Patriots Still Looking For A Complete Game

Even when they jump out to a big lead, the Patriots can't seem to finish teams off this year. At 9-3, you would think everything would be fine in New England. Not so say the players and the coach. They are still looking for the complete game.

Patriots still waiting for their first complete game

   As each week passes, the Patriots continue to find ways to win, even if the victories aren't as appealing to the naked eye as fans -- and coach Bill Belichick -- would like them to be.

   On Sunday, the Patriots raced out to what seemed like an insurmountable lead against the winless Colts before holding on for a 31-24 win, a game not nearly as close as the final score indicated.

   Trailing 31-3, the Colts scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull to within a touchdown, but they ran out of time in the end as the Patriots salted away the final seconds to improve to 9-3. Indianapolis dropped to 0-12.

   What seemed like a near flawless win turned into a sore subject afterward as most of the Patriots wound up disappointed with the effort in the fourth quarter rather than reflecting on the positive, which, in this case, was another win.

   "We've really yet to play a 60-minute game," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I'd really love to see what the outcome is if we do play a 60-minute game. There's things that haven't really allowed us to be able to do that, and hopefully we can get that straightened out going into this week's game.

   "We've won four straight. We had two pretty tough losses back to back six weeks ago, and now we've won four straight. We're in a good position. We've obviously got some huge games ahead -- what more could you ask for in the middle of December?"

   A complete game might be on this year's Christmas list. Part of Sunday's fourth-quarter meltdown might've been a result of complacency, which is seemingly natural when you consider the Patriots led by 28 points against a team that had yet to win a game all year. That might suffice for now, but it won't in January when the Patriots are playing against elite teams in the postseason.

   Belichick spent the week hyping up Indianapolis, which drew a few laughs from the Foxboro press corps, but now he's got even more ammunition moving forward after his team nearly flushed a four-touchdown lead.

   "He was on us all last week about finishing a game, and I think that's the disappointing part -- he put a lot of emphasis into that, and we didn't really play to that," Brady said, "so I think that was the disappointing part.

   "We've got to do a better job of that as players -- we're all accountable as players. Certainly, I am; I could have done a much better job on a couple of throws there in the fourth quarter that I didn't make very good throws on. If I do that, then it's a whole different outcome to the game."

   Regardless, the blame will continue to fall on the defense until the Patriots play that elusive 60-minute game. Brady and his offensive teammates have been so consistent throughout the year, so it's hard to blame Sunday's near meltdown on a few errant throws. Until the defense reaches that championship level, every game will be dangerous from this point forward.

   "We were up 31-3, and I think everyone was obviously happy with that," Brady said, "but we'd like to close the game out a lot better than we did (Sunday)."

Patriots keep piling up winning seasons
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Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were wired for sound Week 13 against the Colts.
   --With their ninth win of the season, the Patriots are guaranteed a winning record for the 11th consecutive season.
   The Patriots have now won nine or more games in 15 of the 18 seasons that Robert Kraft has owned the team. New England is the first team to win more than half of its games in 11 consecutive seasons since free agency began in 1993.

   --With two touchdown passes Sunday, quarterback Tom Brady passed Johnny Unitas and moved into a tie with Warren Moon for sixth on the NFL's all-time list for touchdown passes. John Elway is in fifth with 300.

   --TE Rob Gronkowski had his 12th and 13th touchdown receptions of the season with an 11-yard score in the second quarter and a 21-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He tied the NFL record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end.
   Vernon Davis (San Francisco in 2009) and Antonio Gates (San Diego in 2004) also had 13 touchdown catches in a season.

   --LB Brandon Spikes missed another game Sunday due to a knee injury. Spikes did not practice all week and likely will not return until he begins practicing regularly.

   --CB Devin McCourty returned to the lineup Sunday but struggled in coverage against Indianapolis. Though it's hard to say whether his struggles were due to his shoulder injury, it's possible he's still not 100 percent.

   --OL Dan Connolly missed his second consecutive game Sunday with a groin injury despite practicing throughout the week. Connolly likely will practice this week, too, but wind up being a game-time decision.

   --LB Dane Fletcher returned to practice last week despite nursing a thumb injury, yet he still missed Sunday's game. Along with LB Brandon Spikes, he'll undoubtedly return before the end of the season, but the timetable is uncertain.

   --OL Nick McDonald was added to the active roster Saturday, and he could be used in a pinch if both Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell suffer additional setbacks. Wendell played Sunday, but McDonald will still remain an option.

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