Sure, they may have given up their fair share of points themselves in the 59-24 win, but the secondary was much improved, led by Talib and Dennard’s interception returns for touchdowns. The pass rush looked about as good as it has all season, too, with Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork leading the charge.
The Julian Edelman show also took center stage against the Colts. The versatile receiver kicked things off with a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown and he finished things off with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown as well as a 47-yard run to set up another. Mr. Versatility was unbelievable on the whole and could be a serious weapon as the season goes on.
Rob Gronkowski was sensational, yet again, catching seven balls for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The scores made Gronk the first tight end in NFL history with 10-plus scores in three consecutive seasons. That stat continues to amaze me, especially considering guys like Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez and other that have come before him.
Andrew Luck’s day was marred by four costly turnovers — which cost the Colts 14 points in fact — but he looked a lot better than his numbers (27 for 50, 334 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs and a fumble) may show.
The youngster definitely had some rookie moments, but his poise and focus showed through in the way he progressed past the mistakes and kept Indy going even through some tough times.
A great win for the Patriots, and a performance to be proud of on all sides of the ball. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a smile out of Bill Belichick in postgame.
For all your news, notes and analysis of this win, keep with NESN.com and remember to follow @LukeFHughes on Twitter.
Fourth Quarter, 4:37, Patriots 59-24: Mercy!
That’s what the Colts should be screaming at this point, because this defense can’t hold the Patriots down for even the slightest of moments in this game.
What began as a concerning afternoon has turned into an all-out rout in a 59-24 banger.
This offense has been absurdly good all day, and Shane Vereen’s four-yard score just cemented that reality.
Fourth Quarter, 8:37, Patriots 52-24: Last week it was Danny Woodhead serving the utility role, this time around it’s Julian Edelman doing it all.
After hauling in five passes and returning a punt for a touchdown, Edelman decided to take an end around 47 yards deep into Colts territory and set Stevan Ridley up for the score.
I feel like a broken record, but Edelman is an absolute stud and a weapon unlike many in the NFL. He’s got unbelievable speed and agility. His moves are almost unstoppable. If he stays healthy, this offense might be even more dangerous than it already is — that thought alone could give you chills.
Fourth Quarter, 12:37, Patriots 45-24: So, we saw the good. Now, comes the bad.
Talib bit on a double-move from T.Y. Hilton and got burned badly as Luck hits the rookie with a 43-yard touchdown pass.
The secondary has been stellar on the whole against Luck and these Colts, but sometimes they do seem to get complacent. That’s how that drive felt and it’s a trend that can’t continue if they seriously expect to make a deep playoff run.
Talib has been a big help already, but these defensive backs need to continue relying on one another and trusting themselves on such moves.
Fourth Quarter, 14:47, Patriots 45-17: Just when I get done raving about the defense, they step up even bigger.
Alfonzo Dennard clearly is getting the better of the rookie matchup here at Gillette, as he just picked off Luck and returned it 86-yards for the touchdown.
The last time two Patriots returned interceptions for touchdowns was on Jan. 6, 2002 when Otis Smith and Ty Law put TDs on the board for the Pats.
This secondary is starting to inspire hope in fans. Premature? Maybe. But deserved, today.
End Third Quarter, Patriots 38-17: If there was any doubt about the Patriots heading into the half, many concerns were answered in that third quarter.
Gronk and Edelman got the glory, as both scored touchdowns to give the Patriots their 21-point lead. But it was Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork who really made a big difference.
Both guys stepped up big time in pressuring Luck and forcing errant passes as well as a huge strip-sack turnover that helped extend the lead.
Nink has been vital to the Patriots pass rush this season, and even at 31, Wilfork continues to be the leader of the New England defense.
Third Quarter, 1:01, Patriots 38-17: Well, the Andrew Luck question drew some seriously interesting comparisons.
There were a few Big Ben’s out there, and surprisingly no Manning’s — at least not straight up. Anyhow, I’ll share a few with you right now.
@nesn luck is like a cross between peyton manning and Aaron Rogers
— David Carbone (@deecee3737) November 18, 2012
@nesn Big Ben, but with touch!
— Bill McGoldrick (@billmcgoldrick1) November 18, 2012
— Ray Richardson (@sammysaab11) November 18, 2012
Third Quarter, 3:41, Patriots 38-17: So, Gronk’s pretty good at football. Huh?
Remember when Gronk had 17 touchdowns last season, well he could very well eclipse that this season.
A pair of touchdowns against the Colts today gives Gronk 10 on the year, and makes him the first tight end in NFL history — yep, NFL history — with three consecutive seasons of 10 or more touchdowns. Wow, talk about impressive.
