ReFo: Colts @ Patriots, AFC Championship
The NFC Championship Game was a case of what might have been for the losing team but the Indianapolis Colts’ defeat to the New England Patriots was more “What on Earth just happened”? The Colts had produced a pair of strong all-around performances to see off the Bengals and Broncos and reach Andrew Luck’s first conference title game, but crumbled against their bogey team in the biggest game of the post-Peyton era.
Following the same script as the regular season tilt in Week 11, save for a different leading light at running back. The Patriots physically dominated a Colts run defense that had looked much improved in the last month. Up front, the Patriots’ offensive line controlled matters in the trenches and with a head of steam built up the Colts’ linebackers and defensive backs struggled to get LeGarrette Blount on the ground quickly as he ran them out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Indianapolis Colts – Performances of Note
Cory Redding, DE, -2.1
Breakdown: The Colts got worked over up front and none more so than Redding who had his moments against the pass, but offered no resistance to the power of the Patriots’ ground attack. His wins as a pass rusher against Josh Kline and Ryan Wendell were more than offset by him being all too easily moved out of running lanes. A couple of times he helped the Patriots in that regard by jumping upfield to open running lanes further.
Signature Stat: In two games against the Patriots this season Redding has earned a -8.1 run defense grade, in his other 17 games combined his run defense grade was +2.2.
Joe Reitz, RT, -4.7
Breakdown: The Patriots succeeded where Von Miller and the Denver Broncos failed, getting after Joe Reitz in the passing game to pressure Andrew Luck. After surrendering four pressures in Denver last weekend Reitz got lit up for 10 pressures last night (1 Hits, 9 Hurries), consistently beaten off of his outside shoulder by Rob Ninkovich in particular.
Signature Stat: Surrendering 10 of the 24 pressures charged to the Colts’ offense, Reitz played his part in Luck being pressured on 19 of his 36 dropbacks last night.
D’Qwell Jackson, ILB, -5.1 and Jerrell Freeman, ILB, -6.4
Breakdown: Playing behind an offensive line that was getting driven from pillar to post, the Colts’ inside linebacker pairing offered nothing to solidify the defense at the second level. A high-water mark in the first half with Jackson’s interception of Tom Brady’s forced throw was just about all these two had to offer from this game in a positive regard. Freeman added a pair of missed tackles and neither player looked capable of consistently shedding blocks to stem the tide that game roaring at them from LeGarrette Blount.
Signature Stat: As one of these two goes so the other tends to follow. This was the fourth time this season that Jackson and Freeman have earned overall grades of -2.0 or below in the same game.
New England Patriots – Performances of Note
LeGarrette Blount, RB, +5.3
Breakdown: For Jonas Gray in Week 11 read LeGarrette Blount last night. Just as Jonas Gray wore down the Colts’ defense in mid-season with persistently powerful attack so Blount consistently ground them down last night as he did in the divisional round last season. Collecting nearly 3 yards per carry after first contact, Blount worked the Colts over after contact without forcing an extreme number of missed tackles, simply winning and driving almost every contact that little bit extra down the field to keep the offense chugging forwards.
Signature Stat: In his two playoff winning performances over the Colts, Blount has averaged 3.3 yards per carry after contact, breaking eight tackles along the way.
Darrelle Revis, CB, +3.6
Breakdown: Just as the Patriots’ ground game has dominated in two games against the Colts this year, so has Revis been shutdown on the defensive side of the ball. Targeted only twice last night, he broke up one deep ball for Donte Moncrief and snagged only his third interception of the season, baiting Andrew Luck into a poor throw late in the third quarter. In the two games combined, Revis surrendered two catches for 4 yards on eight targets.
Signature Play: That interception at 2:24 in the third owed everything to how late Revis came off of Donte Moncrief to undercut T.Y. Hilton with Luck thinking that no one was covering Hilton in the flat.
Josh Kline, RG, +2.5
Breakdown: There were some struggles from very early on in pass protection for Kline but he more than made up for that with strong and consistent work as a run blocker. Only playing due to an injury to starting center Bryan Stork, Kline took full advantage with the sort of performance he produced in his last start against the Bills in Week 17. Whether at the line of scrimmage against Arthur Jones or the second level against Jerrell Freeman, Kline won the majority of his matchups in the run game last night.
Signature Play: One of many forays to the second level, Kline worked up to seal Jerrell Freeman on the final play before the two minute warning in the first half (Q2, 2:15) to spring a 9-yard gain for Blount.
PFF Game Ball
Colts-Patriots used to be about the quarterback narrative, but for the third time in a row it was about the physicality of the Patriots’ offensive line and their running back, this time LeGarrette Blount, driving the Colts out of the game.
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