This was supposed to be the Indianapolis Colts’ best chance to add their name to the list of AFC contenders.
Instead, the New England Patriots made it clear they are the team to beat.
The Patriots took apart the Colts’ run defense as Jonas Gray ran for four scores and 199 yards in a 42-20 New England victory Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
New England (8-2), by virtue of extending its win streak to six games, is one game ahead of Denver and Kansas City in the AFC race. The Patriots defeated the Broncos but lost to the Chiefs.
The Colts (6-4) still lead the AFC South Division, but this loss realistically relegates their postseason hopes, at best, to trying to secure a No. 2 seed.
The Colts’ league-leading offense tried to make a game of it after falling behind by double digits. Andrew Luck threw touchdown passes to Hakeem Nicks and Anthony Castonzo, the latter on a tackle-eligible play.
The NFL’s leading passer finished 23-of-39 for 303 yards, and had one interception on a tipped pass. Luck has passed for 300-plus yards in a franchise-record eight consecutive games.
But the Patriots didn’t encounter much resistance in pounding away at the Colts’ defense. And by the end of the night, everyone in Indianapolis was asking who was Gray?
The first-year pro out of Notre Dame was playing in just his fourth NFL game after spending the past two seasons on practice squads in Baltimore and Miami. He scored on smashmouth runs of 4, 2, 2 and 1 yards. He ran 38 times to more than double his previous rushing best, 86 yards on 17 carries against Chicago in Week 8.
Tom Brady also threw a 2-yard TD pass to tight end Tim Wright and 26-yard score to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Colts have allowed eight touchdown passes to tight ends this season. Brady finished 19-of-30 for 257 yards with two TDs and two INTs.
New England hosts the Detroit Lions (7-3) on Sunday.
The Colts return home next week to face AFC South rival Jacksonville (1-9).
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.