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Instant analysis from Patriots’ 27-17 loss to Colts

Initial observations from Saturday night’s matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.

NFL: DEC 18 Patriots at Colts Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots returned to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since 2015, and left with a 27-17 loss against the Indianapolis Colts.

It marked the end of a streak that spanned seven straight.

Here’s a glance back on Saturday night as New England moves to 9-5 and Indianapolis moves to 8-6 in the AFC playoff picture.

New England’s rookie quarterback goes from three throws to 45

After attempting three passes against the Buffalo Bills in the wind gusts of Orchard Park, Mac Jones found himself in a climate-controlled environment. And also a raucous one. New England’s rookie quarterback went 26-of-45 through the air for 299 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions against a defense sitting atop the NFL in takeaways.

With a glove on his left hand, Jones avoided the third-and-2 pass rush on the opening drive to hit wide receiver Jakobi Meyers across the middle. A scramble to move the chains transpired on the next snap. But consecutive penalties stalled the offense at midfield before a sack by reigning first-team All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

A fellow Colts first-team All-Pro in Darius Leonard then picked off Jones with under two minutes remaining before intermission. For No. 15 overall, it would be his first interception of the season in the red zone. A diving pick by linebacker Bobby Okereke followed in the third quarter as Jones dropped back from shotgun on third-and-1 and turned to the right flat. But Jones would settle, launching 43-yard shot to wideout N’Keal Harry late in the final frame that set up a touchdown. For a moment, a deficit that had swelled 20 reduced to three.

Henry accounts for eighth, ninth scores of campaign

Through 13 games, only the Philadelphia Eagles had conceded more receptions to opposing tight ends than Indianapolis. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry looked to keep the trend going Saturday evening.

New England’s duo drew 11 targets against the Colts’ defense. Those targets became an interception as well as seven catches for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

A long of 25 took place before intermission by Henry on an inside stem that broke outside against safety Khari Willis. His eighth and ninth scores of the campaign crossed the wire in the fourth quarter, checking in as the most by a New England tight end since Rob Gronkowski’s 11 in 2015. Before then, Smith had gains of 13 and 11 yards negated by an ineligible lineman downfield and offensive holding.

Jackson limits ‘one of their go-to guys’ in Pittman

“He’s a big, strong receiver. He’s a physical guy. He’s one of their go-to guys,” Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson said of Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr. on Wednesday. “... He’s been playing pretty good the past few weeks. I mean, that’s their guy.”

The Indianapolis leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns would also be his guy to monitor. Jackson aligned in man across from Pittman on the game’s initial third down, and trailed his go route on an overthrow. It would be the third pass in a row sent the 6-foot-4, 220-pound NFL sophomore’s direction. A deflection would also reach the books.

Later helmetless and disqualified from the game along with New England safety Kyle Dugger, Pittman caught one pass for seven yards on five looks.

Collins, McCourty lend a hand on Wentz interception

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz faked the handoff and scanned the middle of the field on first-and-10 early in the fourth quarter. Few openings were found. The right hand of a waiting linebacker was.

Back into the air the football flew off of Jamie Collins. And into the grasp of decade-long Patriots safety Devin McCourty for a midfield interception it landed. A 20-7 game turned into a 20-10 game soon after.

Wentz went 5-of-12 passing for a season-low 57 yards on the night. He converted on a fourth-and-1 sneak with under five minutes to go.

NFL’s rushing leader finishes with 29 carries, walk-off touchdown

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor entered Saturday with 1,348 rushing yards, 336 receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns on the season. He entered with Next Gen Stats speeds of 21.83 and 22.05 mph. No player at the position around the league had turned more carries into gains of 20-plus yards or 40-plus yards than the Wisconsin alum.

Indianapolis opened with three consecutive passes before testing the ground with a jet sweep to wide receiver Ashton Dulin that picked up 37. Then it was Taylor’s turn on a run behind backup center Danny Pinter that picked up 11. The first of six handoffs in a row for Taylor, he proceeded to take a direct snap and act as a lead blocker for fellow back Nyheim Hines on a touchdown.

Taylor finished with 29 carries for 170 yards against a Patriots defense that shifted between a 3-4 front and a three-safety nickel. He added a resonating blitz pickup against linebacker and captain Dont’a Hightower. And then a 67-yard runaway touchdown with no timeouts left at New England’s disposal.

Third block of the season for Patriots’ punt protection

In the closing seconds of the first quarter, Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone’s unit hit home with a punt block by Matthew Adams that fellow linebacker E.J. Speed recovered in the end zone.

It would occur through fullback Jakob Johnson’s lane. It would be the third rejection of the season for punter Jake Bailey, a league high. And it would be the first for a touchdown against the Patriots in six years.

It resulted in 14-0 score.

Colts shut the windows against Stevenson-led backfield

Patriots starting running back Damien Harris would be downgraded from questionable to out on the eve of the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff due to a hamstring injury that left him limited for three consecutive practices. In the absence of his 754 yards and nine touchdowns rushing, it’d be rookie Rhamondre Stevenson taking the lead role.

“I’ve been impressed by Rhamondre’s growth,” head coach Bill Belichick had said Thursday. “He’s very coachable. When you ask him to do something, he really tries hard to do it the way that you want him to do it. He’s improved greatly in every area of the game. He’s a player that has gained a lot of trust and confidence from his teammates, certainly from the coaching staff, really in every area.”

The fourth-round selection by way of Cerritos College and Oklahoma started. But little could get going behind New England’s offensive line. Stevenson rushed for seven yards through five carries in the first quarter as Colts defenders swarmed. A patient pickup of 13 surfaced before halftime, and a fumble that his side recovered surfaced after it. Stevenson wound up with 36 yards on 10 tries. Veteran Brandon Bolden and standard elevation Devine Ozigbo also were active for the backfield.