After every win, the New England Patriots had to prove once again that they’re for real. So is winning on the road against a very good Indianapolis Colts team enough? Doing it by 22 points? With Tom Brady actually not playing all that well? Probably, with someone like Jonas Gray coming out of nowhere to bulldoze anything in his way on the ground.
The Patriots came away with a 42-20 win, making it two in a row in very convincing fashion over the Colts (dating back to the previous postseason). The Patriots have now won seven in a row since a loss in Kansas City that had everyone calling for Bill Belichick to be fired and for Tom Brady to retire. Brady didn’t need to be special in the win – he actually threw two interceptions early in the game. But Jonas Gray with 199 yards completely made up for the lack of superiority in the quarterback situation.
The same thing happened in the playoffs when the two teams met – the Patriots simply stuck to the ground game. Maybe Belichick isn’t confident that Brady can beat Andrew Luck in a shooutout of gunslingers. He does know that packing the middle of the offensive line and focusing on running the ball through there produces excellent results. With the help of the tight ends, that’s what the Patriots planned and did, resulting in 244 rushing yards for the team and four touchdowns, all by Gray.
Andrew Luck was the next quarterback to see how difficult it is to find open receivers against the rebuilt Patriots secondary, which includes Darrelle Revis, who might not be as flashy as he was during his New York Jets days, but is still incredibly difficult to throw against. Luck did throw for 303 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but he was also intercepted early in the game. Way before the Patriots turned things up to a different gear and ran away with the game.
Breaking down the Gray performance comes to 112 yards coming before he even felt any contact. He rushed for 95 yards outside the tackles as well, but three of his touchdowns came through the middle. The Colts have allowed 10 such touchdowns, tied for second most in the NFL. He is the seventh player in NFL history with 150 yards and four touchdowns on a road game, and only the third since 2000. The last one to do it was Doug Martin of the Buccaneers in 2012.
The Colts tried disrupting things with a lot of blitzing against Tom Brady. Brady has the best QBR in the NFL against the blitz this season, and looked good against the added pressure in Indianapolis as well, throwing both of his touchdowns against five or more pass rushers. Both of his interceptions came when the Colts sent four or less defenders out to get him. With that plan and running the ball (19 yards on 17 carries) both not working, the Colts were really left with very little to try and win the game.
Despite the loss and falling to 6-4, the Colts should still win the division yet again, even if a major flaw of theirs has been exposed. For the Patriots, at 8-2, with the best record in the AFC, there’s a very difficult finish waiting for them, which includes playing the Lions, at Green Bay and at San Diego in the next three weeks. They don’t really need to prove anything anymore, but any loss in any of these games will raise the same questions from the beginning of the season.