Third Quarter, 7:01, Patriots 31-17: Andrew Luck is a pretty insane athlete, enough so that he draws comparisons to just about every great quarterback of all time.
But while scouring the Twittersphere, I came across some interesting comparisons, including: Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Steve Young.
I’d say he’s a combination of Roethlisberger’s escapability and Young’s athleticism. What do you think?
Tweet @LukeFHughes with your thoughts and your tweet could be featured on NESN.com.
Third Quarter, 11:07, Patriots 31-17: Just like the cowbell, we need more Edelman.
For the second time today, Edelman has found the end zone. The only difference is that this time around, he was on the receiving end of a Tom Brady pass.
Edelman has been the spark plug for the Patriots all evening, hauling in five passes for 58 yards and returning that punt for a touchdown earlier in the game.
If this production is anything even close to what Edelman is capable of the rest of the season, then Branch’s absence won’t even be an after thought. Edelman is a versatile receiver and when healthy he can give the Patriots even more weapons.
End Second Quarter, Patriots 24-17: Andrew Luck has the Colts offense looking like the Patriots early in the first quarter. But an inspired defensive effort, led by some solid work and a touchdown return by Aqib Talib, changed those fortunes.
Between Edelman’s 68-yard punt return and Talib’s 59-yard interception return, which came in a span of 61 seconds, the Patriots have a big handle on the big plays.
Aside from the good fortune, Brady has been stellar, completing 13 of 20 for 181 yards and a touchdown to Gronk.
The big star of the day, though, is surprisingly not Talib. Rather Edelman should be the one in the spotlight. The versatile receiver has three catches for 39 yards, the incredible punt return for a TD and forced fumble that nearly gave New England a chance for a two-score lead heading into the half. I smell AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in his future.
Second Quarter, 1:56, Patriots 24-17: Something that’s just bothered me all evening is the way the Patriots fans have treated Adam Viniateri in his return.
Look, I know he left town for more money in rival Indy, but he also helped you win three Super Bowls. Does that mean nothing these days?
Seriously, there needs to be a stark change in reception for a guy heavily responsible for Lombardis filling the cases at the Patriots Hall of Fame.
In the meantime, Viniateri’s successor, Gostkowski, makes up for his miss earlier with a 31-yard kick to give the Pats a seven-point lead once again, 24-17.
Second Quarter, 5:56, Patriots 21-17: Talib may not be the “savior” of this Patriots defense, but he’s definitely a huge help.
The new addition returned an interception for a TD, but now he’s assisting with some solid coverage on the outside.
While Talib gets the credit, though, McCourty has still been nothing but consistent at safety. He’s helped break up two big passes from Luck, and there haven’t been any big plays over the top with him roaming around back there.
McCourty may not be the “leader” of the defense, that distinction still goes to Mayo and Wilfork, but he’s definitely the heart and soul of the secondary. Too important to ignore.
Oh, and Adam Viniateri made a 47-yard field goal to cut the Colts deficit to 21-17.
Second Quarter, 10:56, Patriots 21-14: Talk about an entrance. Aqib Talib is already making the Patriots secondary better.
The play-making cornerback not only intercepts an errant pass from Luck, but he proceeds to return it 59 yards for the touchdown.
Talib has always been known as a ball hawk of sorts, but that was just an incredible show of the type of ability he brings to this secondary. With even more time and practice in that unit, the sky could really be the limit for him.
Second Quarter, 11:56, 14-14: Julian Edelman has been the unheralded star of the show so far in this game.
Just when things start to go bad, Edelman shows up with a huge 68-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Edelman hasn’t been too involved in the offense in recent weeks, but with three catches for 39 yards and now the punt return, he could see a lot more time and looks as this season goes on. What a great weapon for Brady and the Patriots, especially in key situations like this.
Second Quarter, 12:26, Colts 14-7: Stephen Gostkowski’s consistency problems from early in the season were over, right? Wrong.
Gostkowski just botched a kick from about 36-yards out, and suddenly the concerns return.
Maybe Gostkowski just needs a shot in the arm every once in a while. But in a tight game against a very good, and underrated, Colts team, there’s not much room for error.
Get back on the horse, Stephen.
End First Quarter, Colts 14-7: Defense. Defense. Defense.
That defense just continues to be a problem, and there just seems to be no answer for the Patriots.
The Colts 14-7 lead isn’t luck by any stretch of the imagination. Simply put, Indy has been the superior team through one quarter. Luck’s been sensational, completing 6 of 7 and a touchdown. And rookie Vick Ballard has slashed his way through the Pats’ front seven for 51 yards on the ground.
