On a chilly Sunday evening, one of the most highly anticipated games took place in a packed Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
The game involved two of the league's most exceptional quarterbacks leading two of the most determined offenses. A game that stars the Patriots' Tome Brady and the Colts' Peyton Manning is bound to be memorable one.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knew this from the beginning, "As it always does with the Colts, it came right down to the wire."
Playing through a physical 60 minutes of gritty football, the New England Patriots came away with the win over the Indianapolis Colts with a score of 31-28. The patriots are now 8-2 and the Colts fall to 6-4.
Less is More
As the Patriots began this season, several constants were no longer present. They're now without their deep receiving threat that was Randy Moss, running back Fred Taylor has been out for the last few weeks with a stubborn turf toe injury.
But above those issues, quarterback Tom Brady has been a convincing and continuously productive constant for the Patriots.
For the game, Brady threw just 25 passes and completed 19 for 186 yards, he had two touchdown passes and a passer rating of 123.1. So far for the season, Brady has averaged a 65.5 percent pass completion rating and already has 19 touchdowns. One of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league today, Brady has a 100.6 passer rating so far for the season.
Although the game concluded in favor of the Patriots, Brady knew there things his team needed to improve on, "We started fast. I wish we would have executed a little better there in the second half..." Brady continued, "...You've got to play to the end and that's what it came down to."
The days of deep passes for huge yards in New England are quickly getting overshadowed by the increased productivity of the Patriots short yardage game. Among the seven different receivers that Brady targeted on Sunday, as a group, they averaged 9.8 yards per catch. Although this average is skewed by a huge 25 yard catch by tight end Rob Gronkowski, it still makes for a remarkable receiving group and it was clear against 15th ranked Colts defense.
Making the Most of It
The youth of the Patriots team is continuously battling critics weekly, and it seems that every week they do just enough to win. The need to win was evident on all facets of the team from the offensive line to special teams coverage.
As mentioned before, the Patriots have quite an interesting bunch of players to work with and the coaching staff seemed to have found a place for everyone, especially running back Danny Woodhead.
The undrafted free agent has quickly evolved from a player cut by the New York Jets to one of the utilized players in the Patriots offensive arsenal. Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez gushed about his teammate, "Woodhead can do it all, passing game, coming out the backfield, running the ball, he does it all."
Against the Colts, Woodhead caught every ball that was thrown at him for 21 total yards and averaged 5.3 yards per catch. Woodhead also carried the ball seven times for 69 yards, including a 36 yard run to the end zone for his third touchdown of the season.
Safety Brandon Meriweather, who had seven combined tackles and an interception, gave his thoughts on the newest member of the Patriots running attack, "I guess thanks to the Jets, they let him go that easy. He's a great player; he's a great teammate to be around."
The Flexible Defense
New England Patriots Danny Woodhead vs the Indianapolis Colts on November 21, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The crowd at Gillette Stadium let out a sigh of relief when Patriots' safety James Sanders made a game-ending interception on a Peyton Manning pass intended for wide receiver Pierre Garçon. Although Sanders was the one to make the play but he didn't hesitate to express his gratitude to his teammates. "It was huge. It was a total team effort though."
Based on the reactions of the Colts, the interception halted any sort of momentum for an Indianapolis comeback. "It was very deflating because the game was over then. It was a great
play by him." Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne expressed after the game.
Prior to the struggles that the Patriots defense had in the fourth quarter, they were getting back to the bend but not break philosophy that had brought them success in days of their three Super Bowl Championships. Patriots' defensive leader Vince Wilfork knew how close this win was to a loss.
"They were a field goal away from tying it up, a touchdown away from winning the ball,
but we were forced to step up big and [win it] with a turnover." Wilfork continued, "That was huge for us. I'm very proud of our guys out there."
Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo continued his impressive combined tackles streak with a total of 15 for the game against the Colts. Fellow Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton had the second highest combined tackles for the game with nine.
The highlight of the defensive front for the Patriots were the three interceptions caught by safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive back James Sanders and rookie standout cornerback Devin McCourty.
The 2010 first round pick discussed the intensity on the Patriots sidelines, "As soon as we got to the sideline [Jerod] Mayo kept yelling, ‘Finish! Finish! We've been here before.'" McCourty continued, "That's all we were trying to focus on."
Looking Forward: The Detroit Lions
The Patriots are coming off of a win against the Indianapolis Colts and it was the victory that made quite the statement. Convincing victories against the defense-led Pittsburgh Steelers and the Manning-orchestrated offense should make facing the Detroit Lions an easier feat. But, as the Patriots the unexpectedly poised Cleveland Browns in what is now known as the trap game, overlooking the 2-8 Lions would be a mistake.
Although it seems that Lions' rookie standout running back Jahvid Best is probable to play on Thanksgiving due to a toe injury, he is still a viable threat against the Patriots developing rush defense. Veteran running back Kevin Smith has been placed on injured reserve for the second year in a row. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is out for the game due to another ailing shoulder injury which leaves the probable back up Shaun Hill to lead the Detroit offense.
As far as the matchup between the Patriots offense the Lions defense, the biggest threat comes from rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh, the second round overall pick in the 2010 Draft, has been the biggest weapon for the Lions. With 40 combined tackles for the season, Suh also leads the NFL in sacks, has a forced fumble and an interception. Look for Suh to pressure the greatly improved Patriots offensive line.
Conclusively, the advantage goes to the Patriots as they are coming off of two extremely impressive wins and have been forced to work hard on a rather short week. Do not underestimate the Lions and their ability to stay competitive. Injuries have haunted the Lions and have prevented their top picks to play consistently. The holiday game will be an opportunity for the Patriots to play through another prospective trap game.
The New England Patriots will face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p,m, est.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check back for regular updates by Kisha