INDIANAPOLIS, IN — If someone handed you the stats sheet from Sunday’s game, unless you had the final score in front of you you certainly wouldn’t have expected the Patriots to win Sunday’s battle against the Colts.
Take a look at the first half of play. The Colts held the ball for 21:26 minutes compared to New England who only had the ball for 8:34. They ran more than double the amount of plays as the Patriots (44 compared to 19), and had only one penalty compared to the New England who had four.
The result? Figure this one out: the Patriots lead 28-6 at the half.
Indianapolis had been known as a “quick strike” offense early this season, but it was New England who attacked them right in front of their own home crowd. Three times in the first half the Patriots scored on their first play from scrimmage, two of which came on back-to-back possessions.
21-points in 18 seconds. Not something that New England fans were used to seeing.
Still, it was the Patriots ability to tighten up when they needed to and keep the Colts out of the endzone that made the difference.
On the Colts first possession they drove from their own 24-yard line to the New England 28, but on a 46-yard field goal attempt by Mike Vanderjagt, Brandon Mitchell came in and blocked the field goal. Leonard Myers then picked up the loose ball and ran it 35-yards to the Colts 29-yard line. That play set up New England’s first touchdown.
On their next possession they marched from their own 28 all the way to the Patriots 25-yard line, but the Patriots defense tightened up and forced the Colts to attempt yet another field goal. Two possessions, two long drives, 3-points. Pretty discouraging for Indianapolis who’s home crowd was quiet for most of the afternoon.
The Colts had the chance to cut the lead to 28-10 at the half, but after marching from their own 20-yard line all the way to the New England 24 they were again forced to settle for a field goal.
The long first half difference in time of possession may have fatigued New England’s defense somewhat, as the Colts put together two straight scoring drives to start the second half. On the Colts first possession of the half they marched from their own 32-yard line all the way to the Patriots 2 where Marvin Harrison would finally catch a touchdown pass from 2-yards out. Indianapolis would also convert the two-point conversion, and completed a successful 10-play 68-yard drive in which they held the ball for over five minutes. The lead was cut in half at that point at 28-14.
But the Patriots answered, driving 44-yards on 8-plays with kicker Adam Vinatieri booting a 43-yard field goal to put them up 31-14.
Undaunted the Colts came right back and drove 10 plays for 64-yards but were unable to put the ball in the end zone and were forced to settle for 3-points, their final points of the game.
KEY TO THE GAME: The key to the game for the Patriots was the fact they kept the ball out of the Colts hands for nearly the entire 4th quarter. New England took possession with 11-minutes remaining in the game and held the ball for 10-minutes, putting together a methodical 18-play drive that began at their own 24-yard line. They finally gave the ball back to the Colts after they were unable to convert a 4th-and-6 at the Colts 16 with 1:02 left in the game. That one possession kept the ball out of Manning’s hands and prevented him from putting together any kind of fourth-quarter comeback.