In Frankfurt, Germany, the New England Patriots had a chance to feel at home.
But Bill Belichick’s side fell to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 10-6 Sunday at Deutsche Bank Park instead.
Here’s a glance back on the 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff as the bye week awaits a team standing at 2-8 on the season.
Sacked, picked and benched
Sunday morning got underway on schedule for Mac Jones. The opening drive marked the longest such of the fall for the Patriots. It spanned 13 plays, 61 yards and 6:49 of game clock. It was sustained by a third-and-7 connection over the middle to tight end Mike Gesicki. And it ended down in the red zone as a sack gave way to a field goal.
But the next four drives ended with pressure and punts. New England’s starting quarterback completed 15-of-20 passes for 170 yards and his NFL-leading 10th interception before being benched.
Only one throw before intermission landed on the grass. Yet after it, a wide-open miss in the flat was met by an animated sideline discussion with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. A near-turnover in the end zone followed instead of taking what was there. And with 4:16 left, with an opportunity to take the lead in the same spot, defensive back Julian Blackmon capitalized on an underthrow in a 10-6 game. Backup Bailey Zappe entered the Patriots’ huddle with no timeouts and 1:52 to tick. A first down, a fake spike and a Rodney Thomas pick sealed it.
Ground game leaned on
With 11 touches for 55 scrimmage yards on the initial series, New England’s running backs got their fast start at last. It arrived with a throwback, under-center attack. And downhill force.
Rhamondre Stevenson went on to handle 20 carries for 88 yards to go with a trio of catches for 14 yards. A third-and-1 direct snap to move the sticks was among them. Chunk gains were, too, led by a long of 10. The starting rusher departed and returned from a back injury in the fourth quarter. He did so for a third-and-5 surge up the middle.
Alongside him, Ezekiel Elliott put forth 13 carries for 54 yards. The veteran complement also gained 15 and 19 on screen passes.
Starting O-line combination unlocked in first half by Colts
After reverting for the second time in as many matchups, Conor McDermott returned for his final elevation of the campaign. And for the start once again at left tackle in the absence of an injured Trent Brown, who had been ruled out as the Patriots flew out. Next to the blindside protector stood the same combination as before. It would be Cole Strange at left guard, David Andrews at center, Sidy Sow at right tackle and Mike Onwenu at right tackle.
And after allowing no official sacks last week, the offensive line allowed five in the first half on Sunday, including four on third down. Defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo led the charge for the Colts. Entering with three sacks on the year, the Vanderbilt product looped into the interior for his third of the game before intermission. Tyquan Lewis and Kwity Paye also got in the stat sheet by then to give Indianapolis a handful.
Vederian Lowe stepped in at left tackle after New England’s call-up went the blue medical tent midway through the fourth quarter.
Down signal-calling captain, New England holds Taylor in check
Linebacker Calvin Munson’s standard elevation from the practice squad proved to be foreshadowing. More than two years had passed since Ja’Whaun Bentley last went to the inactives list. But the captain and signal-caller returned there on Sunday after being questionable in recent weeks due to a hamstring injury.
Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor would aim to make the most of missing New England’s leading tackler. He was held to 3.0 yards per rushing attempt by game’s end. While the 2021 first-team All-Pro totaled 23 carries for 69 yards on the ground, including the game’s lone touchdown, Zack Moss took his lone handoff as halftime neared.
The Patriots deployed Mack Wilson in a starting role off the ball. He would briefly exit to be evaluated for a head injury. In his absence came a third-and-1 run stuff by safety and snap leader Kyle Dugger that sent the punt team on.
Minshew throws for 194 yards with one interception
Gardner Minshew went 18-of-28 through the air in his first career meeting with the Patriots. The well-traveled Colts quarterback finished the outing with 194 yards and one interception. While skittish in the pocket against simulated pressures, he avoided being sacked.
A no-huddle, shotgun attack was how it began for Indianapolis. The first possession brought a pickup of 30 yards by ex-Buffalo Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie. A 7-3 lead was the result soon after. But slot corner Myles Bryant, whose coverage was again tested by the speedy wideout, answered back with his first pick of the year on a deflection by linebacker Jahlani Tavai. With the uprights at his back, Minshew later danced and found rookie wideout Josh Downs for a diving catch of 28 on third-and-5 in the closing minutes.
New England’s secondary started the morning in the big nickel with Shaun Wade and Jonathan Jones at cornerback. October trade acquisition J.C. Jackson stayed stateside while Jack Jones stayed sidelined until the third series.
Boutte active out wide for first time since season opener
New England primarily operated out of “12” personnel. Fellow rookie Demario Douglas would be the lone wide receiver targeted by halftime and finished with six catches for 84 yards on nine throws. JuJu Smith-Schuster toe-tapped the sideline on a gain of nine on his only target.
As for Boutte, he was on the field with the starters by third down while DeVante Parker remained in the NFL’s concussion protocol. The LSU product caught his first career pass for 11 yards midway through the final frame and drew unnecessary roughness in the process.
Lapses continue for Patriots on special teams
The kicking game still kicked back at New England.
An all-out block where no returner was on the field gave way to a 69-yarder by Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez. A missed 35-yard field goal by rookie kicker Chad Ryland saw a turnover opportunity end without points for the Patriots. A 41-yard kickoff return by a former AFC East foe also would be in the cards in Frankfurt.
And two punts became touchbacks for New England’s Bryce Baringer, who averaged 62.5 yards per with a long of 79.