November 04, 2007
New Weapons Step Up, Rescue Patriots
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
INDIANAPOLIS -- Did you reflect after the game and think to yourself, "How'd they do that?"
Joseph Addai had 226 all-purpose yards, broken down as follows: 112 yards rushing, 114 yards passing, and he made the Patriots look like they tackled about as good as Taft College in The Best Of Times. The Patriots were assessed 146 yards in penalties, a team record, some of which looked like downright highway robbery. Robert Mathis made Nick Kaczur look like a boy trying to block a man at times, and Matt Light didn't fare too much better against Dwight Freeney. Tom Brady threw two foolish interceptions which led to 14 Indianapolis points. The Colts led, 20-10 with 9:35 left in the game and seemingly in full control of the contest. All this with the Colts minus Marvin Harrison and Tony Ugoh.
Lo and behold, it was the Patriots who walked off the RCA Dome still undefeated, and perhaps secure in the inside track to the one seed come playoff time.
In what was billed by some as "Super Bowl 41 ½", the game was exciting, lived up to the hype, but was a defensive-oriented game instead of an offensive flash-fest. It was the Patriot defense which sealed the deal in the end, but this game, and this victory, belonged to Scott Pioli. All the key offensive additions to the team had a huge hand in the 14-point fourth quarter rally, and the Patriots escaped with a 24-20 win to remain 9-0 going into their bye week.
Now you can start talking 16-0, but we would rather you didn't.
The Patriots will probably still need to play Indianapolis again, sometime in January. If they do, chances are that the game will be in Gillette Stadium. And if it is to be, you can look back at Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker as being the main reasons why the Patriots earned the right to host the AFC Championship Game, if things break accordingly.
Here is basically how the Patriots were able to bring about this most improbable victory.
Following the Peyton Manning one-yard run which made it 20-10 with 9:35 to go, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 27. Brady decided that he would live or die with his most lethal weapon, and on the first five plays, all were to Moss. Three of those plays failed, two succeeded. The two that did went for 70 yards total. On second down, Brady hit Moss on a right slant for 15 yards. Two plays later, Brady heaved one deep and Moss, despite being interfered by Antoine Bethea, leaped up and snared the ball at the 3. On third and goal at the 3, Brady hit Welker in the left flat, and he sneaked inside the pylon to make it 20-17 Colts with just under 8 minutes left.
Almost exactly five minutes later, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 49 thanks to a 23-yard punt return by Welker. On second and seven, Brady heaved one down the left sideline which Stallworth hauled in for 33 yards and was pushed out of bounds by Bethea. Kevin Faulk covered the final 13 yards on the next play, taking a dump pass over the middle and diving in the end zone to give the Patriots a 24-20 lead with 3:10 to go.
There you have it. Moss, Welker and Stallworth had their handprints all over that rally. Moss finished with nine catches for 145 yards, one of them an unbelievable one-handed catch with his first grab in the third quarter. He did catch one touchdown pass, a four-yard grab in the left corner of the end zone outleaping Tim Jennings early in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead. In this one game, Moss advanced the importance of his acquisition over the summer to the point where he may have become the most significant trade acquisition by the Patriots since the Jim Plunkett trade in 1976, maybe in franchise history.
It wasn't just the offense. The defense had to step up against Manning and the vaunted Colt defense, at least a lot better than it had been doing in the past three meetings.
Not having to deal with Harrison helped, but only so much. Addai showed the Patriots that he is one huge headache. What epitomized his day was a play at the end of the first half, where, with the Colts seemingly willing to run clock and head into halftime down 7-6, Addai took a pass in the left flat from Manning, eluded tackles by Rashad Baker, James Sanders and Mike Vrabel on his way to an unbelievable 73-yard touchdown pass catch which sent the Colts into the locker room ahead, 13-7. All game long, Addai made so many Patriots miss that it seemed like they had to head back to training camp to re-learn to tackle.
When the Patriots scored to make it 20-17, the defense had to shut down the Colts the rest of the way. On the Colts' first possession after the Welker touchdown, the Colts had the ball at their own 20 but gained only one net yard. Penalties to Ryan Lilja (holding) and Ryan Diem (false start) and a sack by Rosevelt Colvin forced the Colts into a punting situation.
The defensive stand after the Patriots had seized the lead sealed the game. Starting at their own 24, Manning hit Reggie Wayne on a left sideline route for 24 yards. Facing third and nine, Jarvis Green came in from the backside and hit Manning five yards behind the line of scrimmage. The ball popped out of Manning and right into the arms of Colvin, who rumbled for five yards before falling and covering the ball. The Patriots were then able to bleed all the Colt timeouts and run out the remaining 2:25.
The Colts had a ton of speed on defense and were able to use dime packages to slow Brady down (he finished with 21 of 32 passing for 255 yards and a passer rating of 95.2 despite two picks). But Brady went to his new weapons when he had to, and the result was a win in the toughest game of the year. The Colts were able to hold the Patriot offensive juggernaut to only 24 points, but Brady was still able to connect on three touchdown passes, and that helped prove decisive.
The defense was finally able to hold Manning in check long enough to rally in the end, but not being able to shut down Addai will have to be addressed if these teams meet again in January. The Patriots didn't play the Colts as physical as they had in previous years, but on this day the defensive effort was just good enough to get the Patriots by.
The 146 yards on ten penalties at times bordered on the ridiculous. Pass interference penalties on Samuel (Anthony Gonzalez) and Ellis Hobbs (Wayne) showed on replay that both cornerbacks were playing the ball and not the man, and any contact was incidental, and those penalties cost the Patriots ten points. Moss was called on a pushoff on Jennings in the end zone in the fourth quarter where replay showed that he was going for the ball and not pushing off.
But the Patriots still had enough in the end to overcome the Colts and get back in the win column once again against their most bitter foe.
And in January, if the Patriots do indeed see the Colts at home instead of here, thank Scott Pioli for knowing who to bring in and actually doing it.
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