It wasn’t that long ago, for me at least, that Saturday nights were for going out, staying out, and not going to bed until the wee hours of Sunday morning. More recently (pandemic aside), Saturday nights have kind of transitioned into maybe going out to dinner, having a few pops at home, and getting a good night’s sleep. My transition into middle age has been nothing short of completely generic and wildly unspectacular.
But I will say that in my personal opinion I could do without spending my Saturdays watching the New England Patriots stink up the joint for three straight quarters against a team that was 100 percent treating the game like it was the playoffs. They almost managed to force overtime, but at the end of the day the team that played more consistently took it home and there’s not much else to do now but move on.
- I’m not going to lie to you all; yours truly tucked into the adult beverages on Saturday afternoon and somehow forgot to stop, so by the time the game rolled around I wasn’t really in any condition to break this game down in any way that even remotely makes sense. I may go back and rewatch it at some point this week, but rather than make you all wait for that, prepare for some Fan Notes that are going to make even less sense than they usually do.
- It seems that, every year, the Patriots play a game like this. They come out flat, they commit stupid penalties, they miss assignments, they find themselves in a hole, and by the time they wake up and start to get it together, it’s too late. Three quarters of this game was an absolute mess for New England, coupled with an extremely fired up Indianapolis Colts team that really, really wanted this, has us where we are today.
- The good news is that it’s not like we need to go too deep into film study to figure out what went wrong here. Boneheaded penalties. Missed assignments. Poor blocking. Bad angles. A few throws that Mac Jones shouldn’t have made. Questionable play calling. All combined into one big level of suck.
- More good news is that the Patriots aren’t likely to duplicate that kind of performance again. it was just a dud of a game. That’s not to take away from what the Colts did to take advantage of that; the “they didn’t win it, we just lost it” narrative is tired and whiny. But I can’t see a scenario where we see New England lose a total of fifteen yards on three consecutive plays followed by a blocked punt for a touchdown that more or less set the tone for the rest of the game. More aberration than anything else.
- I will say, though: it’s something of a universal truth that New England is going to struggle against teams with a dominant running back. They have for years. They usually counter that weakness by playing aggressively on offense and building up a lead so as to neutralize the rushing attack, but when you’re down 17-0 at halftime that doesn’t really fall into the plan. We’ve witnessed games like this in the past. The 2009 Wild Card playoffs come to mind. The 2019 WC game against the Titans as well. A number of games this year, even. All the more reason to play their game and limit these mistakes.
- The good news is, even though pretty much nothing went right for this team from the start, there was no quit in them. They hung in there right until the end and were pretty damn close to forcing overtime — at which point I think they actually win it.
- The first stat that flashed across the screen as this game kicked off was that the Patriots had won eight straight since the Colts and Indy hasn’t taken a game since 2009. 18-2 against players with 1K rushing yards. So you just knew that the end result would be what we all witnessed on Saturday night. It’s been a while since that kind of jinx hit home.
- I had a lot of “so and so played his worst game of the season” notes taken, but eventually decided to delete them all. Just going to give the entire team a collective kick in the pants, send them on their way, and that’s going to be that.
- I remember the very early days of John Madden Football — this was maybe ‘92 or ‘93 — when I would decide to have some fun every once in awhile by playing with the All Madden squad against the absolute worst team in the game: The New England Patriots. It was never about winning games when I played this particular game; just wanted to see how badly I could beat up my favorite team, usually as some kind of odd revenge for letting me down that Sunday. I had two plays I ran with the All-Madden Team, HB Toss Left and HB Off-Tackle. I usually just alternated back and forth between the two, gaining eight or nine yards at a clip, until I was up 35-0 and got bored. I got a very strong All-Madden vibe from the early Colts in this game.
- And yes, Colts fans reading this, how you feel this week is exactly how we felt after that Jonas Gray game a few years back.
- On the opposite side of the ball, there was this absolutely absurd Playstation game called NFL Blitz I played a lot in the late 90s. It was one of the most unrealistic football games ever created, but it was a lot of fun. One of the play calls — I don’t remember which one — just sent the entire defense after the quarterback and unless he got the ball out right away, it would be a massive loss. Definitely got some vibes from that game too watching Indy send extra rushers on almost every down.
- To that end, a few good things came out of this game, the most obvious being learning experience for Mac Jones. I feel like Jones made more strides on Saturday night in developing his pocket presence than he has all season, mostly out of necessity. And some of the throws he made were well beyond his rookie status. He led a pretty fierce comeback and as I mentioned, I feel like the Pats win this in OT if it wasn’t for that TD run to seal it. There were some bad throws and decisions in there, but those bad throws were also coupled with great defensive play, and so I wouldn’t call anything he did a classic boneheaded rookie move.
- The players didn’t bring it, and honestly neither did the coaches. The Patriots spent about half of this game trying to play the same kind of bully ball that they played against the Bills a few weeks ago, even as the Colts continuously brought extra rushers and won the battle at the line. By the time they finally adjusted, the game was already over. And why they ever thought tosses against a front line this fast was a good idea, I will never know.
- Whatever becomes of the 2021 season, we’re going to be able to point to just a small handful of plays as we wonder if just one or two of them went the opposite way. Damien Harris’s goal line fumble Week 1. Going for the long field goal against the Bucs. Stopping that Taylor run to set up 3rd-and-6 with two minutes to play. It’s ultimately a futile exercise, one that almost any team can do, and there’s no sense in going too far down that path. But honestly, that I’m even able to say that this year shows just how much progress there has been in such a short amount of time.
- I was glad to see the NFL get back to their old habit of ensuring we don’t get to watch more than five straight plays without going to commercial break. I was worried for a second that they had come to their senses.
- Good for Indy playing the way that they did, sincerely. When you need to keep your foot on the gas to maintain your playoff hopes and there’s a team coming to your house that you haven’t beaten in over a decade, you bring the kind of energy we saw on Saturday. It’s never fun to be on the ass end of something like that, but it happens. Guess I now have no choice other than to completely forget about the Indianapolis Colts until the Patriots play them again, either later this season or in a few years.
I hope everyone has an amazing holiday, and may this article find a lot of you already done with work or school for the year. All I know is that if somebody told me in August that a late December loss would cost the Patriots an inside track at the #1 overall seed while still lining them up very well to win the division, I would have considered that a massive bonus on the season. So I think I’ll continue perceiving how far this team has come in a such a short time in a positive light.