The New England Patriots went into Lucas Oil Stadium as underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts, and emerged with a dominating 42-20 victory. Here are five things we learned from the game:
Patriots in prime position for the #1 seed. Tonight was a complete victory for the Patriots over the Indianapolis Colts. Had the Colts won, they would have created a three way tie for the #1 seed with New England and the Broncos. Instead, the Patriots' victory gives them sole possession of the number one seed at 8-2, with a one game lead over Denver. Perhaps most importantly, the win also gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Denver and Indianapolis.
The Patriots have a running game. Jonas Gray. Four touchdowns. 199 yards on 38 carries? What more needs to be said? Gray was electric tonight. He does not dance, he hits the hole with ferocity. He's a one cut runner who's best attribute is his power and leg drive. He caused a countless number of missed tackles tonight, and did not have a single negative rush in his 38 carries. And the run blocking. It was dominant. The Patriots did struggle in pass protection, but controlled the line in the running attack. The Patriots executed their wham and trap blocks to perfection, and their linemen were fantastic getting to the second level. We're officially midway through November, and the Patriots look like they know how to play playoff football.
Tom Brady is human, but still pretty darn good. Brady had been playing at an unreal level the past five games, and came back down to earth a bit in the first half against the Colts. Brady threw two interceptions, missed multiple throws, and made some questionable decisions such as an interception thrown of his back foot near the end of the first half (which led to a quick Colts touchdown). But Brady, in typical Brady fashion, responded in the second half and was nearly flawless over the last 30 minutes. He tossed a pair of touchdowns, one to each Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright. Gronkowski's catch and run, by the way, was just insane. Overall, we knew Brady wouldn't stay at his torrid pace all year, and it was nice to see him respond despite some early struggles (shaky O-line play in the first half didn't help. Sebastian Vollmer was burned by Erik Walden on several occassions. Bryan Stork also missed some blocks).
Patriots run defense can still be dominant. The Patriots run defense has not exactly been on the same level as their pass defense this year. Tonight, they were dominant in that area. Vince Wilfork was fantastic up front eating up blocks. Rob Ninkovich had quite the game setting the edge. Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower were everywhere. Chris Jones was also solid. Seriously, the stats here are crazy. Ahmad Bradshaw had 4 yards on seven carries. Trent Richardson put up a goose egg on seven runs of his own. His long was two yards. Two yards.
Patriots pass defense still holding up. Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in back-to-back weeks. 21 and 20 points allowed. The Patriots pass defense has held up against the two highest scoring offenses in the league. Darrelle Revis was dominant tonight, in various match-ups with TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne. He had a deflection that led to a Devin McCourty interception. The Patriots were very physical, they mixed in various coverage schemes, and won their man match-ups in spite of a pass rush that couldn't produce much pressure (outside of Ninkovich).