If these problems persist, the Patriots could be headed for 6-4 rather than the 7-3 they were hoping for. Aqib Talib, where you at?
First Quarter, 1:49 , Colts 14-7: As much as the Patriots run defense gets credit, they’ve looked awful so far against Indy.
Vick Ballard, a fifth-round rookie, has torn up the ground game for the Colts with eight carries for 51 yards. Ouch.
If the Patriots can’t hold down the run game, and even with Talib they can’t stop the passing attack, then how do they expect to keep Luck and the Colts out of the end zone?
Talib has at least looked alright in coverage, but Luck’s just been way too precise for the new Patriots corner to have any serious impact.
First Quarter, 7:09 , 7-7: If the defense was horrendous to start this one, then the offense has to be stupendous.
Rob Gronkowski has been dealing with a hip injury all season, but the big tight end finally seems to have found his stride.
Gronk caught a four-yard touchdown pass to tie things up for the Patriots, but he also is climbing the record books with the catch.
That touchdown is historic as Gronk is now tied with John Jefferson for fourth all-time with 36 touchdown catches in his first three seasons.
If Gronk keeps up this pace then the Patriots offense will be just fine, even without Mankins and Connolly.
First Quarter, 10:49 , Colts 7-0: The Patriots secondary is once again a point of concern, and this time it’s Kyle Arrington.
Arrington gets a huge pass interference call, which gives the Cotls a free 40 yards, which leads to the 1-yard touchdown run. Indy now up 7-0 early.
Arrington has been hit or miss all season, and his struggles to turn and cover have cost the Patriots time and again. Talib should help boost the secondary, but if Arrington doesn’t figure out how to stick his man then the improvement on the outside won’t matter much.
4:25 p.m.: “Good luck, men,” the head referee says after New England won the coin toss.
Now, we’re ready for game time and the Patriots will be kicking off, per usual.
Get ready for an exciting game. Luck vs. Brady should be in full swing and Aqib Talib will make his presence felt, one way or another.
4:03 p.m.: Injuries seem to be the hot topic of the day.
With Mankins and Connolly set to miss this one, the Colts have a good opportunity to get after Tom Brady and really slow down the Patriots potent passing game.
While this is the main question on the afternoon, there are plenty of other concerns heading into the 4:25 p.m. kickoff.
So let’s take a look at some of those storylines ahead of kickoff with this week’s Three and Out.
1. Protection Problems — Tom Brady is the Patriots prized possession, and with two of his best offensive lineman out will New England be able to protect him often enough to establish a strong passing game? Donald Thomas and Nick McDonald have filled in admirably so far this season. But can they meet the challenge in a big game against a good Colts pass rush?
2. Talib Time — The Patriots newest defensive weapon is finally suited up and ready to take on a major role in this defense. But how “major” will his impact really be in his debut? With Reggie Wayne, the NFL’s receptions leader with 69, in town, will Talib be tasked with shutting him down? And will he be up to the test?
3. Wide Outs — Deion Branch isn’t wide anymore, but he is on the “outs.” Who will fill that void in the Patriots offense? Greg Salas has been signed from the practice squad and is active as the Patriots fourth receiver. But will he or special-teamer Matthew Slater be looked to in that role? Especially with Wes Welker still ailing. Don’t forget about Visanthe Shiancoe, either. He and Julian Edelman could be relied on heavily against the Colts.
3:47: Let’s go Around the League quickly, and take a look at a big story or two.
First off, Jacksonville has jumped all over the Texans in Houston and is up 34-27 with only a few minutes left in the 4th quarter.
As for the Eagles, it looks like Nick Foles may not be the savior in Philly after all. Robert Griffin III and the Redskins are up 31-6 and Foles is just 16 of 33 with a pair of interceptions. “Michael Vick” will be the name on the tip of every Eagles fans tongue come Monday morning.
3:32 p.m.: Andrew Luck has led a resurgence in Indianapolis this season. But, according to Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians, the quarterback could be on the shelf soon enough if things continue in their current state.
In talking about Luck’s health, Arians went on a rant about the way defenders have been coming after his QB. And he’s not too pleased with the outcome, as he said in an interview with ESPN.
Arians spoke at length about how defenders have been going after Luck’s head and subjecting the rookie phenom to potential unnecessary injuries.
“Even if Andrew slides, guys are coming for his head,” Arians said. “That was a cheap shot by [Dawan] Landry. He got a penalty. But a penalty is not enough. Landry should have been ejected from the game. He is sliding, and it’s illegal to launch yourself at the quarterback’s head like that. He should have been ejected.”
