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Comment and Analysis: Patriots 20, Colts 27 (Week 9)

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Patriots Should Have Kept Running
Coaches Forgot Lessons Learned in Minnesota

Not everyone agrees with my analysis of Sunday Night's game, particularly my assertion that the blueprint was flawed.

If you ask me (which you did when you clicked on that little blue link), the ball never should have been in the air on that deep pass on the Patriots first offensive series. New England was doing exactly what most of us thought they would -- what we thought they should -- ramming the ball right down Indy's throat. And they should have kept it on the ground. Period.

That should be evident by anyone who saw last Monday Night's game against the Vikings. The coaches should have doubly understood. The first half game plan in Minnesota worked perfectly. The coaches and team stuck with it in the second half and dared the Vikings to stop them. The result was a complete victory.

Why diverge from a game plan that is working?

Several co-hosts of the afternoon program The Big Show (among others) voraciously defended the second half's abrupt change in strategic philosophy. It sounded a little like the elections: "Change for the sake of change -- not because we have better ideas, but just because we don't think things were working as well as they should."

No voice that I heard suggested any alternatives. They just told anyone who said New England should have kept running was wrong. As a result, I lost a good deal of respect for the the few personalities on The Big Show on WEEI that seemed to know anything, especially Steve DeOssie.

New England Patriots running back Corey Dillon met some
resistance from the Colts defense in the third quarter Sunday,
but that was no reason to significantly alter the game plan.

Photo Courtesy: NFL.com

"How many times did they run the ball?" Steve DeOssie asked. "What's their average runs per game?" he asked. DeOssie said that New England ran the ball 33 times against Indy, and that's 1.5 times more than their seaon average.

Wow. Great point, Steve. Of course, that's wrong.

After the Minnesota game (because you don't count the average of the game you're playing) it was 31.1. And, if you discount the Minnesota game, because they were playing against the league's No. 1 rushing defense and passed the ball an astonishing 74 percent of the time, the season average is 33.8. And, if you further subtract the Denver game, because they had a phenomenal rushing defense, too, and New England passed the ball 72.4 percent of the time, the season average is 36.4.

Sunday, New England was facing the worst rushing defense in the NFL in 45 years, a defense that was allowing 5.4 yards per carry. In response, New England rushed the ball 33 times and threw it 35. They threw more than they ran. In two games earlier in the season, they passed three times more than they ran. This time, why didn't they run three times more than they threw? The way DeOssie was playing with numbers, he sounded like a car salesman.

DeOssie or Fred Smerlas or some idiot asked, "Do you think the five turnovers had anything to do with it [the loss]?"

Yes. Yes, I do. Four of those turnovers were interceptions. Dare I, if I may, suggest that if they had run the ball instead of Brady Bledsoe-ing a ball into triple coverage in the end zone to end the first drive that it probably wouldn't have been intercepted. If they ran the ball the other three times the ball was tipped, it probably wouldn't have been intercepted. And, Dillon, Maroney and Faulk probably would not have combined for five fumbles.

"Would running the ball 15 more times make a difference?" DeOssie asked.

Well, four more times would have been four fewer interceptions.

Several co-hosts noted that Indy brought up safety Bob Sanders to the line in the second half, and he was making all the tackles (8 solo, 3 assists, but he had only 2 solo and 2 assists in the second half -- either way, hardly "all of them").

Dillon celebrates his second quarter touchdown with
teammates Ben Watson (84) and Matt Light (72).

Photo Courtesy: NFL.com

Even were this gross over-exaggeration accurate, are they implying the Colts never brought up the safety in their previous seven games and just let those other teams run roughshod over them, and they just saved this little nugget for New England? And even if that were the case, are you saying that the Patriots powerful rushing attack was utterly stymied by this simple adjustment? They couldn't come up with anything better to overcome it than a complete change in game plan to pass-centricity?

DeOssie or Smerlas asked, "So what are you supposed to do? Just keep beating your head against the wall?"

No, you're supposed to pound them into submission. Isn't that what you guys said all week before the game? What happened to "wearing down the defense"?

Also:
1. I also wouldn't call a 4.5 yard per carry average "beating your head against the wall."
2. Brady's stats were worse in the second half (lower completion percentage, fewer receivers). Isn't sticking with that more like "beating your head against the wall"?
3. The rushing averages were better.
4. Yes, turnovers killed them. Four of those were passing the ball, and the one fumble was questionable at best. What is the incentive to pass more?

The running game was clearly more successful than the passing game. Yet, the team passed the ball more in the second half. The Big Show's argument is untenable.

Looks like they call their little weekly pick'em competition "Beat the Frauds" for a reason.

Here are the Colts defensive stats on the season and the Pats offensive stats. Following that are New England's offensive stats for Sunday night. Draw your own conclusions.

Stats for Indy's defense:

Team Carries Yards Avg Att-Comp Yards
Giants 28 186 6.6 20-34 247
Texans 23 108 5.6 22-26 191
Jaguars 40 191 4.3 16-28 106
Jets 37 135 3.6 17-23 186
Titans 31 214 6.9 10-21 63
Redskins 24 114 4.8 27-37 221
Broncos 36 227 6.3 13-21 169
Patriots 33 148 4.5 20-35 201

Stats for New England's offense:

Team Carries Yards Avg Att-Comp Yards
Bills 41 183 4.5 11-23 136
Jets 39 147 3.8 15-29 211
Broncos 21 50 3.8 31-55 320
Bengals 41 236 5.8 15-26 188
Dolphins 34 79 2.3 16-29 134
Bills 27 94 3.5 18-27 171
Vikings 15 85 5.7 29-43 345
Colts 33 148 4.5 20-35 201

1st half:
Brady: 12-17 (70.6 pct.), 130 yards, 2 INT, 7 receivers
Maroney: 9 carries, 44 yards
Dillon: 9 carries, 37 yards
Combined: 18 carries, 81 yards (4.5 avg.)
Patriots total rushing: 22 carries, 97 yards (4.4 avg.)
Play breakdown: 22 rushes, 17 passes.

2nd half:
Brady: 8 of 18 (44.4 pct.), 71 yards, 2 INT, 5 receivers
Maroney: 4 carries, 19 yards
Dillon: 4 carries, 11 yards
Patriots total rushing: 11 carries, 51 yards (4.6 avg.)
Play breakdown: 11 rushes, 18 passes.

Poll

In Monday Night's game vs. Indy, the Patriots ...

This poll is closed

  • 100%
    ... blew it. They should have kept running.
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    ... did the right thing, but didn't play well enough.
    (0 votes)
6 votes total Vote Now