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Week 11 Patriots vs Colts: Defend the Home Run or the Double

How much do the Colts actually rely on the big play?

Jeff Zelevansky

In my breakdown of the Colts, I noted that they relied heavily on the home run play. I stated that the Patriots needed to keep Devin McCourty back to prevent receiver T.Y. Hilton from breaking down the field and picking up the big play. As frequently noted, the Patriots are #1 in the league in allowing passing plays of 40+ yards- just one all season- so it would seem as if the Patriots match up well.

But is this a fair evaluation of the Colts? I decided to look at how the Colts moved the ball down the field.

Indianapolis has seven passing plays of 40+ yards, which ties the Patriots for 9th best in the league- a seemingly low(ish) ranking for a team reliant on the big play. As a note, the Colts rank 5th worst in the league with 9 plays allowed of 40+ yards. Hilton has four such plays.

When looking at 30+ yard plays, the Colts have 18, which ranks fourth behind the Broncos, the Steelers, and Washington, all with 19. The Patriots are tied for 18th with just 10 plays of 30+ yards. On defense, the Patriots rank 7th while allowing 8 plays of 30+ yards, compared to the Colts 24th ranked defense (14 plays allowed). Hilton ties for the league lead with 10 plays for 30+ yards. The tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener combine for five more.

The Colts lead the league with 48 passes for 20+ yards, a large margin ahead of the second ranked Broncos (40). The Patriots ranks 21st with 28 plays. Defensively, both Indy and New England have allowed 31 plays for 20+ yards, a tie for 16th place. Hilton has 15 plays, sandwiched between Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Reggie Wayne has eight and the two tight ends combine for 13.

Perhaps there's a need for a change in narrative. It seems the Colts are more likely to do damange with mid-depth passes, where they can get all their receiving weapons involved, instead of deep throws with just Hilton. Sure, they'll take a deep shot or two to keep the Patriots defense honest. But it looks like the most effective action plan for the Colts would be to utilize the 20-30 yard passing patterns.