Here’s who stood out for better, and for worse, from the victory at Gillette Stadium.
Winner: CB Jonathan Jones. As Bill Belichick said postgame, Jonathan Jones continues to be one of New England’s “best players.” Against the Colts, Jones made two of the biggest plays of the game. In the second quarter, he flew in on well-designed special teams play to record a blocked punt which helped set up New England’s lone offensive touchdown of the day. Later in the fourth quarter, Jones put the icing on the cake with a pick-six.
Loser: Offensive line. The issues up front continued on Sunday for the Patriots as they were again without David Andrews. Yodny Cajuste got the start at right tackle while Isaiah Wynn took most of the reps at left guard over Cole Strange. The new combination didn't yield great results against a tough Indianapolis front. Jones was sacked four times as the Colts piled up seven quarterback hits. There also continued to run ineffectively on the ground. With the bye on deck, New England needs to find the answers along the offensive line for the stretch run.
Winner: LBs Matthew Judon and Josh Uche. If we were playing hockey, Gillette Stadium would be littered in hats. Both rushers recorded three sacks on the day as the Patriots pass rush feasted against the Colts. Judon hit on a number of T/E stunts with Lawrence Guy and Daniel Ekuale, while Uche continued perhaps the best stretch of games in his New England career.
The praise goes beyond those two, as the Patriots defense tied a franchise record with nine sacks and 12 QB hits. Ja’Whaun Bentley and Raekwon McMillan also recorded sacks while Jahlani Tavai and Deatrich Wise split another.
In total, New England’s defense held the Colts to just 121 yards while going 0-for-14 on third down.
Winner: Special teams. With the taste of last year’s special teams performance against the Colts on their minds, the Patriots came out guns blazing on Sunday. Besides Jones’ blocked punt, Marcus Jones tallied a 23-yard punt return and 32-yard kick return. It was also another day in the office for Nick Folk, who went 4-for-4 on his field goals.
Loser: P Jake Bailey. The one downside of the special teams unit was punter Jake Bailey, who continues his struggles this season. Bailey averaged just 38.7 yards on seven punts, with his last one going for just seven yards. While wind did factor into the kicking game — and a low snap out of the end zone might have played a role in one 36-yard punt — Bailey’s level of play has been concerning.
Honorable mentions: It was a strong day in the office for veteran Ja’Whaun Bentley. Beyond his sack, Bentley was extremely active in the run game. He led New England with nine tackles, one going for a loss. He also tallied two quarterback hits.
Speaking of physical players, Jabrill Peppers lived up to his “Incredible Hulk” nickname on Sunday. He made several plays in the run game as well, highlighted by a big hit on a third-and-down stop.
It was a ho-hum day offensively for Mac Jones and the Patriots offense. New England themselves mustered just 203 total yards and were 6-of-17 on third-down. Their lone offensive score of the day came due to the punt block. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers lost a fumble while Kendrick Bourne put the ball on the ground as well, which J.J. Taylor made a strong hustle play to recover.
On a positive note, both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry continued to stay more involved in the passing attack. Smith broke off a 24-yard catch and run for New England’s first big offensive play of the day, while Henry led the team with 50 receiving yards. A 30-yard completion to Henry up the seam was one of the Patriots’ offensive highlights.
Rhamondre Stevenson did all he could yet again, recording 70 of New England’s 203 total yards and their lone touchdown. It was a relatively quiet day for the back’s standards as was often hit at the line of scrimmage on runs while the Colts bracketed him in coverage at times. The Patriots need to find more consistent secondary offense moving forward.