In this most excruciating of losses, we saw a replay of the 2006 AFC title game, won by the Colts, 38-34. As in that ulcer causer, the Pats had a big lead going into the 4th quarter, and blew it. But, this game may be even worse. Its' a game in which BB showed absolutely no confidence in his defense by inexplicably going for a 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line, with just over two minutes to play. As you may recall, in my analysis leading up to this game, I listed seven elements/match-ups which I thought would be crucial. They were as follows: a.) Indy TE Dallas Clark vs. Patriots' Safeties Brandon Meriweather and Brandon McGowan: For all the notoriety of the Indy WRs, TE Dallas Clark leads his team in reception with 60. He is Peyton Manning's security blanket. It won't help that Brandon Meriweather will play with some sort of foot injury. If Clark has anything close to a 100 yard game, the Pats are in deep trouble: ADVANTAGE: Colts RESPONSE: The Patriots' safeties did a decent job in containing Clark, holding him to 5 catches for 65 yards. b.) Indy DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis vs. Patriots' OTs Sabastien Volmer and Nick Kaczur: If Freeney and Mathis are contained, Tom Brady will have plenty of time to dink and dunk the Colts to death. If not, it will lead to sacks, interceptions, and a loss: ADVANTAGE: Colts RESPONSE: LT Sebastien Vollmer was outstanding in neutralizing Dwight Freeney...who didn't even make the stat sheet. On the other hand, Robert Mathis tore around and through RT Nick Kaczur. Mathis finished with 8 tackles (6 solos), 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. c.) Zebra Factor: The Patriots can expect the obligatory bogus PI call(s), which always seem to befall them against the Colts. But, they should be able to survive those, provided that they can refrain from holding Freeney, and eliminate those annoying false start penalties. ADVANTAGE: Colts RESPONSE: So sorry to say that I pegged this one right on the nose. The key play in the Indy comeback was a questionable 31 yard PI penalty against Darius Butler, who was covering Colts WR Austin Collie. It appeared that Collie jumped into Butler, who was going for the ball. d.) Two Minute Drill: Though the Patriots' "D" has played better than expected, it still has loads of problems stopping offenses in the last two minutes of each half. Peyton Manning is one of the best at it: ADVANTAGE: Colts RESPONSE: The failure of the Pats' defense to stop a comeback in the waning 2-4 minutes cost the Pats yet another big game. BB had so little confidence in his defense to stop Peyton Manning in the 2 minute drill that he radically opted to go for a 4th a 2 from his own 28 yard line. e.) Laurence Maroney vs. Joseph Addai: That title is really shorthand for the Pats OL & DL v. Indy's DL & OL. Colts SS, Bob Sanders, is out for the season. Indy is thin at DT. So, the Pats should be able to run the ball. That said, Joseph Addai has killed the Pats throughout his career. Addai is particularly adepth at running delays, and catching passes out of the backfield: ADVANTAGE: Even RESPONSE: Though many will blame Maroney for this loss, the blame is misplaced. The Patriots are what they are...a finesse passing team, like the Colts. Though his fumble at the one yard line was unforgivable, it had little to do with the eventual outcome. f.) Redzone Proficiency: This has been a weakness for the Pats for most of the season. The absence of Sanders should make it easier for the Pats to score TDs instead of FGs: ADVANTAGE: Colts RESPONSE: Tom Brady made a horrible decision in trying to force a pass to a double-teamed Moss...and the aforementioned Maroney fumble. The Pats should have been more aggressive on their final scoring drive to score a TD...instead of settling for a FG. g.) Coaching: Coach Caldwell has done a marvelous job thus far. But, this is his first "big" game against a team with equivalent talent to his own. BB is the best in the business: ADVANTAGE: Patriots. RESPONSE: In light of the "D"'s habitual bad performance in the 2 minute drill, I can understand why BB decided to go for a 4th and 2 from his own 28. But, it you're going to go for it, its' imperative that the pass attempt be thrown to a player who is past the first down marker. The Pats also seemed to go into a prevent defense mode too early, once they forged ahead, 31-14. Here are my grades: A.) OFFENSE : Anytime an offense holds the ball for 35 minutes, runs 72 plays, gains 477 total yards, and scores 34 points, it should be enough to win. But... 1.) QB: Two poor decisions and losing marred what was Tom Brady's best performance of the season. The first was the above mentioned interception, in which Brady tried to force a pass into a double-teamed, blanket covered Moss in the endzone, and that