At New England
8:15 p.m. ET
66 degrees, cloudy
Key Decision #1: (IND ball, trailing 14-0 / fourth-and-7 NE 36 / 9:01 Q2)
• Based on what Colts head coach Frank Reich said last week about staying aggressive, some might have thought he would go for this fourth down – he’s already down two touchdowns in a tough, short-week road game, and he had many injuries coming into the game. If he goes for it and fails, the Pats get the ball back on their own 36. If he goes for it and gets it, the drive continues.
• He also could choose to pooch punt – though it may have been too close for that. Or he could try a 54-yard FG, outdoors. If Adam Vinatieri misses (he emissed from 38 yards earlier), then the Pats would get the ball on their own 44 – a very short field.
• Reich chose the FG, and Vinatieri made it, making the score 14-3. Interesting call based on his comments from last week.
Key Decision #2: (NE ball, leading 14-3 / late in Q2)
• NE was driving inside IND territory late in the first half. At the 2-minute warning, both teams had all three timeouts. As NE was driving, IND used two of its TOs to stop the clock.
• We felt that if NE scored here – and they did to go up 21-3 – the best-case scenario for IND would be to cut losses and regroup during halftime. By stopping the clock, it was clear Reich wanted the ball back. The problem here is that NE had all three TOs left, so a quick stop by NE defense would give NE another chance to score before the half.
• That’s exactly what happened. NE did make a quick stop thanks to a Patrick Chung INT, and NE tacked on a field goal to lead 24-3 at the half.
• This game was actually closer than the final score indicates. Colts head coach Frank Reich came into this game holding a knife for a gunfight. His team was hurt, playing on the road in a short week following an OT game. Notwithstanding that, he did have his team competing until the end in this game as the Colts closed to within one score from a three-TD deficit. We liked what we saw from the Colts in this loss – Andrew Luck looks recovered, the team had a lot of fight, and we saw some good offensive and defensive adjustments. For the Pats, it was a win, but we are sure there will be a lot of teaching and execution points for head coach Bill Belichick. Again, it was a short week for the Pats as well, but typically we see more in-game adjustments from them.
• While the Patriots won, it was sloppy. The gameplan was vanilla – but to be expected on a short week. What was interesting was there appeared to be a lack of in-game adjustments on defense. The Colts moved the ball well, even short-handed. We think defensive play-caller Brian Flores still is getting acclimated to his role.
• The Pats simply cannot rush the passer; this will be a problem all year. They don’t have enough elite athletes along the front.
• The Colts perform well in an up-tempo offense; lots of young players and subs, this bodes well in the long term for Frank Reich.
• The Colts also made a nice in-game adjustment in the second half by rushing three and playing coverage; they saw the Patriots did not want to run the ball consistently on this night. Once they made the adjustment, they ended up with two turnovers.
• Due to Julian Edelman’s return, the Patriots were able to go five-wide on offense – comfortably – for the first time this year; how they use their personnel is completely changed by the presence of Edelman.
• To help their pass rush, NE tried a number of different blitz combos, but only one got through; Andrew Luck had a lot of clean pockets tonight. Trying to goose the rush will be a theme all year.
• Belichick usually is very good with the clock, but he made one curious TO call with 17 seconds left in the first half. Instead of letting the clock run down on fourth down prior to a fairly short FG try, he called TO. So the Pats kicked the FG, but still had to kickoff in order to end the half. Either he thought fourth down might have been third down and he wanted time to figure out a play call, or perhaps he saw the play clock winding down (we could not see the play clock).