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Patriots vs. Colts: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 42-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Joe Robbins

Usually when you say that a Week 11 matchup on the road when you have a two game lead in your division is a must-win game, you're easily dismissed as one of the no-name nutjobs who doesn't know anything about how the NFL works and lets his unyielding pessimism get the better of him when talking football. And in most cases, that dismissal is deserved. However, make no mistake: last night's game against the Indianapolis Colts was as close to a must-win game for the New England Patriots as it got. A loss on the road last night would not only have raised serious questions about the viability of this team away from Foxboro, but it also would have created an absolute mess of a tie for first place in the AFC in which New England lost a few tiebreakers and were no longer in control of maintaining homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

However, losing simply wasn't in the cards last night, as New England turned in an absolutely dominant performance on both sides of the ball. Even when Brady wasn't at his best, this team was able to move the ball well, limit the big play, and get it done. At no point was this one in doubt, and as we sit here this morning, we all root for the best team in the NFL that is just a few weeks away from clinching a playoff spot.

  • I completely lost track of the number of times I was reminded that Tommy B has never won a game at Lucas Oil Stadium. The last I heard of it was from Tony Dungy just before a draft blew through NBC studios, caught his ears, and swept him away.
  • Coming into this game, I was confident that the Patriots would win, but I thought it was going to be an absolute shootout in which neither punter saw much action. But the Pats D clearly had other intentions. Holding Indy to a three and out on the opening possession of the game set a tone that was never relinquished.
  • It may just be my booze-addled memory letting me down once again, but I remember it being a lot louder in Indianapolis in games past. Maybe it's because they stopped pumping in crowd noise, or maybe Andrew Luck's forehead doesn't have the reverberation power that his predecessor's had.
  • But how about that absolute silence from the Indy crowd when the Colts are out there? That's amazing. It was almost as quiet as Gillette Stadium when the opposing team is facing a 3rd and short.
  • Why is there ALWAYS a flag when the Patriots return a punt? And on the rare occasions that there aren't one, you can make a case that there should have been one. You figure that would be a point of emphasis in practice, seeing as someone draws a holding or illegal block flag every game.
  • I always thought that Darius Butler never got a fair shake during his tenure in New England. That may just be my UConn bias talking, but I always liked what he brought to the table, and glad to see him doing well in the NFL. He's a good fit in Indy.
  • How are you feeling this morning if you're Mike Adams? On one hand, you picked off Tom Brady twice, one of which came at the end of the half to set your team up for a crucial score. On the other hand, you got absolutely worked up and down the field by New England for most of the game and are now on several highlight reels titled "how to blow up a DB on an end around" and "why you just need to get the hell out of Gronk's way when he has the football."
  • You can make several arguments as to why Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL - his hands, his route running ability, his football IQ, the mismatches he creates - and they would all be quite legitimate. But all you'd really need to do is look at Gronk's game last night as a blocking tight end to really hammer that point home. New England chose to establish the run early and often by bringing in an extra lineman and keeping both tight ends close to the line, and the results are hard to ignore. But what makes Gronkowski so exceptional is that he's able to generate multiple blocks per run and makes extremely wise decisions on who to send into the stratosphere.
  • Great example: on 1st and 10 at the Indy, 29, New England ran an end around to Julian Edelman for 25 yard to set up a 1st and goal at the 4. Gronk's initial assignment was Jonathan Newsome, but he was able to read that Newsome wouldn't be able to get to Edelman based on the angle he took and thus ignored him in order to sprint into the secondary and turn Adams into his own personal blocking sled. That's the kind of vision you don't see from a lot of other guys.
  • While I'm on the subject of that drive: 89 yards in 4 minutes where the run game dominated immediately after you force a three and out. That's exactly the kind of drive that keeps a crowd quiet.
  • The star of that drive - and of course the night - was practice squad journeyman Jonas Gray. He had more carries, yards, and touchdowns last night than he has had in his entire career, and personally outscored every other running back in the league combined last night.
  • That said, I don't think we're going to see that kind of performance on a weekly basis. Indy is particularly weak against runs up the middle, and there was a very specific gameplan in place. But if this is a taste of what we're going to be able to see when it starts to get cold...well, take it away, Stimpy
  • Those of us who were around when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl in 2001 will remember Antowain Smith - a big, no-nonsense back who could grind out yards behind a solid offensive line. Jonas Gray kind of reminds me of him.
  • I went back and forth for about an hour trying to figure out whether or not making a joke about how happy I was to finally have a Jonas Brother I could root for could be incorrectly and needlessly construed as racist by those on the internet who are offended by everything, but then I decided I can't just roll over for everyone who gets mad whenever their own personal opinions aren't the same as everyone else's. So...I'm happy to have a Jonas Brother that I root for.
  • I also know there's a 50 Shades of Gray joke to be made here - something along the lines of 200 Yards of Gray or something like that - but the sooner we can all forget that that book exists, the better our chances of surviving as a species.
