What We Learned: Patriots at Colts

We take a break from questioning Bill Belichick's judgment and take a look at what we learned about the Colts in Week 10.

The Colts secondary is fortunate that they don't face Randy Moss every week: The rookie tandem of Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers had, up until Sunday, performed incredibly well filling in for Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden.  Moss and the Patriots made the duo look like a couple of rookies on Sunday night.

The good news is that there's only one Randy Moss and that Indianapolis won't face another receiver of his caliber for the rest of the season.  Powers did a good job of locking down on Andre Johnson in Week 9 and will likely draw Johnson again in Week 12, but that this about it in terms of comparable talent.

Future opponents may try to attack the safeties deep like the Patriots were able to, but they will not experience the same level of success.  Alan Williams will work with his charges this week and every week from now until the end of the year to make sure that the cornerbacks don't allow their man to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage and that the safeties are aware of their responsibilities and where they are on the field.

This is a "fool me once" situation and Jim Caldwell, Larry Coyer, and Williams will not hang Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea out to dry like they did on Sunday night.

If opponents want to focus on Dallas Clark, that is fine: For all the talk surrounding Moss and his fantastic game, the fact that Reggie Wayne was equally impressive has gotten lost in the shuffle.

With New England's defense preoccupied with Clark, Wayne was targeted 12 times and had ten receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.

His first catch of the game was as amazing as his last.  On the game-winning touchdown, he engaged the cornerback, made a move, pivoted, pivoted again, then jumped in the air such that his body was parallel to the ground, and speared a Peyton Manning pass that was probably traveling between 35 and 40 miles per hour with his fingertips.

It's surprising that no one is talking about that play as one of the ten best plays of the week.  One of the reasons for that is that Wayne has set the bar so high and everyone has become accustomed to his greatness at this point.

It was another rough night for Pierre Garçon, as he was targeted 11 times and only had three receptions, but, to his credit, he didn't give up.  With no real time table for Anthony Gonzalez's return, Manning and Garcon need to put in some extra practice sessions and get on the same page.

Two of the failed targets were on Manning, but even a 3-for-9 conversion rate is unacceptable.  Teams will start to focus on Wayne and the offense can only be so effective throwing underneath routes to Clark and Austin Collie.

The nickel defense needs Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson: One of the interesting subplots from last night's game is that New England actually had 113 yards rushing and averaged four yards a carry.  When Muir and Johnson were in the line-up — in the first and fourth quarters they played the inside positions almost exclusively — the Patriots had trouble moving the ball on the ground.

When Eric Foster, Raheem Brock, or Fili Moala were patrolling the middle, Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney got yards in bunches.  Putting Muir and Johnson in the middle has an adverse affect on the pass rush, but it pretty much needs to be accepted that Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are the pass rush and not allow the run defense to suffer.

Switching to Kyle DeVan was the right move: In his first two games of action, DeVan has provided the Colts with exactly what they need at the position.  He has been capable in pass protection and is blocking with violence and authority in the running game.

Vince Wilfork is a tough assignment to draw, but DeVan and Saturday doubled up on Wilfork and pushed him out of the way, opening up huge running lanes for whoever happened to have the ball at the time — even Chad Simpson averaged nine yards a carry, running primarily up the middle.

With the Tony Ugoh era having come to an end and the Mike Pollak era needing an injury to get re-started, that's two consecutive second-round picks — or, more accurately, the first two picks in the 2008 draft — that Bill Polian has squandered on linemen that did not work out.  Indianapolis tends not to miss on first day selections, which is why their top-heavy salary cap situation has not come back to bite them. But, if Gonzalez busts out, too, Donald Brown is going to have to post some spectacular numbers to salvage the last five years of first day picks.

Another chapter in the saga is complete: Manning and the Colts seem to have turned the tide against Tom Brady and the Patriots.  They have won five of the last six games in the series.  Two of those victories were comebacks of epic proportions.

Bill Belichick seemed to not trust his defense to stop the Colts offense with two minutes to play.  Even if New England had punted, Manning has shown time and time again that he is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field against any defense in the two-minute offense.  Suddenly, the Patriots are prone to late mistakes and clock mismanagement and Manning is the guy no team wants to see trying to mount a comeback in the closing seconds.

A lot has changed in the past five seasons of this rivalry.  There could be another chapter coming in January.  With this win, Indianapolis effectively has a four-game edge on New England in terms of homefield advantage in the playoffs.

That means the next act will be played on the same stage it was last night.  Even casual fans of the NFL have to be hoping for a repeat of what happened on Sunday night.


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