JETS game. The Colts haven’t been the same since then.
The efficiency in which New England operates out of the no-huddle offense is hardly a revelation.
Brady has been at his best in the set throughout the season, completing 75 percent of his pass attempts for 1,189 yards. Overall, he’s completed 65.8 percent of his passes 3,627 yards.
So, some might wonder why they don’t run it all the time, or at least as often as they did Sunday.
The Patriots say it’s not that simple.
“If we’re not executing plays and just running no huddle, we’d be three-and-out,” Branch said. “The thing is to make sure we’re executing our plays so when we do get into this type situation.”
They picked a perfect time to implement it Sunday. After struggling to move the ball out of a conventional set, the Patriots went to the no-huddle on their drive to get the ball moving and Brady promptly shook off his early doldrums by completing 7 of 10 passes for 75 yards, culminating with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski to go up 10-3.
After forcing the Colts to punt on their next series, Brady got the ball back at the New England 36-yardline with 1:32 remaining.
He completed five consecutive passes after wide receiver Chad Ochocinco dropped a an easy one on the sideline to move to the 1-yardline, where running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis punched it in to go up 17-3 heading into halftime.
Brady kept it going in the third quarter by completing four consecutive passes from the hurry-up — including a two-yard strike to Gronkowski in the end zone — to push it to 24-3.
Bottom line: New England appeared to put just enough effort into this one to guarantee victory. When asked if he thought his team had eased off the gas pedal — and, in fact, had found it hard to get emotionally invested from the start against their once-bitter but now overmatched rivals — Belichick responded with a non-answer that would do a politician proud:
“I think we did some good things today. There are other things we didn’t do as well. That’s the way it is every week.”
The Patriots even seemed to treat the game like a late-August exhibition, using wide receiver/special-teams specialist Matthew Slater at safety for most of the afternoon and also giving Niko Koutovides plenty of reps alongside Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker. On offense, Nick McDonald was the starting center . . . but that may have been more a case of Ryan Wendell — the main fill-in for the injured Dan Connolly — being banged up himself and unable to go.
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