Patriots Pyrrhic Victory Versus Colts - Part one: Offense

by Hal Bent,

The New England Patriots rolled to victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, 59 to 24. As is par for the course in New England, the defense took a few series to get their feet under them.  As is rarely par for the course in New England, the Patriots defense put up 14 points off turnovers (and add in a punt return for a touchdown) and the Patriots turned the game around with Tom Brady sitting on the sidelines. Yes, Brady did come in and yet again make a case for NFL MVP (Peyton Manning will win it, but is anyone doing more to win week-in and week-out than Brady?), but after the first quarter, this looked like a consistent team effort.  Unfortunately, the all-world tight end/spike enthusiast Rob Gronkowksi left late in the game with a broken forearm that required surgery and is likely to miss a month at minimum. 

Some quick-hit thoughts on what transpired with the Patriots offense in Foxboro on Sunday:

  • Winning in the air: 
    • The running game disappeared on Sunday. Twenty-five rushing attempts for 115 yards looks good on paper. Subtract wide receiver Julian Edelman's 47 yard run and 24 rushes for 68 yards brings back the not-so-fond memories of the plodding rushes of Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis these last few seasons. 
    • In defense of the running backs, the team was missing both starting guards (Dan Connolly and all-pro Logan Mankins) who have both been extremely effective in the running game this season. Shane Vereen had some extremely effective runs early on, but Steven Ridley never got on track all game.  
    • I would say something about Danny Woodhead, but since he went from weapon to goose-eggs in one week.  Of course, depending on the game plan, he could be in line for 15 carries or run 15 routes on Thursday against the Jets.
    • With no real injury issue, Steven Ridley just plain did not get it going.  A couple of runs he looked a bit indecisive, but that could simply be the product of a good plan/coaching/play by the Colts.  Of course, going up against New England and planning to stop the run sounds like a recipe for Tom Brady leading the squad to 38 points (on offense).
    • Brandon Bolden, though still suspended for idiotically taking (well, at least for being caught, I guess) PEDs, was missed in the running game.  His style of one cut, straight ahead, hit the hole hard, head-down and legs pumping hard was not seen. Vereen had two runs up the middle (11 and 13 yards) where he looked like he was shot out of a cannon and blasted forward like a whirling dervish. More runs like that would have helped, but since we're nit-picking an offense which scored five touchdowns (and had two field goal tries inside 40 yards--of which one was a miss) it's hard to be too negative.
  • Man, oh Edelman:
    • Running the ball, making receptions all over the field, running back a punt for a touchdown, even forcing a fumble? Quite the afternoon for Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman as he flashed game-changing quickness against the speedy Colts defense. Is this what the Patriots coaches saw this summer that had them taking snaps from Wes Welker to get him on the field? Edelman changed the entire momentum of the game with his second-quarter punt return. 
    • I think the best bet with Edelman is to have him and Welker both going over the middle of the field and doubling the match-up headaches for the opposing defenses.  Add in a healthy (sometime this year, hopefully) tight end Aaron Hernandez, and the Patriots have some shifty, effective receivers to catch short passes and rack-up the yards after the catch.  
    • Who I was looking for (unsuccessfully) during the game was wide receiver Greg Salas, recently added to the roster from the practice squad.  Salas played for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in St Louis last year and was added to the team in a trade 3 months ago, so knowing the offense is likely not an issue. With wide receiver Deion Branch injured and released (for now), I expected Salas to show up on the stat sheet, but he was rooted to the bench most of the game.  Hopefully, he will be the rare young wide receiver who gets developed into a starting wide receiver in the future. 
  • Bitten by the injury bug: 
    • Losing tight end Rob Gronkowski to a broken forearm is huge. Having it happen on an extra point try with less than four minutes left in a blow out is just bad luck. No one should be calling out the coaches for having Gronk out blocking in that situation. It was a fluke injury; Injuries rarely happen on PAT attempts (it is the play a team would put a fan out on the field for a play if there was some weird promotion like that).  Losing Gronk hurts, but if he comes back healthy and rested for the playoffs, it could be a blessing in disguise. The Patriots will still score a lot of points without Gronkowski, and the team brought in a plethora of back-up tight ends to help in this exact circumstance.  If the offense still can rated number one without multi-faceted threat Aaron Hernandez at tight end, the team will survive without Rob Gronkowksi.
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Coming soon: Patriots Pyrrhic Victory Versus Colts - Part two: Defense