The Patriots managed to hold on for a 31-28 win against the Colts- and the "holding on" seems all too common this season. The big difference between this year and last year is that the Patriots have wound up on the "W" side of the close games. It was a great game of football that became even better because the Patriots won at a time and place where the Colts were in field goal range. Let's go to my notes!
Prevent Defense - The Patriots utilized prevent defense during three Colts touchdowns- one at the end of the 2nd Quarter (12 plays, 85 yards, 3:30) and two in the 4th Quarter (7 plays, 73 yards, 2:23; 7 plays, 73 yards, 2:18). The prevent defense has struggled the past forever and has resulted in terrible defense in consecutive weeks against the Steelers and Colts. It needs to stop. The past two weeks of prevent defense has resulted in 6 touchdowns, the longest of which being 3:30. It's unacceptable and it cannot be used. Seriously. UGLY.
4th Quarter Offensive Play Calling - The Patriots were moving the ball on their first drive that started in the 3rd Quarter and ended in the 4th with a field goal. I don't get why they wanted to throw the ball to Julian Edelman on his first snap of the entire game. It doesn't make sense. I disagree with how they played their goal line offense. They had been setting up a perfect playaction play- why didn't they jump the ball to Rob Gronkowski? I didn't like that play- but the struggles didn't end there. The Patriots were unable to move the ball after the field goal and gained only 23 yards of offense the rest of the quarter. They had their first 3 and out, but there should have been a PI call as a defender arm barred Deion Branch. After that, the Patriots tried to rely on BenJarvus Green-Ellis to move the ball and run the clock. Instead, the Colts realized the Patriots were running the clock and they stuffed the run. The Patriots realized how poorly their offense operated, and how dangerous Manning's offense was playing, punted the ball with 15 seconds left on the play clock. They realized they screwed themselves over. It was a poor effort.
3rd Down Defense - The Colts converted 11/14 third downs. Most of the first downs came through the air on 3rd and medium-longs. The defense is still struggling to slow offenses on third down.
Tully Banta-Cain's 4th Quarter Idiocy - Banta-Cain pushed over an Indianapolis lineman to give the Colts a free 15 yards on a drive that brought the Colts within 3. Banta-Cain had seen his play reduced all season until a reemergence against the Steelers- he most likely found himself back in the doghouse.
Pat Chung Covering Down Field - Chung has so much going for him. He's great against the run. He stops plays underneath. His major flaw is lack of ability to cover down field. He was eaten alive by Austin Collie until he was taken out with his concussion issue. Collie was substituted by Blair White who took Chung to school. Chung needs to stay out of deep coverage.
Read the Bad and the Good after the jump!
Kyle Arrington - Arrington played himself into the starting line-up earlier this season. He may have just played himself out. He was taken out after giving up huge yards to Reggie Wayne and after missing two crucial tackles that led to a Colts touchdown. He was moved to the slot on the final drive in order to replace Pat Chung and played well enough. Arrington is a solid player, but he still has a lot to work on.
Tight End Usage - I was surprised by how underutilized the tight ends were used in the passing game. 2 passes, 2 receptions, 32 yards between all tight ends. I'm not saying the tight ends had a bad game- they were fantastic blockers who gave Tom Brady all sorts of time to produce and play well, especially Alge Crumpler eliminating Dwight Freeney- but I think they could have been targeted more in the passing game. Yes, the Patriots moved the ball at will early on. I don't know why they didn't throw the ball to Rob Gronkowski on the field goal drive in the 4th. Why didn't they have Aaron Hernandez test the seams?
Finishing Pressure on the Quarterback - The Patriots were generating plenty of pressure against the offensive line that gives up the fewest sacks in the league; I just wish the Patriots were able to finish some of the pressures to make sacks. They were always a step or two behind Manning. This defense needs to start getting to the quarterback more frequently in order to disrupt their rhythm and get inside their head. There are too many good quarterbacks in the league to not reach them.
Tom Brady - Brady was stellar until the fourth quarter. He only had 2 incompletions, one on a thrown away ball and the other that landed in Branch's hands in the end zone. Brady had a great game, even though his yardage numbers were not fantastic. He moved the ball and opened up lanes for the run game. He helped dictate the Patriots offense to a win. Great game.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead - BJGE was fantastic at running the ball, again, until the fourth quarter. He made the most out of what was given to him and he was generating a large amount of yards after contact. He was pushing defenders over to get an extra two or three yards. Woodhead was lethal and showed his incredible balance on his long touchdown run. He also showed his versatility with a fantastic tackle on special teams. Great show by everyone.
Offensive Line - While Matt Light may have let Dwight Freeney get a sack on Brady, the line did a great job of giving Brady time and opening lanes for the running game. Alge Crumpler will be included for single handedly stopping Freeney a number of times. Vollmer kept Mathis out of the game, with a little interior help from Dan Connolly, and Dan Koppen and Logan Mankins took care of the defensive tackles. Mankins showed his value by being a phenomenal run blocker. He's a guy that adds so much value, I have to hope he can solve his differences with the organization.
Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders - The three pick bandits were also some of the best players in the secondary. McCourty held down his side of the field with an additional pass defender and no given up touchdowns. While Sanders may not be the solid fundamental player he used to be, he's definitely evolving into a play maker. If he can make all the tackles he used to, while still making the plays, he could definitely be looking at a nice extension by the Patriots. Meriweather played solid safety as Manning avoided throwing to his direction early on. As soon as Meriweather started drifted to the middle to cover Collie, Manning picked apart Arrington with Reggie Wayne. Meriweather is still a player quarterbacks avoid.
Jerod Mayo - While Mayo is posting ridiculous numbers, today was a solid day for him. He gave up very few passes under his nose and was stopping runs early. He still gets a lot of tackles after the yards are picked up, but he's sniffing out plays and is creating better instincts as the season goes onward.
Patriots Offense Quarters 1, 2 and 3 - The Patriots were fantastic in the first three quarters as their offense could not be stopped. It was only when they started playing prevent offense that they stopped producing. Brady completed the short passes to set up the run. The run set up the mid-range passes. The mid-range passes opened up passes underneath and the cycle continued. This is the way the Patriots offense needs to work. Death by paper cuts that feeds on itself.
The Patriots need to stop taking the foot off the gas pedal in the 4th. It only leads to their own collapse. Seriously.
5. Aaron Hernandez + Rob Gronkowski vs Pat Angerer + Safeties - Nonexistent. The Patriots didn't throw to the tight ends very much. This might count as a win for the Colts.
4. Patriots Defensive Line vs Colts Offensive Line - Patriots pushed them around all day, even if they didn't reach Manning, as they squashed every rushing lane. The Patriots definitely win this match-up.
3. WR Reggie Wayne vs CB Kyle Arrington - Wayne broke free away from Arrington to have a pretty successful game. Colts win this match-up.
2. Jacob Tamme vs Gary Guyton + Pat Chung - Tamme picked up a lot of his yardage in the prevent defense in the 4th, after being held to 1 catch on 3 attempts for 3 yards in the first half, and four catches for 20 yards on 7 attempts (and one incidental interception) through three quarters. Tamme had 3 catches for 40 yards in the 4th. This match-up is a draw.
1. Patriots Offensive Line vs Colts Defensive Line - Dwight Freeney picked up one sack. That's about it. The Patriots offensive line demolished the Colts defensive line. Win for the Patriots.
Final tally: Patriots 2, Colts 2, Draw 1
On to the Lions on Thanksgiving!