The Patriots dug themselves in a hole early on due to miscues and ultimately lost control of the game. The Colts scored on their second drive of the day and after a second straight three-and-out to start the night offensively, Jake Bailey had a punt blocked for a touchdown to put the Colts ahead 14-0.
From there on, the Patriots were forced to go off script offensively and couldn't regain control of the game defensively until it was too late. The back-breaker of the night was Mac Jones’ interception in the red zone — the first of his career — just before the half with the Patriots trailing 17-0.
Although the Patriots made it close in the end, a Jonathan Taylor touchdown iced the game with two minutes left and the Patriots fell for the first time in two months.
Now, let’s get into our winners and losers from the night.
Winner: TE Hunter Henry
Let’s start with a positive; Henry was arguably the best player on the field for the Patriots and caught six passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Henry was a mismatch all night long for the Colts defense, primarily in the red area, as he now leads all tight ends in the league with nine touchdowns on the year.
Henry helped Mac Jones and the offense come back in this one, catching a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-17 with just over two minutes left. Obviously, it wasn’t enough to get New England the win, but Henry had one of his best games in a Patriots’ uniform on Saturday night.
Loser: OT Isaiah Wynn
It was a rough night for the Patriots’ left tackle, who had been playing really good football after his return from the Covid-19 list in mid-October. Wynn struggled in pass protection and wasn’t much a factor in the Patriots stagnant running game early on either. He ran into Rhamondre Stevenson resulting in a tackle for loss and was penalized for a critical false start while the Patriots were driving in Colts territory.
Loser: CB Jalen Mills
Mills was a non-factor in the Patriots’ secondary. Although Carson Wentz did not throw the ball much, Mills was burnt on a few big plays on runs to his side. A lack of physicality against the Colts’ perimeter and second-level runs popped out. For the Patriots to be playing in the end, they will need their CB2 to be much better in the run game down the stretch.
Winner: CB J.C. Jackson
While fellow cornerback Jalen Mills had a rough outing, New England’s CB1 was outstanding yet again. J.C. Jackson covered the Colts’ number one wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr, for much of the night and did not flinch: Pittman Jr. finished with just one reception for 7 yards that came on the very first play of the day — and away from Jackson.
From that point on until his ejection in the third quarter, he was a no-show. Jackson played a big role in that and finished with three pass-breakups along the way.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
Some of you may disagree with me on this and that’s fine, but the rookie bounced back after a rough start to the game and overcame plenty of adversity. With the Patriots trailing 17-0 in the early third quarter and Jones having thrown two interceptions, he rebounded in by leading multiple scoring drives and allowing the Patriots to get back into the game.
The youngster threw for 299 yards while completing a career-high 26 passes for two touchdowns. His interception in the red zone certainly hurt the Patriots before the half, but Jones answered several questions about himself on Saturday — leading the Patriots back into striking distance despite the Colts knowing he would throw the ball.
Jones hung in there, took some big hits, and completed some big passes to put points on the board when the Patriots needed it most. If you had any answers on whether not Mac Jones can throw himself back into the game or how he would handle adversity down the stretch, you have your answers: he passed those tests on Saturday night.
Loser: FB Jakob Johnson
It was a tough night for the Patriots’ fullback as he failed to pick up a key block on the Colts’ blocked punt that was scooped up for a touchdown. Johnson allowed Matthew Adams to slip right through him and get a free run at Jake Bailey to block the kick.
The play was an uncharacteristically bad on e from one of the Patriots’ most sound players on both offense and special teams. Johnson also struggled early on in the game getting blown up on blocks and was a non-factor as the team’s lead blocker in early-down situations.
Winner: WR N’Keal Harry
N’Keal Harry had his best game in nearly three years on Saturday night and he hauled in two big catches down the stretch keep the Patriots alive.
One came on a third-down strike over the middle where he turned his body, made the catch off his back shoulder and took a big hit to give the Patriots a first down. The other was a deep shot that Jones took late in the game that led to the Hunter Henry touchdown: Harry won a 50/50 ball and came down with the catch inside the Colts’ 10-yard line for a gain of 43.
Harry was one of the bright spots for a Patriots wide receiver group that struggled with consistency. Speaking of which...
Loser: WR Jakobi Meyers
The Patriots needed Jakobi Meyers to have a big game against an opportunistic defense, but he had his fair share of issues. The third-year man suffered from a big drop early in the game when Mac Jones led him perfectly up the left sideline, but the ball tipped off his hands for a missed third-down opportunity.
Meyers also struggled in the run game and got called for a hold that negated a Jonnu Smith run to the 1-yard line late in the third quarter. An undersized receiver who tends to struggle with physical matchups, Meyers had his second game in a row that saw him overmatched in the run game at time. For the Patriots to be a contender down the stretch, they are going to need him making the must-have plays as a receiver and contributing as a blocker.
Loser: Special teams
Bill Belichick always talks about how playing well in all three phases of the game leads to victories. From the opening kick, however, it was apparent the Patriots didn't have their best as far as special teams went.
Gunner Olszewski fumbled his first punt return that, thankfully, rolled out of bounds before being recovered, followed by the blocked Jake Bailey punt t due to a missed assignment from Jakob Johnson. Bailey himself also didn't have his best night as the Patriots got killed in the field position battle and he failed to pin the Colts deep into their territory when his name was called upon.
To top it off, a penalty against Brandon King negated a missed field goal in the early third quarter and gave Indianapolis a second shot that went through the uprights.
Loser: Josh McDaniels
Josh McDaniels has been a huge reason why the Patriots turned their season around after starting out 2-4. However, on Saturday night, his plan did not work from the start.
After getting down early, the Patriots stayed committed to the ground game while averaging just over two yards a carry in the first half while Mac Jones was proving he could air it out a bit. A questionable toss play to Brandon Bolden with Darius Leonard in space negated a big drive for the Patriots when they trailed 14-0, and McDaniels then elected to roll Jones out on a crucial yet unsuccessful fourth down.
Not every call always goes your way, but McDaniels’ game plan did not work versus the Colts’ big and athletic front seven — and it took New England too long to adapt. With a hungry Buffalo team on deck itching for revenge, McDaniels will have to be on his A-game this week scheming up ways to beat a talented defense again.