  • Indy, on the other hand, rushed the ball 14 times for 4 yards. 4 YARDS. The third overall pick in the 2012 draft gained a whopping zero yards on the ground, which once again serves to prove that you never draft a running back  not named Adrian Peterson in the first round. Ever.
  • One negative from last night's game was that New England had a tough time generating edge pressure and missed Chandler Jones. Deonte Skinner seemed to be the go-to guy in Jones's spot, and he was more or less outmatched.
  • Decent game from Rob Ninkovich, though, albeit a relatively quiet one. Relentless and steady, much like the aftermath of last night's decision to have that seventh slice of pizza.
  • I know that it was supposed to be a joke, but the old man who is mad that his Nest Thermostat is self-controlled has a pretty solid point. We all know it's just a matter of time until the internet turns on us, and we're all going to be too fat, lazy, and out of shape to do anything about it.
  • You know what was awesome? That NFL story about the couple who fell in love over the Indianapolis Colts and got to meet Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne and the woman was crying over how special a moment it was for her. Now that I don't hate the Colts anymore, it's very easy to see what a class organization they are - in spite of Mr. Irsay.
  • Something else that sucks about a primetime game - during the commercials, you can't change the channel and watch another game. Last night made me wonder how in the hell I spent the bulk of my life simply sitting there waiting for the commercials to be over so I could keep watching my show.
  • It's rare that I get to spin a sub-par Tom Brady performance into a positive, but here I find myself. There aren't enough gas station air fresheners in existence to mask the stench that wafted off Tommy B's first half. He was only slightly more accurate than me when I get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, and both of his interceptions came on poor decisions. I'd be willing to give him a pass for his first pick because of the pressure (but even then, he was throwing into triple coverage), but his second pick of the night was absolutely inexcusable. The running game is unstoppable, so he audibles out of it and throws a back foot floater off his back foot as he's falling down. You aren't Eli Manning, Tommy; the rest of us need to keep our eyes open when we throw it up there.
  • What's nice, though, is that he was able to shake off the fact that he singlehandedly kept Indy in it for half the game and come out to play efficient football to start the third. On a night where he wasn't asked to do much, he still left the locker room with the zip and accuracy that he's known for. A few key conversions to Brandon LaFell in particular stand out.
  • How can you not like Andrew Luck? It's nice to genuinely root for another great quarterback.
  • That said, I like him a lot better when he's throwing interceptions.
  • So, so glad they called a TV timeout right after the Colts' last punt of the 1st half, about 10 seconds before the 2 minute warning. The number of one play/commercial/one play/commercial sandwiches last night had me going on a bit of a streak of my own to match the one Adam Vinatieri is currently one (love you, good man).
  • So Santa Claus makes cars in his workshop, right? How come he only makes luxury cars? I mean I know that there aren't too many people asking for a Sebring for Christmas, but there have to be a few of those requests, no?
  • For a team that ends halves as well as the Patriots do, you can't get much worse than how this half ended. On the flip side, you can't have a much better start to the 2nd half.
  • Dan Connolly blocking like a man possessed and Tim Wright catching touchdowns. If only that arrogant jerk Bill Belichick hadn't thoughtlessly jettisoned Logan Mankins...
  • I know that as the rules go, the call was 100% correct, and so I can't get upset...but I just can't for the life of me understand how a kickoff can be out of the end zone, get touched by a player, bounce back into the end zone, and still be a touchback when someone falls on it.
  • I imagine Pagano will be getting criticized for going for it on 4th and 10 down two scores with all their timeouts and over eight minutes to play, but when the Patriots are moving the ball the way that they were, I fully support that decision. Belichick embraced a similar mindset a few years ago, with similar results.
  • What the hell am I supposed to write about on the Gronk TD? Should I talk about the route to get himself into the flat? The way he cut back to both stay in bounds and shake off D'Qwell Jackson? How he just shrugged off Adams before Adams got absolutely decapitated by Julian Edelman? Running straight through Greg Toter? Leaping over Butler and Vontae Davis on his way into the end zone? The ensuing spike that is still lodged somewhere in the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium? That goofy, I-just-found-a-lollipop-under-the-car-seat grin afterward? I'll just go ahead and say "yes to the the above."
  • That now makes two weeks in a row (not including the bye week) where Gronk has made an absurd highlight reel play that left me sitting in my recliner just giggling in disbelief and unsure what the hell I was supposed to do. Kind of like the first time I saw Showgirls.
  • Chris Collinsworth did a fair amount of gushing over Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower last night, and for once I agree with him. Phenomenal games both from the young linebackers. Collins was all over the ball, and Hightower was all over the line of scrimmage. I don't think he has gotten enough credit for how seamlessly he stepped in for the defensive captain and quarterback of the defense.
  • As for the game ball, though, it goes to the offensive line. Any time a back rushes for 199 and 4, you need to make sure the line gets the credit it deserves.
  • At the same time, though - oh come on! You can't let Gray dive for one more yard? What are you kneeling on it for?
  • You know what's crazy? The Patriots have played a very tough stretch of opponents over these last few games, and the only one that was even close was a home game against the Jets.
  • 3-0 against Indy in the last three meetings, 144-66 in that stretch.

Monster, monster win. Not only did this one have huge playoff implications, but it was a much needed momentum builder for the upcoming slate of games. The Lions, Packers, Chargers, and Dolphins are all going to present a challenge, and it's great to go into all of those games with the concrete knowledge that this team can compete with anyone in the league.