FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots won by 14, but should have perhaps won by 34.
To begin the game, Tom Brady drives the Patriots 75 yards in 12 plays, culminating with a one-yard quick screen toss to Cordarelle Patterson to make it 7-0 Patriots.
The Colts get the ball. Nyheim Hines for four yards. Andrew Luck sacked for nine-yard loss. Eric Ebron drops a sure first down pass wide open. Punt.
Patriots ball at the Colt 49. Third down and five, Brady lofts a sure fire pass to wide open Julian Edelman on the left sideline. Edelman shows his rust after a long layoff and drops the catch.
From that moment on, the game would no longer morph into a massive Patriot blowout win. The Patriots were clearly the better team than the Colts. But the Patriots seemed disinterested for most of the night until the game got close in the fourth quarter, Luck finally enjoyed a big stats night against a team that has owned him for his whole career, and the Patriots were able to hang on and defeat the Colts 38-24 on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
This much is clear: the Patriots could have, and should have, blown the Colts to bits. The undermanned Colts were no match for the rejuvenated Patriots, celebrating the return of Edelman, another nice game by Sony Michel, some more history for Brady, and even a Josh Gordon sighting late in the contest. But uncharacteristic mistakes, a substandard night for Devin McCourty, and a lack of overall intensity for much of the game allowed the Colts to make it a one score game in the fourth quarter.
The Colts wound up giving the Patriots a good game, and it became both entertaining and frustrating at the same time. Luck finished 38 of 59 passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Luck did suffer two interceptions, but one of them was off a deflection and the other was a throwaway to avoid a sack. Luck has still never beaten the Patriots in five tries; the Patriots overall have won eight in a row against the Colts, not losing since the infamous Fourth And Two game of 2009.
Brady, on the other hand, had a historical evening. The win was the 226th of his career, tying former teammate Adam Vinatieri (who kicked for the other team tonight) for most in NFL history. Brady’s touchdown pass to Gordon in the fourth quarter was the 71st different receiver Brady has thrown a touchdown pass to in his NFL career, passing Vinny Testaverde for most in NFL history. His second touchdown pass of the night, a six-yard scoring toss to James White in the second quarter was the 500th of his career, making him the third NFL quarterback to surpass 500 touchdown passes, trailing only Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
Brady finished 34 of 44 passing for 341 yards and three touchdowns. Brady was charged with two interceptions, but one of them was initially ruled a fumble and later changed to a pick. Both interceptions were off of muffed catches by Patriot receivers; Chris Hogan muffed a catch midway through the third quarter, and Matthias Farley made the pick after the ball popped up in the air. The Patriots got the ball back after a Jordan Wilkins fumble, but five plays later, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski in the left seam for 19 yards, but after making the catch he lost the ball in the air, and Najee Goode took the muff and raced 16 yards on the return. This was initially ruled a fumble but later changed to an interception.
The two turnovers on consecutive drives galvanized the outmanned Colts, and they were able to cut the Patriot lead to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter when Erik Swoope beat Devin McCourty up the right seam in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass. McCourty was repeatedly burned in pass coverage; he was targeted nine times and gave up 142 receiving yards in the process. He did get a fumble recovery in the third quarter by stripping the ball from Wilkins on a left end run, but this sort of surrendered receiving yardage cannot continue by someone who normally is one of the most reliable Patriot defenders on any given Sunday/Monday/Thursday.
McCourty’s bad evening aside, the Patriots seemingly could not generate any pass rush after the opening drive. The sack of Luck by Patrick Chung and Trey Flowers was the only one of the evening by the Patriots. For the rest of the night, Luck looked very comfortable in the pocket and was able to make throws he generally doesn’t make against the Patriots. Luck was burned by five drops by his receivers, including a sure touchdown by Chester Rogers late in the third quarter after blowing by Stephon Gilmore in coverage.
Luck finished with a passer rating of 84.4.
Michel nearly missed a second straight 100-yard rushing performance, finishing with 98 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. His touchdown was a nifty 34-yard left end run which featured him stiff-arming Farley on his way to the end zone. Michel averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Michel is still learning to run the ball the NFL way, but with more seasoning, he should hopefully justify the first round selection the Patriots used on him.
Brady’s passer rating was 102.5. White once again led the Patriots with ten catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski had six catches for 75 yards, and Edelman chipped in with seven catches for 57 yards. Gordon’s touchdown catch was off a broken play; Brady had about ten seconds to throw the ball, and found Gordon in the end zone from 34 yards out despite being in double coverage. Gordon ran a slant in route, then slanted out and beat Farley and Chris Milton in the end zone.
In a bit of irony, on the same night that Brady tied Vinatieri for most wins by a player in league history, Vinatieri suffered a missed 38-yard field goal in the first quarter with a doink shot off the left upright. He did nail a 54-yarder later in the game. How strange it is to see every Patriot kicker from 1995 to the present on the same field tonight; along with Stephen Gostkowski, the two men have given stability to Patriot kicking much like coaching stability in Pittsburgh (three head coaches since 1969).
The Patriots have plenty of time now to rest and begin dissecting the Kansas City Chiefs and their potent offense. Patrick Mahomes has emerged as the newest star in the NFL, quarterbacking a Chief offense that features Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill. And let’s not forget that no longer unknown running back named Kareem Hunt.
The Patriots are now over .500 at 3-2, and can hope beyond hope that Miami will lose Sunday at Cincinnati, which would tie them for the division lead. Time now to set football aside and hope your local baseball team can once again vanquish its most hated rival.
Relevant? Maybe you heard the Gillette Stadium crowd in the fourth quarter, chanting something that was not flattering to the New York Yankees. Nice win by the Patriots, but New England’s mindset right now is on the Olde Towne Team that just won a team record 108 games under rookie skipper Alex Cora. The veteran skipper, Bill Belichick, ended his postgame presser by wishing the Red Sox well, saying “We’re pulling for you!”
Okay, Red Sox, get it done.
Posted Under: 2018 Patriots Regular Season