By: Russ Goldman
Here are my six takeaways from the playoff victory for the Patriots against the Colts. I generally want this to be a balanced post, but in this game there are more positives than negatives so you will see that reflected in this article.
1.The Patriots got ahead early, and that was a factor in the victory. I talked about this in my last post, that it was important for the Patriots to get up on the Colts, and have quarterback Andrew Luck feel the pressure of playing from behind.
Luck certainly made plays that hurt the Patriots, but establishing that early lead might have changed the approach the rest of the game for the Colts. Not that the Colts were going to establish the run, but being down fourteen points early saw Luck really concentrate on getting the ball down field.
The Patriots never relinquished the lead, and by getting up early I feel put serious pressure on this young team. Luck got his points, but his need to score quickly probably was a factor in the interceptions he threw. The early lead was a factor in the victory.
2.The power running game is becoming a serious weapon for the Patriots now and moving forward. The media has concentrated on the running of LeGarrette Blount, but this was a team effort, as Stevan Ridley also contributed nicely in this victory.
Blount ended the day with 166 yards, and a 6.9 yards per carry average. Ridley ended with 52 yards, and a 3.7 yards per carry average. Even though it didn’t look pretty at times, committing to running the ball paid off as the game progressed.
It is funny to look back at history, and hear fans talk about the lack of a deep threat for the Patriots. Well, I am here to tell you that the Patriots won three Super Bowls with a power running game, and complimentary receivers that could get down the field when called upon, but the passing game was more about possession then. The Patriots have that right now, and it is a very good sign moving forward.
3. The Patriots for the most part kept Andrew Luck in the pocket. Keeping Luck contained in the pocket was a huge key, and except for one run, the Patriots got it done.
Not only that, the Patriots really put some decent pressure on him, and made him uncomfortable. The Patriots had three sacks in this game, but it was more about keeping him contained, and throwing his timing off with this pressure. Luck had four interceptions, and this pressure was a factor in the turnovers. Keeping Luck contained in the pocket was huge for the Patriots on Saturday Night.
4. Linebacker Jamie Collins was all over the field. This was a breakout performance for Collins, as he did a nice job blanketing tight end Coby Fleener in pass coverage, but also made tackles, and got after the quarterback.
He ended his day with an interception, one sack, and six total tackles. I think we have only scratched the surface with the potential of Collins, and that is a great sign for the future.
1. Special Teams were a problem against the Colts. Lately, this unit had been a strength, but in this game they gave up a few penalties on punt returns which hurt field position, and they also had the issue on the punt that went over the head of punter Ryan Allen. The Patriots are fortunate that these mistakes did not hurt them more in this game.
2. The Patriots gave up too many big plays on defense in the passing game. I grant you that a couple of these plays were defended well, but moving forward, this is unacceptable against really good quarterbacks that will punish you.
The pressure against Luck was pretty good, but in a few instances the coverage was just a step late. Some might think I am being too critical, but the secondary can do better I feel.
Overall, this was an impressive win as the Patriots really dominated the game from the beginning to the end. They let the Colts hang around too long, but in the end, they put them away like very good teams can do.
If you are a Patriots fan, you should feel confident heading into the AFC Championship Game, because your team is putting it all together at the right time. It might not look perfect, but they are playing very well as a “team”. They are now in position to do something special, and I wouldn’t bet against them to do just that.