The New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts soundly on Sunday, improving to 5-4 on the season behind a 26-3 victory.
The game was a defensive affair and, in turn, saw plenty of lackluster offensive football. The Colts offense was never close to doing anything, but the Patriots offense didn’t fare too well either. It was a pretty ugly game if you like offense, but a good one if you are a fan of defense — especially New England’s, which dominated the game.
With that said, let’s get into what we learned about the Patriots in Week 9.
New England’s pass rush looks incredible: The New England pass rush was the story of the day, registering nine sacks, and having a 10th taken away by a roughing the passer penalty. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche both had three quarterback takedowns, which was only the second time in Patriots history that had happened; the only other such instance came in 1985 when Andre Tippett and Don Blackmon did it.
It wasn’t just Judon and Uche, however; the whole team got in on the fun, and Sam Ehlinger was constantly under siege. Not only were the Patriots dominant against the pass, but they also did a great job stuffing the run as well. If the defense can keep playing this way, the Patriots will have a chance to win every game they play.
Matthew Judon is setting himself apart as a superstar: Matthew Judon has been a force all year, and currently leads the league in sacks. He’s up to 11.5 after his three-sack performance on Sunday, and he hasn’t just been great against the pass, he’s also been solid versus the run. Judon is pretty clearly the Patriots’ best defensive player, and looks like a steal of a signing by the Patriots last offseason.
It’s going to be difficult for him to keep up this pace — he fell off at the end of last year as well — but he’s been a problem for NFL offenses. If Josh Uche can play as well as he did Sunday too, the Patriots pass rush has a chance to be one of the best in the league. Judon is the unquestioned leader of the group.
A fully healthy Jonathan Jones is an asset for the Patriots: Seventh-year man Jonathan Jones has been solid this year, but he played his best game on Sunday. When Colts tight end Kylen Granson let a Sam Ehlinger pass go through his hands, he was there to pick it off, spin out of tackle, and take the ball to the house. But that wasn’t the only thing Jones did on Sunday.
He also had a huge punt block, which was a well-timed call by the coaches, but also a great individual play by Jones. He also played lockdown coverage all day as well. Jones is finally fully healthy, and that’s a great thing for the Patriots.
Jake Bailey’s struggles continue: Jake Bailey got a nice contract extension this season, but he has really struggled ever since. He picked up his play last week against the New York Jets, but had another tough one on Sunday.
Bailey started the game off with a booming 58-yard punt, but the rest of his punts traveled for only 36, 47, 40, 44, and finally 7 yards. That is simply not good.
Luckily, the Colts weren’t able to get anything going on offense, and the coverage team played well. But with the Patriots offense having a hard time to move the ball consistently, having a good punter is extra important. They don’t have one right now.
What is going on with Bailey is impossible to say from the outside — he has not been listed on any injury reports — but his play has been severely below par all season. If that doesn’t change, the Patriots might have wasted some serious money on a once-promising punter.
The offensive line is a problem: The Patriots offensive line has been struggling as of late, and the coaches decided to mix up the starting lineup by inserting Yodny Cajuste instead of Isaiah Wynn at right tackle. Wynn would end up back in the game, however, when Cole Strange was benched early in the game.
The results were not pretty, though. Mac Jones was sacked four more times on Sunday, and he seemed to have someone in his face on every other dropback. The unit also was not able to consistently open holes for the running backs. There were a few nice plays, but for the most part, it was a struggle getting anything going on the ground.
Hopefully, the Patriots will be able to fix some things on the line over the bye week — getting center David Andrews back should be a massive help — because they are not going anywhere if the line keeps playing this way.
Mac Jones is not good enough right now: Mac Jones didn’t throw an interception Sunday, and played decent. That is good. It is not good enough, though.
The sophomore quarterback still looked like he was having trouble seeing the field well, and appeared to miss some plays when he made tough throws instead of going for the easy ones. The play.calling when Mac Jones has been in the game still does not appear to be ideal, but he needs to make better decisions with the football.
Last year, Jones played extremely well, and there was some real optimism that he was going to be the next franchise QB for the Patriots. Now, there are a lot more questions about whether or not he really is the right guy for the job.
It is still early, but Jones is going to have to show some real improvement after the bye and down the stretch to restore the faith in him. The effort is still top notch, like when he ran up and pushed the pile forward to help Jakobi Meyers pick up a first down, but there is more to being a solid quarterback than your competitive spirits.
The Patriots need to see more of from him the rest of the season.
Brenden Schooler is turning into Matthew Slater 2.0: It seems that Bill Belichick has found his next great special teams player. Undrafted rookie Brenden Schooler has been an absolute force on special teams for the Patriots this season and he was again fantastic on Sunday against the Colts.
Schooler had two tackles in the kicking game, and picked up the blocked punt by Jonathan Jones. Not only does he have the speed to get down the field to make plays, but Schooler also possesses the ability to make the tackle once he gets down there.
Matthew Slater has been one of the best special teamers in NFL history, and has been great for the Patriots since he was a rookie. Now it seems that he might be passing the torch to Brenden Schooler.
The Patriots keep turning the ball over: The Patriots added to their league lead in turnovers with another lost fumble on Sunday. It came from one of the most unlikely sources, with Jakobi Meyers putting the ball on the ground. Kendrick Bourne also fumbled, but J.J. Taylor showed some tremendous effort to recover that fumble. The Patriots also forced a turnover, and continue to lead the league in turnovers too, but their net is still zero, and they are just not good enough to win games without some help in the turnover department.
They have to do a better job holding onto the ball, because the offense needs as many chances as it can get and cannot rely on the defense to pick up the slack every week.
Jabrill Peppers continues his strong play: Kyle Dugger was back in the lineup, but Jabrill Peppers still played a whole bunch versus Indianapolis. The free agency acquisition was fantastic once more, especially against the run, and he has been a great player for the Patriots the last few games.
Peppers has been particularly good against the run, and almost never misses a tackle. He brings the wood on every play, and has the athleticism to stick with guys on the outside as well. The former first-round draft pick is becoming a consistent contributor for the Patriots, and is a guy that they might want to think long and hard about bringing back next year too.
The Patriots have some things to figure out over the bye, especially on offense: The Patriots are headed into their bye week on a two-game winning streak, but the offense can’t be feeling too well about itself. Nick Folk has been one of the best offensive weapons, as he has gone 9-for-9 on field goal attempts the last two games.
The defense has been great these last two weeks, which is good because the Patriots have been able to do next to nothing on offense.
First and foremost, they need to figure out the offensive line; they have to find a group that is going to play well together. The assumption is that David Andrews will be back after the bye, and that will help, but they need to figure out who is going to play the best together.
They also still need improved play at quarterback. Mac Jones is the starting QB for this team, but he needs to play significantly better after the bye. Hopefully, the offense will be able to gel, because if they can, they could really make a run to end this season.