The Indianapolis Colts made it interesting at the start of the fourth quarter, but the New England Patriots responded to come away with the 38-24 victory and move on to a 3-2 record through five weeks.
Here’s what we learned.
Tom Brady is back, but he has terrible luck
Did he ever really leave? Or did the return of Julian Edelman just allow Brady to elevate his game another level? Brady completed 77.3% of his passes for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns, as he completed passes to eight different receivers, with two gaining 70+ and another two gaining 50+. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Brady was in complete command of the offense as even his two interceptions weren’t his fault; both Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski had passes in their hands that they flipped over to Colts defenders as they turned up the field. They count as interceptions even though they were both entirely the fault of the receiver.
Brady now has six interceptions on the year, including two in back-to-back weeks. This is some bad luck for Brady.
Sony Michel is the real deal
Michel finished the day with 98 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown and 12 receiving yards. He had 112 rushing yards and a touchdown last week. This means that Michel has cracked 110 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back weeks. He ran with power and finesse and patience athleticism in the open field.
Michel isn’t perfect. He seems to struggle in short-yardage situations and has his legs swept out from underneath him on runs to the outside. But he’s improved every week he’s been on the field and he looks to be a perfect complement to the Patriots passing game.
Let’s talk about the Patriots receiving corps
James White led the team with 10 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski had 6 catches for 75 yards. Julian Edelman had 7 catches for 57 yards. Josh Gordon had 2 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Chris Hogan had 3 catches for 34 yards. Phillip Dorsett had 3 catches for 25 yards. Michel had 1 catch for 12 yards. Cordarrelle Patterson had 2 catches for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Count it- seven players had multiple catches on the day. Four players surpassed 50 yards. Of those four players, none were the primary receivers for Tom Brady over the first quarter of the season- Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson. The Patriots improved their receiving corps with the return of Edelman and introduction of Gordon. This is a whole new offense.
The Patriots cornerback trio is great
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, and Jonathan Jones were stellar all game against the Colts. Sure, Chester Rogers had 66 yards on the day and Ryan Grant had 58 yards, but that’s a pretty great day in the office for the Patriots cornerbacks. Most of the Colts damage came from the tights ends over the linebackers and safeties- tight ends Eric Ebron and Erik Swoope combined for had 149 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The cornerback trio did a great job of tackling in the open field and deflecting passes and I have to think they’ll start recording more interceptions as the season wears on. They’re thisclose.
The question now is what do you do with Eric Rowe when he returns from his groin injury? Hmm...
Devin McCourty needs to break his slump
The Colts picked on McCourty and they’re not the first team to take on this strategy. McCourty is good with the ball and receiver in front of him and as the deep safety, but teams have exploited McCourty’s in ability to react and cover in routes. This isn’t necessarily indicative of a decline in McCourty’s ability, so much as how he’s being used by the Patriots defense.
McCourty’s role on the defense changed last year as Duron Harmon started to play more as the deep safety. As Patrick Chung spent more time in the slot, McCourty played more “strong safety” and that causes him to match up against tight ends more often than in previous years. Teams are happy to take on this match-up.
With the ability of Jones as a slot corner, perhaps the Patriots can drop Chung back to strong safety and McCourty to his typical single-high free safety position to put him in the best position to succeed.
As for my previous “hmm...” the Patriots could also consider adding Eric Rowe to the safety room because he was considered an option at the position coming out in the draft. It’d certainly be one way to get Rowe back on the field.
The Patriots have a winning record
And there we go. The Patriots have a 3-2 record and if the Cincinnati Bengals defeat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday (the game is in Cincinnati), then New England will be back in first place of the AFC East. Just like we expected.
And, honestly, I think most people thought the Patriots would have a tough time on the road against the Jaguars, so New England isn’t too far off pace.
The Patriots have a huge challenge next week as they host the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Can the Patriots move on to 4-2? New England will benefit from the extra days of rest- with attention on Rob Gronkowski and his ankle- and they should be able to go toe-to-toe with Kansas City.
Just like we expected.