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Monday, November 17, 2014

What a Turnaround: Pats are the Best Team in the AFC & Maybe the NFL After Pounding Colts 42-20 on Sunday Night Football

Jonas Gray. Who knows where he'll be in a few years but for one night at least, he was the talk of the NFL after an insane performance on Sunday Night Football. In only his fourth career game, he had 38 carries for 199 yards and four touchdowns (setting a new team record) as New England (8-2 overall, 3-2 road) absolutely destroyed Indianapolis (6-4 overall, 3-2 home) 42-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Patriots' sixth win in a row put them firmly in control of the AFC (and two games ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East) after the Broncos surprisingly fell in St. Louis 22-7 earlier today.

There are many ways to view this victory but for my (lack of) money, the real story for New England is that they can now win on the road against a good (but not great) team even when Tom Brady (19 of 30 for 257 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) is average at best. The Patriots' defense won't put up incredible numbers but the bottom line is that they are getting the job done. Andrew Luck (23 of 39 for 303 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) does everything for the Colts so when he's off, like he was tonight, they are going nowhere fast. Did I mention that Indy's defense is an utter disaster?

The first half was misleading in the sense that the Patriots dominated but yet they were only up by four points (14-10). On their opening drive (11 plays, 89 yards, 4:14), Gray finished it with a 4-yard touchdown run. Indianapolis put together a good drive but they got stopped in the red zone and had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by the incomparable Adam Vinatieri.

Both of Brady's ugly interceptions came in the first half but the Patriots still managed to go up 14-3 late in the second quarter on Gray's 2-yard touchdown run. The second pick (both by Mike Adams) happened when Brady apparently audibled on a 3rd and 1 play and was forced to throw the ball up for grabs Eli Manning-style. The Colts took advantage to cash in a 10-yard touchdown catch by Hakeem Nicks (remember him?) to cut it to 14-10.

New England had 501 total yards and 33 first downs so when they received the opening kickoff of the second half, they went right back to work. That goal-line machine Tim Wright caught a 2-yard touchdown from Brady after another long drive (8 plays, 80 yards, 3:50). Vinatieri rescued Indy on the next stalled drive with a 53-yard kick (that would have been good from 63) but Gray's 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter put the Pats up two touchdowns (28-13).

The Colts cut it to 28-20 on a clever 1-yard touchdown pass to former BC offensive lineman Anthony Costanzo. Gray answered with his last score, a 1-yard touchdown, then Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 71 yards) took time away from his unstoppable run blocking to catch a 26-yard touchdown where he basically broke Indy's will. Seriously, what an incredible catch and run complete with the dive into the end zone through two guys. If you didn't know before, now it's official: the real Gronk is back and more dangerous than ever.

It didn't help Indianapolis when Dwayne Allen or Ahmad Bradshaw went down with injuries and never returned. Only Coby Fleener (7 catches, 144 yards) really showed up for them. Reggie Wayne (5 catches, 91 yards) got most of his yardage on a one busted coverage that resulted in a 46-yard catch while T.Y. Hilton (3 catches, 24 yards) was completely shut down by a combination of Kyle Arrington and Darrelle Revis. Speaking of Revis, he helped Devin McCourty secure an interception by tipping the ball up the air. Jamie Collins (8 tackles, 5 solo, 2 tackles for loss) and Rob Ninkovich (5 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack) were also stellar as they helped hold the Colts to 19 rushing yards on 17 carries, haha how is that possible?

New England returns to Gillette Stadium next Sunday (1, Fox) as they host the Lions (7-3, 1st in NFC North) who lost 14-6 this afternoon at Arizona. The Patriots are 6-0 at home this season and the way things are rolling, it's hard to see Detroit winning that game because they typically are mediocre outside of Ford Field.

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