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Patriots vs. Colts: Fan Notes from the Game

Related: 10 takeaways from the Patriots’ win over the Colts

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots got their second win in a row yesterday against a struggling Indianapolis Colts team, build some nice momentum heading into the bye, and are dead last in the AFC East at 5-4.

Meanwhile, Tommy B and the Bucs are sitting at 4-5 and in first place in their division. The Jets just beat the Bills. KC and Tennessee went to OT. The Eagles are still undefeated.

Make it all make sense.

  • It wasn’t all that long ago that Patriots-Colts was the most anticipated game of the year. From Brady vs. Manning to Brady vs. Luck, it was a matchup between two teams with Super Bowl aspirations slugging it out for who had the inside track for postseason home field advantage. It was usually a primetime game, played later in the year so each team was firing on cylinders when they squared off.
  • If that version of Pats vs. Colts was The Fast and The Furious — action packed, high speed, and edge of your seat, yesterday’s Pats/Colts was F9 — enough already.
  • Although a confession: I’ve seen, combined, maybe three minutes of any movie in that entire franchise. No clue how that’s even possible, seeing as how there seems to be one of those movies on TV at all times. Plus, I love those kinds of movies that’s just stuff exploding for 90 straight minutes. But I’ve never seen any of them. So maybe I was way off on that last comparison.
  • In a season where every game seems to be interesting with lead changes and overtime thrillers and upsets galore, we all watched one of the more boring games of the year in which two inept offenses slugged it out for who can move the ball the least. And while the Patriots lost (won?) that particular battle, it wasn’t by much.
  • Indy had 103 total yards passing, a number I didn’t even think was possible in today’s NFL. New England had 147 total yards, a whopping 44 yards more, and 71 of those yards came on three plays. Odds are you know exactly which three plays they are, as Hunter Henry’s 30-yard seam route, Jonnu Smith’s 24-yard scamper, and Jakobi Meyers’s 17-yard reception was more or less all that happened through the air yesterday.
  • Usually, when a team has less than 150 yards passing in a victory, it means that the ground game was unstoppable. But I wouldn’t call 70 total yards on the ground as anything even remotely resembling unstoppable. In fact, the only thing that did seem to be unstoppable was New England’s ability to lose yards on a draw play on second and third down.
  • Those of you who were around for the 2009 season likely remember that team’s go-to play: a fullback dive to Sammy Morris on 3rd- and 4th-and-short for no gain. Well, welcome to the 2022 iteration of that.
  • I feel like if you took every single mugshot from every single douchebag who ever got arrested for public drunkenness or peeing in the punch at the country club mixer and mixed them all together, you’d get someone who looks just like Adam Archuleta.
  • It also seems like the Patriots have two types of drives. Drive No. 1 is a run that gets stuffed, an incomplete pass, and then a sack for a quick three-and-out. Drive No. 2 is 13 plays, 64 yards, and ends in a Nick Folk field goal. So, if you ever need to step away from the TV to use the restroom, odds are you missed one of those two possessions.
  • Though yesterday really was something else; of New England’s 13 offensive possessions (14 if you want to include the kneel-down before half), they ran six or less plays on 10 of them. And one of those possessions gave them a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
  • And I’m going to put all my eggs in the basket of the offensive line being an abject disaster. The Colts have a very good defensive front, so credit where credit is due, but the Patriots were unable to find anything even remotely resembling a rhythm offensively. Absolutely nothing was working as Mac Jones took four sacks and I lost count of how many pressures.
  • Combine that with what is hands down the most troubling aspect of this 2021 offense, Mac Jones’ slow decision-making, and we get what we’ve been seeing all year.
  • I don’t know exactly what it is about this year — Maybe there’s more game tape on Jones? Maybe things have sped up overall for him? — but he was light years ahead of his rookie expectations in terms of his decisions making, his ability to play smart football, to audible at the line, and put the ball where only his guy can get it. He also knew when to utilize the check-down and understood that check-downs are only effective if the QB makes the read with enough time for the player to do something with the ball. Check-downs are an outlet pass well before the sticks, but with the hope that the receiver can make a guy miss and maybe make something out of nothing. But none of that is happening in 2022. He’s waiting too long to get rid of the ball, not going through his progressions, and seemingly waiting until the check-down guy is covered to make the throw.
  • I won’t however, go so far as to say that he has regressed. There’s a lot more to what’s going on than stats and all that stuff. But you need to be objective here, he’s not playing great.
  • On the plus side, Kendrick Bourne got some touches. Three grabs for 11 yards and one rush for 1 yard. Honestly, I’ll take it.
  • And no interceptions! Seven game INT streak snapped!
  • And there were a few deep shots to Tyquan Thornton that I liked to see. They didn’t connect, but I’m just glad that a deep throw to Thornton is in the playbook.
  • David Andrews will come back, which will help Cole Strange, who has really struggled in Andrews’ absence. And Isaiah Wynn seems competent at the guard position. Ask six different people what they thought of Yodny Cajuste, and in addition to getting six different pronunciations of his name, you’ll get six different answers. Everything from “Cajuste is the man! RT job is his for the rest of the year!” to “Cajuste is getting bullied worse than Schwartz got bullied by Scut Farkas” is officially on the table.
