Late defensive collapse is cause for concern
The good news for Bill Belichick is that his team
is on a four-game winning streak, and this week the Patriots (9-3) head
south down I-95 to Washington to take on a Redskins team that's 4-8.
Belichick's teams generally play their best
football after Thanksgiving and win a lot of games heading toward the
In dismissing the winless Colts last weekend in
Foxborough, New England got off to a winning start in December, but to
say that the team is playing its best football may be a bit of a
Facing the Peyton Manning-less visitors from
Indianapolis, the Patriots were a heavy favorite against the Colts and
were expected to blow them out.
That's exactly what was transpiring late in the
third quarter when Rob Gronkowski scored his third touchdown of the
afternoon to give New England a 31-3 lead in a game that looked to be
well in hand.
But at that point New England's high-scoring
offense began experiencing a drought, while the Patriots' makeshift,
developing defense went into the tank. While Tom Brady and Co. put up
three straight three-and-outs, Dan Orlovsky led the Colts on three
straight scoring drives, including two late in the fourth quarter in
which the career winless passer completed 12 of his 13 throws.
Not surprisingly, Belichick was happy that his
team got the win but none too pleased with the final quarter's efforts.
"It's good to be 9-3," Belichick said. "Hopefully
we can keep improving here through the last quarter of the season.
We've obviously got to do a better job of finishing the game. That was
disappointing, but we'll work on that. We'll get back to work here and
get ready for Washington next week."
Defensively, the bottom fell out.
"We always talk about that you have to play your
best football after Thanksgiving, and that's what we're trying to do.
Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter, we didn't do that," defensive
co-captain Jerod Mayo said.
Safety James Ihedigbo said, "We have to finish
games. It was good (against the Colts), but against other teams, it's
not going to be good enough. That's how you can let games slip away.
Even though we are sitting here at 9-3, there is a lot we have to work
They'll get that chance Sunday afternoon against
Rex Grossman and the Redskins.
LINEUP WATCH: New England continues to have a
rotating roster along the offensive line, especially at the center
position. Recently called-up practice squad player Nick McDonald made
the start against the Colts, the fourth different starter the Patriots
have used in the middle this season. Former Pro Bowler Dan Koppen broke
his leg in the opener. Versatile backup Dan Connolly has missed two
weeks with a groin issue, and third-stringer Ryan Wendell was active
but banged up himself against Indianapolis as he deals with a calf
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Touchdown receptions
second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski needs to break the NFL record for
touchdown catches by a tight end in one season. He now shares the mark,
13, with Antonio Gates (2004) and Vernon Davis (2009).
--S Patrick Chung missed his fourth straight game
with a foot injury. Chung warmed up prior to the game against Indy, but
it was quickly decided that he could not go.
--LB Brandon Spikes also missed his fourth
straight game thanks to a knee injury. Spikes had returned to the
practice field for a walkthrough last week.
--LB Dane Fletcher missed his sixth straight game
due to a thumb injury.
--C Dan Connolly (groin) was inactive for the
second straight week.
--RT Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot) missed the
Indianapolis game thanks to an injury suffered the previous week in
Philadelphia. Vollmer missed five games earlier this season with a back
--QB Ryan Mallett and RB Shane Vereen (hamstring)
were among New England's seven game-day inactives against the Colts.
--WR Taylor Price, a 2010 third-round pick, was
cut by New England on Saturday. Price was inactive in 15 of 16 games as
a rookie. He had been inactive five times and did not play three times
this season. He caught three passes for 41 yards in 2010, and he didn't
have a reception this year.
--G/C Nick McDonald was promoted from the practice
squad to the active roster for the game against the Colts. McDonald
started at center Sunday.
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