Chad Finn: Thoughts on the Patriots’ 27-17 loss in Indy

New England made too many mistakes, and the path through the AFC is now more difficult.

Darius Leonard (center) appeared to be everywhere in Indy's win. Barry Chin/The Boston Globe

It would be disrespectful to the Colts to suggest they didn’t so much beat the Patriots Saturday night as the Patriots beat themselves.

In building a 20-0 lead en route to a 27-17 victory and their first win in over the Patriots since 2009, the Colts were the faster and more ferocious team.

And it sure didn’t hurt that they could lean on running back Jonathan Taylor, who seemed to burst forward another 4 yards every time it appeared certain they had him down.

The Colts played an inspired game, or at least an inspired first three quarters before the Patriots made it interesting. Consider this credit, paid. Indy is good.


But when you see all of the Patriots’ – and here comes the word of the day – “uncharacteristic” self-defeating transgressions listed in one place, it’s a wonder there was any suspense at all in the end.

Quarterback Mac Jones was tough and resilient, but he threw a pair of interceptions, including the first red-zone pick of his career.

An offsides penalty on Brandon King negated a missed Michael Badgely field goal and gave the Colts kicker a second chance, which he made.

The Colts scored their second touchdown by recovering a blocked Jake Bailey punt in the end zone, the third punt he’s had blocked this season.

Jonnu Smith, who never seems on the same wavelength with the rest of the offense, committed a false start on second and 1 at the Colts 13.

Michael Onwenu committed a false start on third and goal that led to the Patriots kicking a fourth-quarter field goal to cut the score to 20-10, when a touchdown would have been much more helpful.

The mistakes aren’t the only reason the Patriots, who saw their seven-game winning streak end, now trail the Chiefs and Titans in the AFC playoff seedings. The Colts are a very good team. But Saturday night, those allegedly “uncharacteristic” blunders became all too characteristic for the Patriots.


Some further thoughts, upon immediate review …


(Players suggested in Unconventional Preview: Michael Pittman Jr., Rhamondre Stevenson, Trent Brown.)

Darius Leonard:  We heard his name so much Saturday night that if you told me there were two high-impact Colts defensive players named Darius Leonard, I might believe you. There is apparently only one of him, but he was everywhere, all night, finishing with a game-high 10 tackles, one pass defensed, one tackle for a loss, and an interception at the end of the first half. Jones didn’t appear to see Leonard, who plucked away a pass intended for Hunter Henry that looked ticketed to go for a touchdown.  Leonard also had third-and-short drive-killing stops on Brandon Bolden and Rhamondre Stevenson on the night, and also forced a Stevenson fumble that Jonnu Smith recovered. Are we sure Leonard hasn’t been cloned?

Hunter Henry: Jones threw for 224 of his 299 passing yards in the second half, in part because he got a good thing going with Henry, especially in the fourth quarter. Henry scored both Patriots touchdowns, a 12-yard reception on the first play of the final quarter to cap a nine-play, 61-yard drive. His second touchdown, which cut the score to 20-17 and briefly quieted all of the Andy Dwyers in the Lucas Oil Stadium stands, came from 7-yards out with 2:12 left. Henry, who finished with 6 catches for 77 yards, was also on the receiving end of a no-no-no-yes! across-the-field throw from Jones in the third quarter to convert a third down.


N’Keal Harry: Since we joke about him being the only wide receiver/offensive tackle in league history, credit where it’s due: He made a spectacular leaping grab in the final minutes, setting up Henry’s second touchdown with a 43-yard catch to the Colts 15. He also got wide open on a slow-developing flea-flicker early in the game when Jones hurriedly heaved the ball toward Jakobi Meyers. Harry really does seem to be making an effort to contribute in any way he can.


Well, we pretty much gave you a laundry list of candidates earlier here on this Night of 1,000 Procedure Penalties, but let’s go with this sequence from late in the second second quarter: On second down, Stevenson is stopped for minus-3 yards after running into a turned-around Isaiah Wynn. On third down, Meyers couldn’t hold on to a beautiful deep pass that would have gained around 30 yards. Then, on fourth down, the Colts’ Mike Adams shoots through the line and blocks Bailey’s punt, with E.J. Speed beating a swarm of Colts to the end zone for the recovery and the touchdown. Those were the kinds of disastrous sequences expected from watching the Rod Rust, 1990 Patriots way back when, not a Belichick team.


Colts running back Jonathan Taylor versus the Patriots’ run defense

I mean, his stats weren’t lying. We knew coming in that the NFL leader in rushing yards (by more than 300 over anyone else) and touchdowns (16 on the ground, 18 total) is a superb player. But he seemed bent on proving it and proving it again every time he touched the ball Saturday night. Taylor carried 29 times for 170 yards, and iced the game with a 67-yard touchdown burst a second before the 2-minute warning. He actually didn’t touch the ball on the Colts’ first possession of the game (Josh McDaniels isn’t the only offensive coordinator who can get too cute), but they pressed his play button on the second drive, handing him the ball six straight times for 33 yards, taking the Colts from the Patriots 41-yard line to the 8. Nyheim Hynes did the honors for the Colts’ first touchdown, taking a pitch from Carson Wentz (it was logged as a pass) and running in from 8 yards out, with Taylor wiping out J.C. Jackson as the lead blocker. That wasn’t his only contribution that came beyond running the ball brilliantly. On Wentz’s longest completion of the game, a 23-yarder to Zach Pascal, Taylor crushed a blitzing Dont’a Hightower. What a great running back. What a great football player.



Predicted score: Patriots 31, Colts 15

Final score: Colts 27, Patriots 17

Patriots safety Kyle Dugger and Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. got kicked out in the third quarter after a skirmish in which Dugger ripped off Pittman’s helmet. … Wonder if Taylor’s 67-yard game-clincher might have been about 60 yards shorter had Dugger and Ja’Whaun Bentley (who departed with an injury) been on the field … To reiterate: the Colts are a really good team. But they’re not winning anything of note with Wentz (5 for 12, 57 yards, in an indoor stadium) as their starter.


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