The Patriots held on to defeat the Colts 31-28 at Gillette Stadium Sunday, in a game that fits in well with this close rivalry. This game turned into a nail biter and probably had scary comparisons to last year’s match up. Regardless of how the game ended, the Patriots came away with a key victory against an opponent that had beaten them the last two seasons.

So what did we learn from watching the game on Sunday?

The first thing we learned is that Tom Brady has this offense going in the right direction. For three quarters the Patriots offense could score at will. Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter this unit could not convert some key third downs. I think closing out games is something the Pats offense needs to work on, but if you judge the game as a whole I see many more positives than negatives. The offense is on its way to being a top unit once again.

I think we also saw a young defense that competed Sunday, but got taken advantage of by Peyton Manning late in the game. Manning is going to do this to most defenses. On the positive they made some key plays that cannot be overlooked. The defense is a work in progress, and regardless of what the statistics say they made the plays they needed to get the win. They got it done and closed out the victory.

The Colts are a team that is hampered by injuries, and I have to give them a lot of credit for how they played. They fought to the end, and almost came away with a victory. This team is still a club to be concerned about when the playoffs roll around.

On defense for the Colts, the Patriots really had their way with this unit. The Patriots ran for 168 yards and Brady threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Brady really carved them up at times, however in the fourth quarter they made the key third down stops to keep them in the game.

On offense, Manning just showed me once again why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He threw for 396 yards, and 4 touchdowns.  It doesn’t matter who he has for receivers, he will find them and eventually score. He made Blair White look like Jerry Rice on Sunday, with White catching two touchdown passes. However, he did make three interceptions that ultimately made the difference in the game. Regardless, as long as Manning is the quarterback for the Colts they are a constant threat.

For the Patriots, the offense looked like it is almost ready for the playoffs, and the defense is still improving. You can criticize the defense all you want, but my eyes tell me they are getting better. Having a wonderful 50 yard line seat for this game I could really concentrate on this unit. The defenders were in the right position to make the tackle. I think this game was more to do with the pinpoint passing of Manning rather than the Patriots defense.

The second touchdown for Manning was an incredible pass to Reggie Wayne with two defenders right there. Many of the receptions for the Colts yesterday saw a Pats defender right on top of them to make the tackle. At some point you just have to tip your cap to Manning ,and say he won that battle on Sunday.

The most important thing we learned on Sunday is no matter how you win a game, all that really matters is the victory. Style points make no difference in wins and losses. The Pats needed to get over the hurdle of beating the Colts. To me that is all that really matters in the end.

As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game.  Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Colts. “

1. The Patriots need to play from ahead early in this game.  I think this key was very pivotal Sunday. The Pats jumped out early to a 14 point lead, and forced Manning to play from behind the entire game. Being one step ahead of the Colts quarterback turned out to be a big difference in the game. 

 2. Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer need to have exceptional games of protecting the quarterback.  Overall the tackles gave Brady very good protection the entire game. Freeney only had 1 sack in the game. In this key the Pats definitely succeeded.

3. The Patriots tight ends need to take advantage of the middle of the Colts defense.  Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez only had 1 catch each, but those two catches were important. Gronkowski caught a pass to keep a drive going, and Hernandez caught a touchdown pass. I wish they caught more passes but the tight ends were effective on Sunday.

 4. The Patriots need to contain Jacob Tamme.  The Colts tight end did catch 7 passes for 60 yards, so I don’t think you can say the Pats contained him. They will need to do a better job on covering the tight end in the future.

 5. The Patriots need to play the “bend don’t break defense” to perfection against Manning.  The Pats actually failed in this key. The idea of the “bend don’t break defense” is to limit touchdowns when the offense enters the redzone. The Pats were not able to do that against the Colts. Every time the Colts entered the 20 they scored a touchdown.

So what did we learn from this game? I think we saw a young team learning how to win in big games. I don’t care how the Patriots won, the bottom line is they got the victory. They figured out a way to beat a team that has owned them over the past five years. With all the young players on both sides of the ball, this experience they received yesterday could pay huge dividends in January.

What are your reactions to the game?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 31-28 victory against the Colts.