In the end, the results were oh so similar to what we’ve seen so many times. Bill Belichick and the Patriots are in the heads of so many of their opponents, that they psyche themselves out and do silly things at the most in-opportune time to insure defeat.
The Patriots defeated the Colts 34-27 in a score that was in essence much closer than the game would indicate. And the Colts have no one to blame but themselves after two of the more curious special teams calls that both failed and both led to Patriots touchdowns.
None was sillier than the ridiculous trick formation that the Colts trotted out in the fourth quarter, down 27-21 and facing a 4th down and 3 from their own 37-yard line. Lining up in normal punt formation, the Colts entire team sprinted to the sideline.
Then WR Griff Whalen ran back to line up to snap the ball, and Colt Anderson returned to line up under center. The Patriots didn’t panic and responded with Brandon Bolden and Jon Bostic right over Whalen and had the play more than covered.
The Colts then did the unthinkable….they hiked the ball to Anderson on a play that no chance at success. Bolden smothered him immediately for a loss. And even had the play been successful, it would have gone for naught. They didn’t line up enough players on the line of scrimmage and got flagged. Bill Belichick, smiled as he declined the penalty and six plays later, Tom Brady hit LaGarrett Blount for an 11-yard touchdown and school was out for Indy.
The Colts also tried a head-scratching on-sides kick after a fluky interception pick six by Mike Adams that had given them the lead. It nearly worked but close doesn’t count and it set the Patriots up for another short touchdown march.
After all the talk about getting a level playing field against New England, it seems they feel they have to resort to trickery to have any chance of winning. Chuck Pagano after the game said, “ I take full responsibility. The whole idea is on a 4th-and-three or less we would shift,” Pagano said. “Either catch them misaligned or with 12 men on the field. And if you get a certain look you can make a play. But we weren’t lined up correctly and had a communication breakdown between the quarterback out there and the snapper. It’s on me, I didn’t coach it well enough.”
Bill Belichick said the Patriots were prepared and had practiced this week to face a fake of some sort. “We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game, the onside kick, some kind of fake…fake punt, fake field goal. The punter ran a sweep against Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t know what the play was going to be, obviously, but they went on the swing-gate type play. We went over to the over shift and made sure we covered the inside part, reacted well to it. It was a good heads-up play by our punt return unit.”
Belichick, who was maligned for weeks after a 4th and 2 call in Indy by going for it deep in the Patriots zone a few years ago can take a little satisfaction on stopping a play that is bound to be dissected for years to come.
Other observations from Indy include:
Brady and the offense not pleased: Tom Brady had a pretty solid outing on Sunday night, other than the pick that bounced off of Julian Edelman’s hands and right into Mike Adams’, but his demeanor after the game was one of sullen disappointment.
The offense left some plays on the field and didn’t play as sharp as they have in week’s past. Although they scored 34 points, it was an uneven night for the offense that at times was clicking on all cylinders and at others stalled too many times.
Unlike the Buffalo game where the Patriots let the Bills hang around by trying to put the nail in the coffin by getting away from what they do best and throwing deep on third and fourth and short, this time, they went a little too conservative too soon. They tried to pound the ball too much with LaGarrette Blount starting with about nine minutes to go and they let the Colts kind of hang around, even though they were up by two touchdowns.
Brady’s numbers on the night were 23-37 for 312 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback rating for the game was 104.8, which will actually bring down his season QB rating.
Defense Adjusts, Shuts Down Luck, Colts in 2nd Half: The Colts came out after the opening kickoff in the first quarter and went quickly down the field and scored a touchdown to get their hopes up.
They added a second touchdown drive in the first half and Andrew Luck was looking sharp. They were getting the ball out quickly, hitting the short crossing routes (much like NE), and weren’t allowing the Patriots to get their pass rush going.
But the Pats defense under Matt Patricia adjusted well in the second half and ditched most of the soft zone coverages that they played in the first half and went back to more man coverage. The result was that the Colts were stymied in the second half until a garbage time touchdown with a minute left.
The pass rush was much more effective and Chandler Jones registered 2.5 sacks and was beginning to get the better of LT Anthony Costanzo and also caused the tackle to hit with a few crucial penalty flags. Luck finished 30-50 for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but he was largely ineffective in the 2nd half.
With Dont’a Hightower out with a rib injury, the Pats made the decision to playJonathan Freeny more than the veteran Jerod Mayo especially in the sub-packages. Mayo seems to have lost a step and Freeny was targeted in coverage, not his strong suit, a few times. The team missed Hightower’s blitzing up the A-gap. This will bear watching in the near future as Mayo’s snaps are way down this season.
Malcolm Butler continues his strong play this season. He was solid in coverage and was contesting plays all over the field. He had a couple of plays that once again could have been interceptions. It is only a matter of time before they become picks instead of incompletions.
Jamie Collins Shows His Athleticism: In Hightower’s absence, more was expected from Jamie Collins and he once again was very impressive. Collins was making plays all over the field in the running game, influencing things in the passing game in coverage and blitzed a few times effectively as well.
He and Butler are the two most valuable players on the defense as Collins is playing at a Pro-Bowl level thru the first five games. His athleticism was on display after the Colts score with a minute to go. On the extra point attempt, the uber-athletic Collins vaulted over the defensive and offensive lines with a tremendous leap and then easily blocked Adam Vinatieri’s extra point attempt.
Injuries Piling Up: After losing CB Tarell Brown and LT Nate Solder to IR this week, the Patriots were going with Marcus Cannon at left tackle. But in the Patriots first series, Cannon was visibly hobbling and left the game and didn’t return. In his stead, Cameron Fleming who was signed off the practice squad this week came in a played right tackle. That made Sebastian Vollmer slide over to left tackle in an exercise of musical chairs. But the offensive line did a good job of protecting Brady overall.
Julian Edelman hurt his finger on the Patriots first touchdown drive. It bothered him the rest of the evening and he dropped a couple of passes that he normally catches easily including the one that Mike Adams returned for a pick six.
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard who has been the team’s most effective pass rusher, got his ankle rolled up in the first half and didn’t return. Then late in the game, Matthew Slater, the team’s Pro Bowl special teams ace went down with what looks to be a serious knee injury.
Blount with a big but not spectacular game: Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount got the majority of the reps this week, possibly because of Dion Lewis’ abdomen injury but probably because of his history in facing the Colts.
While Blount didn’t have the eye-popping stats of his last few games against Indy he did have a very solid game, carrying the ball 16 times for 93 yards, including a 35 yard touchdown. He also notched his first career touchdown pass, an 11-yarder from Brady. He did a nice job of reading Brady’s roll out to the right and got wide open down by the goalline and rolled into the end zone.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Andrew Luck Bill Belichick Brandon LaFell Chandler Jones Chuck Pagano Danny Amendola Fake punt Griff Whalen Indianapolis Colts Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady