Patriots vs. Colts: Fan Notes from the Game

What? Where? What's going on? Where am I? Why is everyone wearing helmets??

As a white male raised in the New England suburbs, I felt it was my legal obligation to take up golf at some point in my life. I started off slow; a few trips to the driving range here, an ultra-competitive round or two of mini-golf, there, and a little bit of research into hideous pants and shoes to finish it off. When I felt I was ready, I played my first 9 holes, a mere 5 years ago.

I played my last 9 holes of golf about 4 years ago.

I hate golf.

I hate it, hate absolutely everything about it. I could get into it, but I won't. For now, I'll just say that I hate golf for two reasons. First, and most importantly, I personally find golf to be agonizingly boring. Hit the ball, walk. Hit the ball, walk. Smoke a cigar and go home. Wash, rinse repeat. I've had people explain to me, more times than I can count, that golf is the greatest game in the world once you've put your time in and gotten decent enough at it to enjoy both the game and the beautiful outdoor ranges on which you play. Golf is an enormously popular sport, so there's obviously something to it. But as for me, I feel that if I wanted to walk around an overpriced field, dressed like an idiot, dropping little white balls into cups, I'll go back to my alma mater and play beer pong at my old frat house.

The other reason I grew to loathe golf is that I quickly realized that, no matter how well I shot for the first 17 holes, the only thing that was really going to decide what kind of mood I was in for the rest of the day was how I shot on the final green. I could have been 2 under par on every hole (never happened. Not even close) leading up to 18, but if I triple-bogeyed that last one (a likelihood), I'd have a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the day and be furious with myself for the rest of the week. Golf ended up giving my life way more stress than it was worth, so I decided to give it up and devote my weekends to doing what I do best: absolutely nothing. Because doing nothing suits me juuuust fine.

I bring up my brief and unspectacular stint with the official sport of retired men everywhere because that is exactly how I'm feeling this morning. The New England Patriots just beat the Indianapolis Colts fairly handily to increase their record to 9-3 and move to within one win and one Jets loss away from clinching the AFC East. Tom Brady threw for three two touchdowns and no interceptions and Rob Gronkowski now holds part of an NFL record for most touchdowns by a tight end in a season. And yet, in spite of all that, I'm sitting here today feeling like I just triple bogeyed on the last hole and the John Daly-esque game I just shot went right down the tubes.

New England let a 31-3 lead become a 1 score game that was a mere onside kick recovery away from a potential tie. 21 unanswered 4th quarter points left career scrub Dan Orlovsky with 353 yards, two touchdowns, and a Jerod Mayo interception away from having a better passing day than Tommy B. The Patriots were lights out for the bulk of the game, and then for some reason decided to allow Indy to pick up 20 yards per attempt and give their biggest rival of the past decade reason for optimism moving into next year. Even though the bulk of Orlovsky's passing yards came when the game was already well in hand, even though the final score doesn't accurately reflect the results of this game, and even though the Patriots won yesterday, I still feel, in a weird way, like the Patriots lost ground with this one.

I was hoping I'd stop feeling this way once I traded my golf clubs for a propane grill on Craigslist, but here I find myself. Game notes after the jump.

