Thoughts and Analysis: Patriots Defeat Winless Colts

Derek Havens
December 04, 2011 at 06:00pm ET

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The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon 31 - 24. While the game did carry the same weight and emotions it has in the past, New England improved to 9 - 3 on the season. Here are some thoughts on the team's victory.

Jerod Mayo had his first career interception in Sunday's 31 - 24 win against the Colts. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Is there a defense in the league capable of stopping Rob Gronkowski? The second year tight end is an absolute monster and he had a great game on Sunday night. No doubt in my mind he should be an All-Pro this season, although New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham will get some votes as well.

He finished the night with five receptions, 64 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a lateral pass, officially ruled a rush, for two yards and a score. With four games left to go this season, Gronkowski has tied the NFL record of 13 touchdowns in a single season.

- Tom Brady had another great game. The future Hall of Fame quarterback finished 29 for 38, 289 yards and two touchdowns. Brady now has 291 career TDs, which ties him with Warren Moon for 6th most all-time. John Elway is 5th at 300 TD passes.

- New England's running game needs to produce more. I do not expect the team to put up big numbers on a weekly basis, they are a passing team after all, but they need to have more of an impact in the playoffs. If the Patriots had a running game that was respected by opposing defenses, their passing game would be even more deadly.

Devin McCourty was active for the first time since  Nov. 13 against the New York Jets. His grade two right shoulder separation has had him inactive for games and he limited on the practice field, but he started on Sunday. It's amazing how much McCourty has fallen off compared to last season. I believe he'll bounce back, but this can hardly be classified as a sophomore slump.

- Chad Ochocinco was back in the mix as New England's third wide receiver Sunday. After missing last week’s game in Philadelphia with a reported hamstring injury, he was apart of the game plan with Tiquan Underwood and Julian Edelman. He was in the team's two minute offense at the end of the first half, however, a sign he is progressing.

- I was shocked when I heard former Patriots and present Colts Kicker Adam Vinatieri getting booed during the game on Sunday. The kicker played an incredible role in New England's dynasty run earlier in the decade and is a great all around guy. In any case, that did not stop the Gillette crowd from booing him when he came on for a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter.

- Patriots fans were frustrated in this game and deservedly so. The Dan Orlovsky led Colts carved up New England's secondary for a good portion of the game and even though the game was not as close as the score indicated, the Patriots played mediocre against a winless team.

One caveat I would add for this game, however, is the experimenting Belichick did to start the game. It seemed the Patriots were trying several new defensive looks and players at different positions. Newly added defensive back Nate Jones played well and special teamer Mathew Slater started the game at safety. When the team used their base defense and personnel, the unit buckled down. No excuse for some of the plays made against the team, but this game was never really in doubt in my opinion.

I will be posting my "Report Card" and "Tale of the Tape" observations over the next few days. Next week the Patriots will travel to face the Washington Redskins next Sunday.

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