ReFo: Colts @ Patriots, Week 11
It wasn’t quite as lopsided as the score would indicate, but don’t interpret that to mean that this one came down to the wire. Even without a pair of Andrew Luck pick-sixes and a punt return touchdown, the Colts were still a ways down. But once the pendulum got swinging New England’s way, Indianapolis could just never reclaim any of the momentum that saw them ahead after one quarter of play. A couple more wins like this and the Patriots could be the first team to lock up a division title this year. There’s really no reason to think it won’t happen sooner rather than later — this victory marks the fifth time this year the Pats have won by double digits.
The end result was far from what the Colts wanted, but it was a learning experience for the young team. And though this loss will be a tough pill to swallow, Indianapolis currently holds a wildcard spot (is it too early to talk about playoff seeding?) and is in control of their own destiny from here on out. So far this squad has responded to every loss with a victory in the following contest, and it’ll be a testament to Indy’s resiliency if they can rebound at home next week against the Bills.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Finally healthy at the same time, the combination of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis has proven to be one of the most destructive pairs of edge rushers in the league. However, as they’ve been doing all year, New England’s line held the pass rushers at bay. Freeney and Mathis accounted for just two hits and three hurries on their 56 combined pass rushing snaps. Sadly, those five pressures were still two more than the rest of the team could muster, as no one stepped up in their wake. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying though, since Indianapolis blitzed on 40% of Tom Brady’s drop-backs. With so little pressure on that many blitzes, it’s no surprise that Brady had success — all three of his touchdown passes came against the blitz.
A Mixed Bag
With Anthony Castonzo and Samson Satele easily the best run-blockers on the team it’s no surprise that the Colts would favor running to the left side. However, the overall imbalance was rather shocking, as just four of Indy’s 23 runs went right of center, and all four of those came in the A gap off Satele’s right shoulder. Castonzo’s +2.9 grade is due almost entirely to his pass protection, but Satele had a great day blocking for the Colts’ running backs. He did well sealing off linebackers at the second level and won most of his matchups when left on a lineman. Unfortunately, much of his good work was undone as left guard Joe Reitz (-3.4 run blocking) often allowed New England’s linemen (read: Vince Wilfork) to blow up running lanes in his vicinity.
A Lack of Coverage
It’s rarely a fun day when you have to play cornerback against Brady, and Sunday was no different for the trio of Cassius Vaughn, Darius Butler, and Josh Gordy. Matched up mostly with Wes Welker in the slot, Butler (-1.8 coverage) gave up more yards and completions than his teammates with 75 and seven respectively, but it’s most concerning that 56 of those yards came after the catch. Gordy (-2.1 cov) spent more time on the outside, and gave up 65 yards and five completions on the six balls he saw come his way. And though Vaughn (-1.3 cov) surrendered just 20 yards, he was the only one of the trio to allow up a score, giving Julian Edelmen a free release and inside position for a 2-yard touchdown. It was a disappointing day for the three corners, who gave up a combined passer rating of 138.1 and were unable to get their hands on a single pass.
New England – Three Performances of Note
Back to His Best
Maybe it was a favorable matchup, or maybe he used our recent piece on his struggles as motivation (unlikely), but either way, Wilfork showed up ready to play. The +3.8 grade he received was comfortably his highest of the season, and he tied his season-high with three pressures (all hurries). Two of those came against Joe Reitz, who had difficulty containing Wilfork in the running game as well. The fact that that grade includes a pair of missed tackles by the big man indicates Wilfork may be rediscovering his form just in time for the Patriots to climb to the top of the AFC.
Back in Action
Most will look at his 59-yard pick-six and think that the trade for Aqib Talib was just another example of the New England ripping someone off. But that interception was a result of a huge overthrow by Luck rather than an amazing play by Talib, and aside from that play Talib (-2.6) had a long day. Of the other 10 balls thrown his way, eight were completed for a massive 141 yards, or 42% of Luck’s passing yards. T. Y. Hilton in particular had success against Talib, tallying 68 yards and two touchdowns on three targets into his coverage. Talib was even flagged for Illegal Contact on one of those touchdowns, and the Patriots better hope he’s done shaking off the rust before they have to face a more potent offense.
An Heir Apparent?
Many have speculated that New England is fully ready to let Welker go after the season and replace him with the similarly-sized Julian Edelmen. Although Edelmen did record his best receiving day on the season (statistically, at least), it was hardly worth writing home about. Edelmen did force a couple of missed tackles and picked up 56 of his 58 yards after the catch while putting one pass on the ground. He really proved his value on special teams though, gaining 117 yards and a touchdown on his two punt returns. Add to that a forced fumble on special teams and a 47-yard run and it looks like the former seventh rounder is stating his case as an integral member of the team.
— Indianapolis kept a halfback in to block on 21 of Luck’s 55 drop-backs.
— Every Colt defender who was targeted more than once allowed at least 60% of those targets to be completed.
— Tom Brady was 18 of 20 on throws between the numbers, with 250 yards and two touchdowns for a QB rating of 155.8.
PFF Game Ball
He caught everything thrown his way for 137 yards and two touchdowns, but with a broken arm, this well could be Rob Gronkowski’s last game ball of the regular season.