Anyone looking for the New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts rivalry to be renewed post-Peyton Manning has been sorely disappointed in quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Colts’ 2012 No. 1 pick is 0-3 against Bill Belichick and the Patriots with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes against New England’s defense with a 67.7 passer rating. Luck was slightly better than usual against the Patriots in the Colts’ 42-20 loss, but he clearly wasn’t good enough.
Check out this week’s Patriots film review:
Tom Brady reverted back to his early-season production for two quarters before coming out of the locker room at halftime in vintage form. Brady was 10 for 19 for 84 yards with two interceptions in the first half, and he was having trouble completing the easiest of passes. Perhaps the calm conditions of the dome got to him.
Brady was 9-of-11 passing in the second half for 173 yards with two touchdowns. He was 2 for 7 on passes over 15 yards for 48 yards with two interceptions.
His worst throw of the game was a floater to tight end Rob Gronkowski, which Colts safety Mike Adams simply had to camp under for an interception. His best throw was a 22-yard back shoulder completion to wideout Brandon LaFell in the fourth quarter.
Brady’s pass to LaFell (at the top of the screen) was a perfect strike where only the Patriots receiver could catch it.
Jonas Gray had the game of a lifetime, carrying the ball 37 times for 201 yards with four touchdowns. At 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, Gray runs with a low center of gravity with impressive burst through the hole. While most of Gray’s success can be credited to himself, he also was playing behind an impressive offensive line and against a porous run defense.
Gray proved to be the best goal-line back the Patriots have had in recent memory. He had no business getting into the end zone in this rare instance when his blockers didn’t get a push, and the Colts’ defense was stout:
Shane Vereen only had one carry, but he made the most of it, ripping off an 18-yard run. He had his second-most productive game as a receiver this season, catching four passes for 59 yards.
Brady spread the ball around well against the Colts, targeting Gronkowski five times, LaFell and Vereen four times each and wide receiver Julian Edelman eight times. Brady clearly is building strong chemistry and trust in LaFell, otherwise, he wouldn’t have thrown this pass to the first-year Patriot:
That completion took perfect timing and a receiver who could catch a contested pass.
Edelman plays the position with a fullback’s mentality. He fought through what appeared to be hip and ankle injuries, and it didn’t slow him down. Check out his second effort on this second quarter first down:
Brady didn’t have much success when targeting Brian Tyms. Tyms dropped a pass, and Brady’s other target to the second-year pro, a deep pass, was picked off.
Gronkowski went into superhero mode in the fourth quarter for the Patriots’ final score. He’s playing the best football of his career, and his speed and agility at 6-foot-6, 265 pounds is unrivaled. (Also, check out Edelman’s crushing block.)
Gronk didn’t have his most productive game of the season, but he still commanded attention and double teams, helping Brady spread around the ball.
Games like these show how far the offensive line has come since the beginning of the season. The linemen’s technique and fundamentals have shown huge improvements since Ryan Wendell entered the starting line at right guard.
The Patriots didn’t allow any sacks, and the offensive line did a solid job keeping Brady on two feet.
Rookie Cameron Fleming had his best game of the season while playing as a third tackle/tight end. He played 38 snaps and only six came in the passing game.
Left tackle Nate Solder is playing much better since captain Dan Connolly settled in next to him at left guard.
The Patriots didn’t show the same creativity that they used against the Broncos last week, as defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Akeem Ayers rarely dropped back in coverage, staying in to rush Luck.
Vince Wilfork, Chris Jones, Dominique Easley and Alan Branch were extremely stout against the run, allowing just four yards on 14 carries to Colts running backs.
There was absolutely nowhere for Colts running back Trent Richardson to go on this first quarter 1-yard carry:
Easley played his best game as a pro Sunday night. He crushed Luck on this stunt, forcing an incompletion:
Easley was lined up at left five-technique defensive end and swung around to the middle of the line.
Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins continue to fill in impressively for Jerod Mayo. Hightower was stout against the run and disruptive as a pass rusher. Collins is showing less hesitation against the run, and he was great in coverage, allowing just 10 yards on three targets.
Both Hightower and Collins have been sure tacklers over the last two weeks, especially in the open field.
Darrelle Revis might have had his best game of the season, allowing just one catch for five yards on six targets. His best play was a pass breakup over the middle of the field that safety Devin McCourty snatched for an interception.
Revis was covering Wayne in the slot, and the Colts receiver ran an in route to the 23-yard line. It was a very ill-advised throw from Luck, since Revis was absolutely blanketing Wayne.
Kyle Arrington helped limit Colts leading wideout T.Y. Hilton to three catches on seven targets for 24 yards. Arrington allowed just two catches on six targets for 24 yards with a pass breakup.
Logan Ryan started slow, appearing to have some hiccups in the Patriots’ Cover 3 zone scheme, but he played well down the stretch with two pass breakups. He allowed a touchdown in the second quarter, but it was a perfectly thrown fade into the back corner of the end zone from Luck to wideout Hakeem Nicks.
Brandon Browner has had better days. He allowed eight catches on 10 targets for 151 yards. Colts tight end Coby Fleener was giving him fits, and Browner appeared to guess incorrectly on two big plays.
The Patriots only kept a traditional second safety on the field for 38 of their 57 defensive snaps. McCourty did a nice job protecting the back half of the field for the most part, but he unsuccessfully followed Luck’s eyes, straying toward Hilton, not following Wayne, who caught a 46-yard bomb while the Patriots were in Cover 3.
The Patriots mostly have been successful in the Cover 3, deploying two cornerbacks and a safety to play the deep half of the field, and the scheme is supposed to play to Browner’s strengths. The Cover 3 look gives Revis and Browner a break from playing press-man, which can be taxing for a cornerback.
Photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images
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