Is the rivalry back on? For the first half of tonight’s game, it certainly didn’t seem so as the Patriots throttled the Colts to a 24-3 advantage at the break. But the team played a very sloppy third quarter and the Colts narrowed the lead down to a single score before the Patriots behind a strong game from Tom Brady pulled away to win 38-24 in front of a packed house in Gillette Stadium.
The Colts, however, were equally as sloppy and the game was mired with five turnovers and after being treated to several good Thursday Night Football contests, fans were given more of what we’ve come to expect from these mid-week games.
Julian Edelman returned to his first game action since the Super Bowl against the Falcons and didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Patriots made sure he was immediately targeted on the first play from scrimmage. Edelman had three catches on the first drive where Brady went 9-9 and finished it off with a TD pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.
Edelman finished the game with seven receptions for 57 yards and was back returning punts as well. On the Patriots second drive, as they were again moving, Brady hit him wide open down the sideline and he dropped it. It was a scenario that would return…for both teams.
Brady had a record-setting night and broke two milestones with just one pass. In the fourth quarter after the Colts had pulled within seven at 24-17, Brady led the Pats on a very nice drive and at the Colts 34, with seemingly all night to throw, he aired it out to Josh Gordon for a 34-yard touchdown. It was both the 500th of Brady’s career making him just the 3rd player to do so, but it also broke another record. Gordon’s TD reception made him the 71st player to catch a TD from Brady, breaking the record he shared with Vinny Testaverde. He finished 34-44 for 341 yards with three TDs and 2 INTs.
The Colts were a banged up team on Thursday and couldn’t even field a full team of 46 active players, they could only dress 44. Please remind us NFL about how important player safety is again. And while the Colts defense is much better, and yes they were missing several players, the Patriots could have easily, should have easily dropped 50 on them.
The Edelman drop certainly cost them points and Brady’s two interceptions were both in the hands of Patriots receivers who dropped them. Chris Hogan had a Brady pass right in his hands at the 23-yard line and into Mathias Farley’s hands ending another scoring drive. On the ensuing drive, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski down the seam that would have given the Pats a 1st and goal at the five. Instead, the ball was ripped out, (seemed more like a fumble) and Najeh Goode returned it to the 20.
However, also on the plus side was the solid game by Sony Miche who racked up 98 more yards on 18 carries and he’s getting better and better. His 34-yard touchdown was a nice one where he got free on good blocking and then burst down the sideline untouched for the score.
Andrew Luck seems all the way back from his injury and his arm strength which some were questioning before the game, seems fine, thank you very much. He dropped some dimes all over the field and lasered a few passes into tight window coverage as well. Luck finished with 365 yards passing with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, but after throwing 62 passes on Sunday, he threw 59 more last night and they desperately need a running game or he’s going to get killed out there.
Eric Ebron had a huge game for the Colts and had his way all night long, despite being a bit gimpy himself at times. He finished with 9 catches for 105 yards and 2 TDs. Nyheim Hines had a solid game for Indy, he got 45 yards on the ground on 15 carries and added 45 more thru the air on seven catches.
The Patriots defense had a solid first half and was gashed pretty well by Luck in the final 30 minutes. The Colts short passing game kept the chains moving as Indy rolled up 439 yards of offense. These are some troubling developments and much will have to be cleaned up considering their next opponent. The defense has 10 days to prepare for Kansas City’s passing game, and they have a lot of work to do.
So who was up and down tonight?
Tom Brady – The Patriots QB was his normal, unflappable self against the Colts, and he seemed to be able to carve them up at will. The Colts were only able to stop the Patriots passing game on the drops/interceptions in the second half.
And to break two big milestones on one pass was pretty special. His touchdown pass to Gordon was reminiscent of a TD that he threw in 2007 to Randy Moss against Miami. That broke the record he shared with Testaverde. And it was also his 500th, making him just the third player (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning) to do so. Drew Brees is next on the list with 496. Brady as always gave the credit to his teammates.
“Things like that, milestones and so forth, there are so many people who contribute,” Brady said. “I just think of all the people who have really worked hard. A quarterback doesn’t throw them to himself. He needs people to catch, and block, and the defense to make plays, and coaches to coach. These are all great team awards. Pretty cool.”
Sony Michel/James White – The Patriots 1-2 punch at the running back position was huge again for the team. Michel gave them 98 yards on the ground, including the 34-yard touchdown and one catch for 12 yards. White, on the other hand, was a thorn in the side of Indy’s defense catching 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He just two carries 0 yards, but one of those was a key 3rd and 1 conversion on the Patriots first drive of the game.
The duo was fantastic and they each bring something to each element of the offense. Michel will eventually become a bigger factor in the passing game and we know White is able to contribute in the running game.
We wrote earlier this week that with Edelman back and teaming him with Gronk and Josh Gordon would open up some room for White underneath. Tonight’s game was a testament to that.
Jason McCourty – The Patriots cornerback has continued his strong play this season and he was very solid again tonight. He made two excellent plays, back-to-back breaking up passes including one in the end zone to Zack Pascal.
J-Mac also had a nice play where he knocked the ball out from Pascal again and Jonathan Jones intercepted it to seal the game. The very next play, Michel rolled in from 34 yards to put the Pats back up by 21.
Considering the way, the summer started, it looked like J-Mac was on the bubble. Now, that thought seems a bit ludicrous.
Devin McCourty/Pat Chung – The Pats safety had an up and down night, he made a couple of big plays that helped turn the ball over to the Pats. He broke up a pass intended for Hines on a key third down stop and stripped the ball from Jordan Wilkins after a short gain and took the sting out of the Hogan drop/pick
And yes, he was given fits all night by Ebron who had the biggest game of his career and was constantly in trail. But the touchdown that Ebron scored against him was scheme driven. He was playing inside leverage and Ebron broke outside….oops. Great play call by Indy.
However, it wasn’t D-Mac’s greatest game but it wasn’t the worst as some fans would think. Chung struggled to contain Ebron as well. Tip your hat to him and get back to work on the KC gameplan I guess. Chung otherwise was strong with 11 tackles, a pick, and a QB hit.
Jonathan Jones- The Pats nickel corner had a pretty rough night. He seemed a tad slow off the snap all night long and was getting beat consistently and was resorting to a lot of grabby work which can result in a flag fest. Something that was mentioned in the broadcast.
The Colts picked on him pretty consistently all night. We’ll have to rewatch the tape later today but it didn’t look like Jones’ best night either. But as with McCourty, Jones did get the pick on the interception.