1. Dan Orlovsky - Well that was interesting. After Orlovsky opened up the game and led an extended drive for a field goal, it appeared as if the game might be a dogfight. Then, for the next two quarters, the Colts did absolutely nothing with the ball. Finally, Orlovsky tore apart the Patriots defense in the 4th quarter. I said, "Hopefully the Patriots can put up another defensive outing like against Palko and the Chiefs, instead of Young and the Eagles." Well, this was exactly the same style of game as the one against the Eagles. The defense started slowly, built up some great momentum and stifled the opposition, only to let down their guard in the final quarter. Loss for the Patriots.
2. Five Targets - Deion Branch. Wes Welker. Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Hernandez. Only four players caught balls from Tom Brady against the Eagles. Those same four players caught the majority of the passes from Tom Brady against the Colts. However, Kevin Faulk, Chad Ochocinco and Tiquan Underwood combined for 3 receptions and 35 yards, which is great production from a 5th threat. The return of Hernandez to the offense has opened up plenty of room underneath for Welker and Branch and Gronkowski continues to thrive. So long as other players on the team can combine to provide additional output for the Patriots offense, this team has a big chance of succeeding in the playoffs. Win for the Patriots.
3. Pass Rush - Andre Carter was stuffed by Anthony Castonzo for the majority of the game, while almost every other defensive end couldn't generate any sort of pressure. However, Rob Ninkovich continues to grow as a player and the Patriots managed to generate a lot of pressure up the middle. In fact, I feel like the Patriots knew the Colts were weakest in their interior and wanted their defensive tackles (Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick especially) to generate pressure and flush Orlovsky out of the pocket and force him to throw on the run. As a result, the defensive ends played a Wilfork-esque contain role to prevent scrambling and to disrupt potential outlet throws. Still, that's just a guess and not actual fact. Half a win for the Patriots.
4. Practice Makes Perfect - So this absolutely happened. Underwood ran a few routes. Ridley carried the ball. A whole plethora of defensive players were given chances to show their skills against a desperate team. The younger and more inexperienced players received a lot of playing time, which is definitely a positive with respect to their growth. However, the defensive back-ups were throttled. Absolutely dominated. So I'm not sure whether this is a total good or bad thing. Half a win for the Patriots.
5. Offensive Line - I was pleasantly surprised by the offensive line. Matt Light looked like he was struggling against Dwight Freeney and Nate Solder had difficultly against everyone and was consistently pushed back into the pocket. However, beyond the tackles, the interior line played very well in pass protection. However, the Patriots struggled to generate any sort of run game, even with the Colts defense back on their heels. Nick McDonald gets a gold star for his performance. Half a win for the Patriots.
The Patriots were clearly a better team, but the 2.5/5 score represents the game fairly well. The Patriots struggled in the first and fourth quarters, while they dominated the second and third. Sounds about right.
On to the Redskins!