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Instant analysis from Patriots’ 26-3 win over Colts

Initial observations from Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium.

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

As the clocks moved back on Sunday, the New England Patriots moved forward with a 26-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Head coach Bill Belichick’s side now stands with a 5-4 record heading into the bye week.

Here’s a glance through the 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium that got them there.

Mac snaps interception streak

The opening drives both ended in three-and-outs. The next brought a first down and also a punt. But on a November afternoon that more closely resembled September, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones just got warm enough.

In temperatures north of 70 degrees, the sophomore starter completed 20-of-30 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown against the Colts. A chipped screen to tight end Jonnu Smith gained 24 yards and set up one of four converted field goals by kicker Nick Folk. Later arrived tight end Hunter Henry down the seam for 30 yards.

No interceptions arrived in the process. Jones had thrown a pick in each of his five appearances this campaign as well as the final appearance of last campaign. That streak is now in the rearview.

A rearranged New England offensive line met with familiar problems

The Patriots moved offensive tackle Marcus Cannon to injured reserve on Saturday after he had been ruled out on the final injury report due to a concussion. The three-time Super Bowl champion had started four games in a row. And his absence from the line wasn’t the only one. Center and captain David Andrews also remained unavailable while in the NFL’s protocols.

Amid the attrition, New England started Trent Brown at left tackle, Cole Strange at left guard, James Ferentz at center, Mike Onwenu at right guard and the recently activated Yodny Cajuste at right tackle versus Indianapolis. And 2018 top pick Isaiah Wynn rotated in for the 2022 top pick on the interior while both were the subject of penalties and pressures.

Four sacks were in the cards after No. 10 took a career-high six the previous week. Those began with veterans DeForest Buckner, Yannick Ngakoue and Zaire Franklin and continued with the young Kwity Paye and Julian Blackmon.

Starting Stevenson logs 70 scrimmage yards, touchdown

The illness that kept Damien Harris sidelined for two practices and limited for another brought him to the inactives list 90 minutes prior to kickoff. But with or without the starting title, Rhamondre Stevenson continued to play the role of an every-down Patriots running back.

The No. 120 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft entered Sunday having already surpassed his rookie total in scrimmage yards. He stood one touch and one touchdown from tying his previous, too.

Stevenson would amass 15 carries for 60 yards, three catches for 10 yards and a one-handed trip to the end zone versus a stout Colts front. And that was after having his first pair of runs net a loss of seven yards. Stevenson rumbled for a long of 16 up the middle. He was joined by Saturday 53-man roster signing J.J. Taylor, who fought for 17 yards as the change of pace and fell on a teammate’s fumble.

Under duress, Ehlinger throws for 103 yards with pick-six

Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger made his first NFL start in place of Matt Ryan last week at Lucas Oil Stadium. The 2021 sixth-round draft choice found himself in Foxborough for his next.

Ehlinger went 15-of-29 through the air for 103 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown. On the ground, where his mobility had drawn praise from New England players, the Texas Longhorns product added 39 rushing yards across a handful of scrambles.

Cornerback Jalen Mills swatted a third-down pass intended for rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce to curtail the initial series. It was a sign of things to come. Indianapolis did not convert a first down without yellow flags until five minutes to go before halftime. And by halftime, only a missed field goal by kicker Chase McLaughlin was there to show for 64 yards of offense and five sacks.

No. 9 up to 11.5 sacks on an eventful Sunday for New England’s front

New England hit home on Ehlinger for nine sacks altogether on Sunday. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon got there first on a tackle-end stunt. He got there second on another on third down. And he got there once more in the third quarter to force a field goal.

The back-to-back-to-back Pro Bowler from Grand Valley State now stands with 11.5 sacks through nine games this fall. He set a career high with 12.5 sacks last season.

Additional takedowns came courtesy of Jahlani Tavai, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Josh Uche’s hat trick of his own. Defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale had a sack negated by a penalty for roughing the passer, as well.

Colts’ backfield averages 2.5 yards per carry without 2021 first-team All-Pro

When the Patriots crossed paths with the Colts last December, running back Jonathan Taylor ran 29 times for 170 yards and one touchdown. The defense wouldn’t have to revisit the reigning first-team All-Pro on Sunday because of a lingering ankle injury.

In his stead, Deon Jackson drew the start for Indianapolis and finished with 23 rushing yards through 11 handoffs. Phillip Lindsay and Jordan Wilkins also spelled into the backfield as elevations from the practice squad.

But a stagnant 2.5 yards per carry with minimal motion became the outcome against a New England unit that conceded 49 rushing yards to the New York Jets’ running backs on Halloween eve.

A Parker-less Patriots wideout room fumbles twice

There would be no DeVante Parker on the field for New England. The knee injury he sustained one snap in last Sunday saw him ruled out. And in place of the April trade acquisition from the Miami Dolphins, rookie second-rounder Tyquan Thornton drew the start at wide receiver over Nelson Agholor.

He did so next to Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne, who both factored in as rushers and fumblers on punch-outs.

Also debuting in the slot was as a standard elevation from the practice squad: 2019 Paul Hornung Award winner Lynn Bowden Jr. But an Indianapolis secondary featuring the past Patriots likes of Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore II allowed a combined nine catches to the wideouts through 14 targets.

Joneses shift the field on special teams and defense

Marcus Jones entered Sunday having averaged an even 14 yards per punt return and 23.7 yards per kick return. There would be more where that came from for the third-round cornerback by way of Troy and Houston.

The rookie broke free down the sideline for 23 yards in the second quarter on a punt from the Colts’ Matt Haack that traveled 38 yards. He later broke free for 31 yards in the third quarter on a kickoff.

In between, an opportunity back deep did not surface as scheduled. Another Patriots cornerback with the same last name was the reason. Jonathan Jones blocked the punt and undrafted safety Brenden Schooler was there to recover it. Complementary points ensued. They wouldn’t be the last, either. A pick-six from the latter Jones gave New England a 26-3 lead in the final minutes from 16 yards away.