  • Big fan of the 1 PM kickoff time - I only had to pace around nervously for a few hours before the game instead of all damn day. Can't believe this was only the second early game for the Patriots this year, and this one got flexed out of prime time.
  • Why did Orlovsky's first pass to Garcon make me nervous? Maybe it's because it was the first of 7 straight completions, that's why, dammit.
  • You have NO IDEA how close I was to giving Nick McDonald his own theme song (Nick McDonald on the line, E I E I O! And on that line he snapped the ball, E I E I O!), but I just couldn't do it. Even I have to draw the line somewhere.
  • I also will not, out of respect to my favorite team and America's greatest contribution to the world, be making a fast food joke either.
  • Totally lifeless crowd at Gillette Stadium, even when the score was still tied at 0.
  • Credit to the fans, though, for showing Jeff Saturday respect before the game started. That was a nice moment between Saturday and Bob Kraft back in August, and Saturday deserved every second of the ovation that he got.
  • I can't shake this feeling that the Patriots are just humoring Kevin Faulk at this point. He's doing what he's been doing his whole career in New England and giving it everything he has on every play, but he's just no longer an effective running back.
  • That said - he sure knows how to utilize the field - including using the referee to throw a pick. And I will wear my #33 jersey to games with pride until it falls off my fat, beer-soaked body.
  • Did I see Matthew Slater playing free safety? What the hell is going on here?
  • Great open field tackle by Nate Jones on a quick screen to Joseph Addai. When I first saw it, I was like "hey, nice tackle...ummm...you!"
  • If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Dan Orlovsky was a perennial 3rd string quarterback that looked like an all-star against this defense. Good lord.
  • Didn't really need that up-close crotch shot of Pierre Garcon on that first quarter fade route replay.
  • The Colts engineered a 19 play, 11 minute scoring drive on their second possession that ate up the bulk of the first quarter and saw Dan Orlovsky complete 7 out of 9 passes, many of which were 3rd and longs. Then, all of a sudden, New England became impenetrable on 1st and goal from the 1 yard line. I give up. Time to resign myself to just having no clue about this D, and not trying to figure it out.
  • Can you imagine what would have happened yesterday if Peyton Manning was playing? What's the record for most points ever scored by one team? How the hell does this team have any chance against the Saints or Packers?
  • Gotta love the Foxboro faithful when Chad Ochocinco makes a catch.
  • Ho hum. A Rob Gronkowski TD followed by a massive spike. Yawn.
  • Great seeing Marcus Cannon out there. That's an NFL feel-good story that doesn't seem to be getting enough attention.
  • Tough to explain why the Patriots have been starting relatively slowly as of late. The best reason I can give is that they allow a drive or two to figure out the offensive and defensive cadence, get a feel for their basic schemes, and then turn it on towards the end of the 1st quarter.
  • If I'm right about that crackpot theory, though, they could be in trouble early against the stronger teams in this league.
  • I went to IHOP for breakfast yesterday. As a result, I was in the bathroom for most of halftime and I missed the first minute of the 3rd quarter. When I got back to the couch, the Pats were already on the Colts 30. What happened? Not that I'm complaining...
  • Maybe Gronk is so wide open all the time because nobody in the secondary wants any part of him. "Just go right ahead, Mr. Gronkowski, sir. You can just waltz right in to the end zone - just don't hurt me, I have children!"
  • Holy crap! Jim Caldwell's teeth! I saw them, guys! I really saw them!
  • It must suck for Dan Orlovsky (UConn alum - go Huskies!) to have so many friends and family in the stands, all of whom are rooting for the Patriots.
  • I don't like the switch to soft coverage so early in the 3rd quarter.
  • Oh, Chad. You route runnin, ball droppin' fool. 100% should have had that sideline fade
  • I don't know about you - but when I think ballhawk, I think Kyle Arrington.
  • Maybe Tiquan Underwood is having trouble getting involved in the offense because he was up too late last night throwing a House Party.
  • I may need to go on a long, long rant at some point soon about why everyone needs to stop comparing the 2008 Patriots to the 2011 Colts.
  • I don't know why - but I absolutely love those Coors Light commercials with the little mini-coaches screaming at guys to stay focused when planning a party or buying food. What would I give for a pocket-sized Denny Green to accompany me to the grocery store.
  • Devin McCourty got absolutely owned on that Donald Brown stiffarm. Eek.
  • When the game is out of hand, why not use that as an opportunity to try out something new on defense and experiment with various pressures? If they give up a big play, so what? Sticking with a soft vanilla coverage can't be helping this defense get better.
  • Of course - right after I write that, Pats dialed up an overload blitz and got torched by a long Orlovsky to Garcon bomb that resulted in a TD.
  • Garcon beat Sterling Moore and Matt Slater on that play, though - so you can't feel too bad. Oh wait, yes you can! Those two are now our starting safeties! Huzzah!
  • Tom Brady, up 21 points, hit Wes Welker just shy of a first down to force a 3 and out following the Colts first touchdown of the day. He was absolutely furious with himself. I'm sick of people saying he's lost his competitive edge, and it's little moments like that that keep hope alive that the Pats still have a shot at winning a Superbowl.
  • You know what this game reminded me of? The Apollo Creed vs. Ivan Drago fight in Rocky IV. For most of the first round, the Russian just kind of stood there and let Creed land a few punches before his trainer gave him the signal to unload. And unload he did - we all know what happens next *sniff*.
  • That's right, Gronk. You keep that NFL record TD ball. Congrats.
  • LOVE the shot of Wes Welker going over to congratulate Gronkowski on his record-setting touchdown. Gronk literally bent down patted Wes on the head.
  • OR - they can call it a lateral, which for some reason doesn't make it a touchdown by a tight end. Why should it matter how he gets in the end zone!
  • I'm pleased to announce that yesterday, in an unprecedented event, an NFL game commentator opened his mouth and I actually learned something as a result. Rich Gannon explained why Tommy B slides on that surgically repaired left knee when he takes off: sliding on his left side protects his throwing arm. Makes sense to me. Thanks, Rich!
  • Nate Jones may have been a sneaky good pickup. Need to see a few more games out of him before I can make any real judgment, but I was impressed with his lateral movement and tackling ability. He also seemed to be the only member of the secondary who didn't give up a huge play.
  • Absolute circus catch by Mayo on that pick.
  • I wish they didn't keep cutting to Peyton Manning on the sidelines looking like Tony Montana forced to watch Angel get chopped up by Columbian mobsters in Scarface. It almost made me feel bad for blowing the Colts out. Almost.
  • Umm...nevermind. This isn't a blowout. This is a 1 score game. That last onside kick decided the outcome of this one.
  • Say the Colts got the ball back with about 45 seconds to play. Think they could have tied it? It honestly wouldn't have surprised me given the defensive play in the last quarter.
  • Dan Orlovsky was a pretty smart fantasy play today, to any of you who had the guts to take a gamble.
  • McCourty, I pray to Tebow you were just shaking off some rust yesterday.

I know we are going to hear a lot about how this game was nowhere near as close as the final score indicates - which is true. We are also going to hear a lot about how New England's defense came up big when it mattered and forced some key turnovers which helped to put this game out of reach - which is also true. But we are also going to hear about how Dan Orlovsky - the eight year veteran with exactly zero wins to his name - carved up this defense for 353 yards and 2 touchdowns, albeit in garbage time. And I'm none too pleased about it.

Maybe I'm being overly negative here, but I wasn't overly happy with this win, and it's all because of the 4th quarter. I feel like yesterday was a prime opportunity for the Patriots' defense to silence a lot of critics by completely shutting down a struggling Colts offense and dominating all over the field. While the defense played well, they certainly didn't do anything to put any of our collective fears at ease and simply disappeared in the 4th quarter. I'm sick of padding quarterbacks' stats with meaningless yards and points, and there's just something about Indy, Manning or no Manning, that chaps my ass enough to make me want yesterday's game to be 80-3. Instead the defense triple-bogeyed on the 18th hole and raised a bunch more questions about our 32nd ranked defense.

OK, enough bitching - it's very unbecoming. We got the W, that's all that matters, and are a virtual lock for the playoffs. Not going to linger on Indy too much with two road games coming up, one of which seems to have Jesus as his lead blocker.

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