The Patriots went above .500 for the first time this season at 5-4 and head into the bye week with a modest two-game winning streak.
The defense and special teams dominated the Colts, and that was more than enough. The Patriots sacked Sam Ehlinger nine times and held the Colts 0-16 on third and fourth downs for the game. The offense remains a mess; shoddy play along the offensive line is disrupting everything that they’re trying to do.
During the upcoming bye week, the coaches need to work on getting Mac Jones better protection, a better feel for going through his progressions, and making better decisions with the ball. It isn’t all on Jones or the OL, but those are the two most glaring needs during self-scouting this week.
So, there are some additional observations and thoughts from yesterday’s win. And with that, away we go.
Rhamondre Stevenson A Bright Spot For the Offense:
The Patriots’ 2nd-year running back continues his solid play as a three-down back. He carried the ball 15 times for 60 yards (4.0 average) and added three catches for 10 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. Consider this; all other Patriot rushing attempts totaled 13 attempts for 10 yards. His one-handed grab for the offense’s lone TD was impressive.
The team made a curious decision to play J.J. Taylor with Damien Harris out with an illness. Taylor isn’t the biggest guy and given the offensive line play (more below), it didn’t give Taylor much of a chance to show what he can do. He finished with 10 carries for nine yards and one catch for 8 yards.
Defense Slams the Door: There was never a feel in this game that the Colts’ offense would be able to generate anything much in the scoring department. With Sam Ehlinger playing in only his second NFL game, the offense was simplified, and without Jonathan Taylor, the ground game was not going to be a threat. Indy finished with 78 yards rushing on 22 carries, a 3.5-yard average. The running backs averaged only 2.5 yards per carry.
The Patriots again got a great pass rush that put Ehlinger under pressure from start to finish. They sacked Ehlinger nine times, had 12 QB hits, and eight tackles for loss. The Colts were 0-14 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. Ehlinger completed 15-29 passes for just 103 yards but only had 43 yards net passing. He also threw a pick-six as Jonathan Jones put an exclamation point on an impressive day for him, returning the interception 17 yards for the score.
The Patriots’ defense has shown that they are more than capable of shutting down the running game when facing an opponent without a mobile, dual-threat QB. With the toughest part of the schedule coming up after the bye week, they’ll need that kind of play to remain competitive.
Judon, Linebackers Shine: We highlighted in an earlier piece on Patsfans.com that Sunday’s game against Indy was tailor-made for Judon to shine. And shine, he did. Judon notched three sacks to boost his league-leading total to 11.5, adding four QB hits and three tackles for loss.
Josh Uche got a hat trick of his own, with three sacks, two QB hits, and three TFLs. Overall, the linebacking crew, also featuring Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson, and Anfernee Jennings, factored in 8.5 of the sacks, eight TFLs, and a pass defensed. When the linebackers dominate like that, it means the defensive line is doing its job, allowing the backers to make plays.
Offensive Line Shuffling Nets Little Progress:
The Patriots continued to shuffle the offensive line looking for anything that may allow them to run their offense. The problems aren’t only on the OL; without adequate protection or any kind of push in the running game, it is hard to evaluate the skill position players. The Colts sacked Mac Jones four times, with seven QB hits.
Isaiah Wynn was moved to left guard in place of rookie Cole Strange. The results there weren’t anything resembling a fix as Wynn gave up a sack, a QB hit, two stuffed runs, and a holding penalty. James Ferentz continues to struggle at center, which adversely has affected Strange. Hopefully, after the bye week, the team will get center David Andrews back, which should solidify the interior.
Right tackle was manned by Yodny Cajuste, who was very shaky in the early going. But watching the game again, he played better as the game wore on. If he can stay healthy, something that has plagued him throughout his career, he may end up being the answer at right tackle. He should at least get the start against the Jets after the bye week.
Special Teams Get a Measure of Payback Against the Colts:
Last season, the Colts dominated the Patriots’ units in the 27-17 win in Indy. They blocked a Jake Bailey punt, something the Patriots wanted to avenge. Special Teams’ Coordinator Cam Achord said after the game that this was a game that the team circled as a most-important game.
And Jonathan Jones in a perfectly designed play, Jonathan Jones flew in untouched and blocked Matt Haack’s punt that rookie Brendan Schooler recovered, and the Patriots quickly scored, putting the game out of reach. Jones later made a nice play on a deflected pass and returned it for a 17-yard pick-six.
The Colts have excellent coverage units on their STs, but they gave up a 23-yard punt return and a 32-yard kickoff return to rookie Marcus Jones, who continues to impress week after week.
Nick Folk continues to be “Mr. Automatic,” as he was 4-4 on field goal attempts with a long of 49 and two extra points. On the other hand, Jake Bailey had a poor afternoon despite booming a 58-yarder on his first punt. Punts for 36 yards when the Patriots were pinned deep, 39, 40, and shank off the side of his foot that traveled only seven yards were definitely not what we’ve come to expect from Bailey.
Other quick observations included WR Lynn Bowden being activated from the practice squad and playing 14 snaps (22 percent) on offense.
Seam Routes? Yes, Hunter Henry had 50 yards receiving, including a nice 30-yard seam route…finally. More, please. Jonnu Smith had a nice 24-yard catch and run on a screen. But can the coaches figure out a way to utilize him somewhere other than a screen pass at the line of scrimmage?
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley had a very solid game, despite being overshadowed by the splash plays of Judon and Uche. Bentley was excellent in run support notching nine tackles, a sack, a TFL, and two QB hits.
Rookie CB Jack Jones continues to play some impressive snaps at cornerback. He added a pass defensed. Veteran Devin McCourty had two PDs. Jabril Peppers had a strong game as well.
Look for my Positional Report Card tomorrow.
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Damien Harris Devin McCourty Indianapolis Colts Ja'Whaun Bentley Jack Jones Jakobi Meyers Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marcus Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers Sam Ehlinger