  • Which is as good a transition as any into the absolute crime that is the holiday commercials I’m already seeing. It’s early November, people. The Christmas season lasts from the Friday after Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. It’s short and it’s awesome and the more we try to stretch it out, the less special it’s going to become.
  • If Mac Jones has executed a single three-step drop with a quick release this season, I can’t remember it. It’s a lot of play-action, look down the field, wait for plays to develop, and collapse as outside pressure gets home. It’s like they don’t have any short. quick release plays in their entire playbook. Not sure if that’s a Jones issue, a Patricia issue, or a combination of both, but when people who didn’t watch a single play of the previous series can guess it went run for loss, incompletion, sack end up being right half the time, that ain’t good.
  • Literally the second I wrote that note Jones hit Jonnu Smith for 24 yards. You’re welcome.
  • Though to be fair, Smith wasn’t the intended receiver. I’m just glad Jones got it out.
  • My least favorite situation for the Patriots offense used to be 2nd-and-long pinned back deep inside their own 5-yard line. My least favorite situation for the 2022 Patriots offense is 1st-and-10 from the opposing 40. Best you can hope for there is usually a 6-yard gain to set up a 51-yard field goal attempt.
  • The Colts offense STINKS. There’s no way around that. They were without their best offensive weapon yesterday, their QB is still very green, and their offensive line is even worse than New England’s. But that doesn’t take anything away from an absolutely dominant defensive performance. New England tied a franchise record with nine sacks, three each from Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, and they held the Colts conversionless on all 14 third downs. I don’t care how bad an offense is, that’s amazing.
  • And with the unfortunate exception of Jake Bailey, another banner day for special teams. If not for that blocked punt, I don’t think the offense gets into the end zone all day, and the O was always given fantastic field position from which to immediately go three-and-out.
  • Yesterday was a great example of what you get when one unit is just better, top to bottom, than another. The secondary was faster than the Colts’ receivers, the front line was better than the O-line, and the linebackers were able to bridge the gap successfully.
  • Better football intelligence was also on display. Midway through the third quarter with the Colts facing a third down at the 13-yard line, Indy appeared to come out in a overloaded strong side formation for what I believe was supposed to be a three-man levels route intended for Alec Pierce; he had two receivers downfield setting picks for him and he was open, with room in front of him, on the shallow crosser. But pre-snap, Devin McCourty made an adjustment, the line shifted, there were no hands on the ground in order to disguise the rush, and Matthew Judon was able to get to the QB unabated for his third sack of the day. That adjustment may have saved a touchdown which would have made it a six-point game.
  • If Chapstick was smart, they’d sign Matthew Judon up for an ad campaign. Guy spends so much time wiping his mouth after all those sacks, his lips have to be chapped by now.
  • The real winner yesterday? Walmart, for resurrecting one of the all-time great movie villains in Bill Lumbergh along with most of the original Office Space cast. I wish I didn’t see that commercial for the first time as I was thinking “no-talent assclown” way more than I should as a Patriots fan, but that was awesome.
  • The 2021 Patriots were white hot coming into their bye, then fizzled down the stretch. Maybe the 2022 Patriots will go the other way and light the league on fire when the Jets come to town in a few weeks — the same Jets that just beat the Bills. The 2022 season is drunk at the poker table and everybody knows it.
  • I feel like most people, myself included, had the Patriots heading into the bye week at 6-3, with losses to Miami, Green Bay, and Baltimore. They’re currently at 5-4, with just that Bears game as the anomaly. So, for the most part, they’re right where we all thought they’d be at this time of the year. This is going to be an important bye week, both for getting key guys healthy and figuring out how to maximize what this team does well.
  • Because that’s what I’ll be looking for; Patriots teams in past years have had weaknesses that Bill Belichick and the coaching staff figured out ways to scheme around. The 2015 team had a horrible, banged-up offensive line, which the Patriots compensated for with a lot of quick release slants and out routes. The 2007 Pats weren’t a great running team, so they aired it out and attacked out of the spread formation. The 2011 defense was terrible, so they adopted a bend-but-don’t break approach, tightened up inside the red zone, and thrived off turnovers. The years when they had no deep attack they feasted with shallow crossers, misdirection routes, and WR screens. They’ve been able to figure out how to maximize that talent they have in the past; we’ll see if they can do it again this year.
  • Never forget: this Colts team beat the Chiefs.

Week 10 is the perfect week for a bye, in my opinion, and that’s especially true this year. The Patriots play the Jets, Vikings, Bills, Vikings, and Cardinals with their next four games, and are two weeks away from an absolutely brutal stretch of four straight primetime contests. Time to rest up, get healthy, and figure out how to put it all together. This can be a playoff team if they can just fix some stuff up front.