November 03, 2008
Patriots Beat Themselves In Loss to Colts
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
The Patriots controlled the clock, kept the ball out of Peyton Manning and the Colts offense' hands, and kept Indianapolis from making the big plays in what the stat sheets will show was a lopsided affair that would have left you thinking New England would have won the game.
But in the end it wasn't the Colts who beat them. The Patriots beat themselves.
Coaching blunders and dropped balls ended up being the difference in the game, as New England dropped to 5-3, losing 18-15 at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night.
For the Patriots the first sign of trouble came with :31 left in the third quarter. Quarterback Matt Cassel through a perfect pass for what appeared to be a sure 39-yard touchdown catch for wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, and the ball just went through his hands.
As for Gaffney, it was a play he'd obviously like to have back. Looking pretty dejected after Sunday night's loss he put the defeat squarely on his shoulders, knowing full well that the game could have turned on that play and may have cost his team a win that may come back to haunt them later on.
"I didn't make the play. That's it," said Gaffney when approached by reporters after the game. "I make that catch and it's a different game."
But as it turns out, Gaffney shouldn't shoulder all the blame. Later in that same drive head coach Bill Belichick made an uncharacteristically bad call of his own. After the Patriots decided to go for it facing a 4th & 1 from the Colts 7 yard line, Cassel ran a QB sneak and got the first down. However Belichick apparently didn't like what he saw and called a timeout before the play, instead electing to kick a field goal. So instead of potentially taking the lead, New England found themselves tied at 15-15 with just over 11-minutes left in the game.
"Well, we didn't get a very good look at the spot," said Belichick when asked about the reason why he called the timeout. "At first we thought it was fourth and inches then all along it was fourth and about a yard. So, once we saw what the distance was it just seemed better to go for the points."
As for quarterback Matt Cassel, they got everything they could have asked for from him in this one. Cassel finished the night 25-of-34 for 204 yards and an interception, which came following another play that may have cost his team a shot at a potential game winning field goal.
Facing 2nd and 2 from the Colts 32-yard line, New England gave the ball to runningback Ben Green-Ellis, who gained a yard on the play. But tight end David Thomas was called for a penalty for "unnecessary roughness" which cost the Patriots 15-yards, backing them up to the 46-yard line and taking them out of field goal range.
When asked about the penalty after the game Thomas didn't make any excuses and told reporters he just didn't hear the whistle.
"I was just trying to make a block," said Thomas. "I never heard a whistle and it was a critical mistake and it really cost us."
This one will likely be a frustrating loss for them to take, as they squandered a good performance by Cassel and an excellent performance by their defense who held the Colts to just 301-yards in total offense. They also held Indianapolis to 6-of-10 on third down, which kept the Colts from engineering the long drives which had caused them difficulty in recent years. Cassel also returned the favor, keeping them off the field and sustaining four drives in excess of six minutes, with the Patriots dominating in time of possession 34:24 to 25:36.
In the end the game came down to who could make a play when they needed it, and unfortunately they gave the Colts too many opportunities and let this one get away.
"I thought we had our chances," said Belichick. "We've just got to do a little more with them."
New England will now prepare to take on the Buffalo Bills next Sunday in Foxboro.
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