horrific choice of a play on the 4th and 2 from their own 28 (although, in fairness to Tom, that play likely was called by the coaches). No way that a pass should have been thrown to a receiver who was short of the first down marker. That said, its' hard to criticize Tom's 29/42 for 364 yards, and 3 TDs effort. Two of his completions were beautifully thrown balls to Moss (one setting up the first Patriots' TD, the other a rainbow 63 yarder to give the Pats a 24-7 lead). But, for Tom's part in that horrid fourth down play call, his grade somewhat suffers: GRADE: A-; 2.) RBs: The Maroney bashers will be out in full force after Laurence committed the second fumble of his career. But, this was in a huge game, and at the one yard line. Still, as noted above, it had little impact regarding the eventual outcome. Kevin Faulk has his best game of the season, finishing with 12 rushes for 79 yards. But, on his last carry, Kevin seemed to slip while trying to cut back...and lost a yard. This turned out to be a huge play, as it led to the Pats having to settle for a FG, and a 34-21 lead...when a TD would have iced the game: GRADE: C; 3.) OL: To quote Al Michaels, the Pats appear to have a star on their hands in rookie LT, Sabastien Vollmer. Sea-Bass was outstanding in completely neutralizing Indy All-Pro DE, Dwight Freeney. With the exception of RT Nick Kaczur, the OL did a great job of protecting Tom Brady. Kaczur, however, was the own personal turnstile for most of the night of Colts' DE, Robert Mathis. As for run blocking, that simply isn't this groups' forte. GRADE: B; 4.) WRs & TEs: Both Ben Watson and Chris Baker contributed somewhat to the passing attack. But, they were kept in most of the night to help out against Indy's menacing DEs. Randy Moss and Wes Welker were incredible, as Moss finished with 9 receptions for 177 yards, and two TDs...while Wes Welker also had 9 receptions, for 94 yards. Julian Edleman chipped in with a TD reception as well: GRADE: A; B.) DEFENSE: After playing well for three quarters, allowed the Colts to score 21 points in the final 12 minutes of play. Unless this unit learns to stop an opposing teams' hurry-up, 2-4 minute offense, the Patriots have no chance of playing in another SB. 1.) DL: Did a reasonable job in pressuring Peyton Manning, and stopped the run. Tied up the Indy OL, allowing the LBs to make plays: GRADE: B-; 2.) LBs: Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton accounted for 14 tackles, including 10 solos. The OLBs, on the other hand, failed to contribute much in pass pressure, or coverage: GRADE: C; 3.) SECONDARY: Played extremely well for 48 minutes. But, unfortunately, NFL games are still 60 minutes long. Darius Butler had seven solo tackles, but got a tough break on the obligatory ticky-tac at best PI call that always seems to befall the Pats in Indy. It was a 31 yard killer of a penalty, and keyed the Indy comeback. Leigh Bodden had a rough night...and the Pats seemed to drop too far off the Indy receivers after amassing a 31-14 lead. You know what they say about playing a "prevent defense"...and the old addage proved true once again: GRADE: C-; C.) SPECIAL TEAMS: The kick coverage was fine...and both Stephen Gostkowski and punter Chris Hansen had good games indoors. Punt returner Wes Welker stole the show, and nearly the game, with his electrifying 69 yard punt return. GRADE: A; D.) COACHING: Great job, up and until the games' final 12 minutes. At that time, panic seemed to set in. Instead of grinding the Colts into dust, the Pats nursed a 34-21 lead...and seemed to go into a prevent defense. The decision to go for it on 4th and 2 from their own 28 yard line, with just over 2 minutes left to play, was a clear indication of just how little confidence BB has in his young secondary. But, if your going to gamble like that ...run a play thats' going to net you a first down!!!! Why throw a one yard pass, when two yards were needed !!! To me, the play call was much worse than the decision to go for it. This was a game that was there for the taking. It was a game where the Patriots, for 48 of 60 minutes, completely outplayed the Colts, and should have won. BB has lots of "splaining" to do for this one: GRADE: F E.) PLAY OF THE GAME: Has to be Indy stopping the Pats on that 4th and 2; F.) GAME BALL: Peyton Manning. His presence alone caused BB to go for a 4th and 2 deep in his own territory, rather than give Peyton the ball back, and allow him to run his 2 minute drill. Here are the stats: http://espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=291115011
Posted by TexasPat3
Great overview. Looking froward to the rest of the season. I still feel BB should NOT have gone for it, but that is easy from where I sit today. I believe we would have had a better chance to stop Manning. The risk was just to high...