Report Cards: Patriots - Colts

The New England Patriots defeated the Colts 31-24. It was an easier win that the final score indicated. So which units did well and which ones didn't. Report cards for both teams here:

PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. COLTS

   PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Regardless of a few poor throws here and there, Tom Brady's numbers always look flawless by the end of the game. Sunday was no exception; Brady finished 29 of 38 with 289 yards and two touchdowns. He would've had three TDs were it not for the fact one of Rob Gronkowski's three touchdowns was ruled a lateral, which means it counted as a rushing play. Speaking of Gronkowski, he scored three more touchdowns Sunday and is easily the most feared tight end in the NFL.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Patriots spread the wealth, but they never really made an effort to establish the run or try to use their running game to close out Sunday's game. Stevan Ridley got back in the mix with a game-high eight carries, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored again, continuing his role as the team's No. 1 ground threat inside the red zone.

   PASS DEFENSE: C -- As always, there were flashes of brilliance, most notably Jerod Mayo's acrobatic interception and Matthew Slater's forced fumble, and this was as solid an effort as the Patriots had produced all year until the fourth quarter. Allowing 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter is indefensible regardless of the score and circumstance. The Patriots struggled tremendously in man coverage, and that needs to change before the playoffs.

   RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Solid effort from the front seven against the run, especially with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown on the field. Brown had been the primary threat with Addai out of the lineup, but Addai's return gave Indianapolis a two-headed monster. Neither back made a huge impact, though Brown did score on a touchdown run during the Colts' fourth-quarter comeback.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Other than Julian Edelman muffing a punt, which he later recovered, the Patriots did a solid job on special teams. Edelman actually did well on kickoff returns. Zoltan Mesko was consistent with his punts, and Stephen Gostkowski nailed his only field-goal attempt.

   COACHING: B -- The Patriots never really tried to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, which appeared somewhat curious, but the strength of the offense is the passing game, so New England certainly wasn't sitting back waiting for the game to end. Any negativity on that end is trumped by the fact that Bill Belichick once again put together a game plan good enough to win despite a makeshift defensive lineup.


COLTS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS

   PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Kudos to QB Dan Orlovsky, who was making his first start for the Colts and his first start in an NFL game since 2008. Orlovsky played well, connecting on 30 of 37 passes for 353 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and had one pass intercepted. He had TD passes to WR Pierre Garcon of 33 and 12 yards. Garcon hauled in a career-high nine passes for 150 yards, also a career best. WR Austin Collie seemed rejuvenated with Orlovsky behind center, as he caught a season-high seven passes for 70 yards, also a season best. WR Reggie Wayne added five catches for 55 yards, and TE Jacob Tamme had five receptions for an additional 49 yards. The only blemishes were the interception, two sacks allowed and an incomplete pass into the end zone at a wide-open Tamme on the Colts' second possession of the game. Indy had to settle for a field goal.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Indianapolis ran for 99 yards on 31 carries, with Donald Brown rushing for 41 yards on 14 carries and a 5-yard touchdown. RB Joseph Addai started and had 39 yards on 13 carries. Rookie Delone Carter got 20 yards on three carries but had his third fumble of the season.

   PASS DEFENSE: F
-- Communication issues doomed the Colts in the second quarter. With LB Pat Angerer along with CBs Jerraud Powers and Terrence Johnson all sidelined due to injuries, backups failed to get on the same page when it came to pass-coverage responsibilities. New England QB Tom Brady was his usual efficient self, completing 29 of 38 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns on the day. He was sacked once by DT Fili Moala (his first career sack) but had plenty of time the rest of the day to find receivers and complete passes. TE Rob Grankowski had five catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns. WR Wes Welker was targeted 11 times and caught 11 passes for 110 yards.

   RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Patriots really didn't need to run the ball due to the success of their passing game, but Indianapolis did a nice job at slowing down the New England ground game when needed. The Patriots had 73 yards in 24 total carries.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- PK Adam Vinatieri made his only field-goal attempt of the day, a 31-yard effort in the first quarter. P Pat McAfee averaged 41.7 yards net and 48 yards overall on just three punts. He had one punt downed inside the Patriots' 20-yard line. McAfee also had one touchback on a kickoff. Rookie S Joe Lefeged averaged 17 yards on two kickoff returns and had one 21-yard punt return. The Colts' kickoff coverage unit allowed an average of 24 yards on two returns, while the punt return coverage squad allowed an average of 9.5 yards on two returns.

   COACHING: B-minus -- The decision to go with Orlovsky as the starter was a good move. It enlivened the offense to have its best overall performance of the season, and the Colts tied for the most points scored in a game this season. As for the promotion of long time linebackers coach Mike Murphy to defensive coordinator and the early-week firing of Larry Coyer from that job, both were necessary. Coyer was a long time friend of head coach Jim Caldwell, but as Caldwell likes to say, "This is a performance-based business." And the defense was underperforming.

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