Arians might be directing those comments at officials ahead of his showdown in New England, especially with Luck squaring off with Patriots “punks” like Brandon Spikes, who delivers bone-crushing hits on a weekly basis.
3:02 p.m.: Inactives are out, and it looks like more of the same for the Patriots.
Safety Patrick Chung will be out yet again, meaning that Devin McCourty will likely be back at his newly accustomed safety spot again against the Colts.
But the big story is on offense, where Aaron Hernandez leads the list of inactives, as expected. The absence of Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly could be a big problem for Tom Brady, though, as he will be fighting for time in the pocket all afternoon against Colts defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
Tight end Daniel Fells is also out this week, in a surprise move. Look for Visanthe Shiancoe to see some added reps in his place and for wide receiver Greg Salas to see some time over the middle.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the inactives for both sides.
CB Vontae Davis,
TE Coby Fleener,
LB Mario Harvey,
OT Bradley Sowell,
DT Josh Chapman,
DT Martin Tevaseu,
OT Tony Hills
DE Jake Bequette,
DL Justin Francis,
TE Daniel Fells,
G Logan Mankins,
TE Aaron Hernandez,
G Dan Connolly,
S Patrick Chung
2:41 p.m.: The secondary has been the Achilles heel of this Patriots defense all season — I feel like I write this every week. And help may have finally arrived — this too.
Aqib Talib will be making his Patriots debut here on Sunday, and New England will need him as Andrew Luck, the NFL’s best young quarterback, and Reggie Wayne, the league’s leading receiver, enter Foxboro looking to pick apart this secondary.
Talib is known as a solid coverage cornerback and a playmaker. He’ll need to bring those skills to the table in his debut, as Luck and the Colts will undoubtedly try to exploit the Patriots defense early and often.
But can he be the difference this defense needs? And more so, who will line up on the opposite side of Talib at corner for New England? Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and rookie Alfonzo Dennard all have some claim, but only one will start on the outside.
2:01 p.m.: Injuries have been plaguing the Patriots for what has seemed like all season.
With so many guys still on the shelf or at least on the injury report (17 as of Saturday), New England will be hoping that at least a few of their key players will be back on the turf at Gillette for kickoff.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has missed five games already this season, is expected to be out for the third consecutive game. Wes Welker is expected to play, fighting through the pain of a lingering ankle injury. And All-Pro guard Logan Mankins is doubtful and will probably be shelved once again. There’s plenty more where those came from, including safety Patrick Chung, and the questions will only continue to mount ahead of game time.
We’ll see how things shape up as kickoff time rolls closer and closer.
1:35 p.m.: Welcome to Gillette Stadium. We’ve got you covered from now all the way through the end of this Patriots-Colts showdown.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez is likely out of action here on Sunday, as is the same with guard Logan Mankins. So Tom Brady will be in some trouble. And with reliable receiver Deion Branch no longer around, Brady and the offense could find a few hiccups, at least to start, against this Colts defense.
Anyhow, here’s a shot from the press box here at Gillette to hold you over until players start getting stretched and set to go out on the field.
8:45 a.m.: Saturday was busy for the Patriots, with Deion Branch once again finding himself without a spot on the team. Greg Salas and Aqib Talib have taken roster spots, bumping off Branch and special teams player Malcolm Williams.
8 a.m. ET: Help has finally arrived. His name is Aqib.
Aqib Talib is finally suiting up for the Patriots after two weeks of uncertainty since coming over from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. A big, physical and very skilled cornerback, Talib is certain to add some much-needed assistance to a struggling secondary.
In his first game in New England, Talib will have quite the challenge. Rookie sensation Andrew Luck leads the resurgent Colts into Foxboro for a showdown of potential playoff contenders in a billing few expected coming into the season.
The Colts had a dreadful 2-14 campaign in 2011, leaving them hogtied and desperate in the cellar of the NFL. Luck came to save the day — but not without help from his favorite receiver on the outside, Reggie Wayne, who has also been a huge factor in Indy’s return to glory.
With the spirit of Chuck Pagano, who continues to battle leukemia, behind them, the Colts are sure to give New England plenty of problems. And with All-Pro guard Logan Mankins and Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker questionable for Sunday’s game, the Patriots could be in even deeper trouble come game time at Gillette Stadium. Tight end Aaron Hernandez has already been ruled out, according to several reports.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. But be sure to keep with the live blog throughout the day for all your news, notes and analysis on your New England Patriots.