PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. COLTS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Tom Brady had a solid game, connecting on 21-of-34 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line played another great game, allowing only one sack and giving Brady time in the pocket to locate his receivers. Ben Watson and Reche Caldwell were the Patriots' top pass catchers, although Caldwell had two bad drops. The second one probably cost New England a first down. It's obvious Brady is at his best when he's in the shotgun and is able to get rid of the ball quickly. However, he needs a downfield threat. Rookie Chad Jackson was once again invisible and if he doesn't make huge strides this offseason, the Patriots will need to add another receiver that can stretch the field.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- For all the talk about how formidable the 1-2 punch of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney were during the regular season, New England's ground game was a non-factor in three postseason games. Against the league's worst rush defense, the Patriots only managed 93 yards on 23 carries, with 35 of those yards coming on a fourth-and-1 scamper by Dillon. Maroney had a miserable outing, fumbling a handoff and rushing for 1.6 yards per carry. Once again, Brady had too much pressure on his shoulders without the help of an effective rushing attack.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- New England's defense did a pretty good job stopping the Colts' high-flying air attack early on, but that all changed after halftime. Manning and the coaching staff made some key adjustments that the Patriots defense had no answers for in the second half. With the running game cranking out yardage, tight end Dallas Clark was able to get down the field for some big plays. He caught six passes for 137 yards. The Patriots were able to hold Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in check for most of the game but Manning countered that by completing passes to nine different receivers, including a 1-yard touchdown toss to Dan Klecko. New England was able to get some pressure on Manning off the edge, sacking him three times. However, when the game was on the line, Manning and his receivers came up big and moved the ball at will on a tired and weary Patriots defense.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Colts had surprising success on the ground, especially Dominic Rhodes. Rhodes was able to find a lot of running room in the second half, finishing with 69 yards on 14 carries. Joseph Addai pitched in with 56 yards, including the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Colts were able to run for 125 yards and a 4.2 yards per carry average against a tough Patriots rush defense. It's the second week in a row Indianapolis has had success on the ground against one of the NFL's stingiest defenses. The Colts' success running the ball helped open up the play-action pass, as Manning started finding receivers wide open behind the linebackers. Overall, it was a very solid performance by both Rhodes and Addai.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Ellis Hobbs was a force returning kicks. He averaged 36.7 yards per return, including a big 80-yarder right after the Colts scored to tie the game at 21. Troy Brown was effective returning punts, averaging 13.0 per return and setting the Patriots up in good field position. Both punters had a big game. Todd Sauerbrun had a 51.4-yard average, while Homer Smith was slightly better at 52.8 yards. Terrence Wilkins wasn't much of a factor returning punts or kicks. Stephen Gostkowski connected on both his field-goal attempts to end his rookie season with a bang.
COACHING: C -- Bill Belichick and his staff had a great game plan in the first half but after the Colts made adjustments at halftime, the Patriots looked lost, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Eric Alexander saw a lot of time at inside linebacker, with Mike Vrabel playing on the outside. However, it didn't do a lot of good because the Colts ran for 125 yards and exploited Alexander in coverage. Offensively, New England once again abandoned the running game way too early. Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon were barely on the field in the second half. Overall, the Patriots came in prepared and ready to play but they failed to make adjustments in the second half when the Colts offense was moving the ball up and down the field on them.
COLTS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS:
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Peyton Manning completed 27-of-47 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown, a one-yard flip to DT Dan Klecko. Manning spread the ball among nine different receivers in the game. His only blemish was an interception that was returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Patriots CB Asante Samuel. TE Dallas Clark had a game-high six catches for 137 yards, a career high for yardage.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The Colts averaged 4.2 yards per carry as RB Dominic Rhodes had 69 yards in 14 carries while rookie RB Joseph Addai added 56 yards in 14 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown with a minute remaining in the game. Indianapolis' yards on the ground came tough, but the Colts were able to do enough to keep the Patriots defense honest.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Not a bad performance by Indianapolis although it allowed 232 yards passing by QB Tom Brady. Brady connected on 21-of-34 passes with a touchdown. He was sacked once by DT Raheem Brock, the first time the Colts had sacked in three postseason meetings. CB Marlin Jackson's interception with 16 seconds remains iced the win, but S Bob Sanders just about had one in the previous offensive series for Indianapolis.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- Indianapolis limited the Patriots running game for most of the evening, especially in the second half, allowing Corey Dillon 48 yards in seven carries, Kevin Faulk 27 yards in four carries and Laurence Maroney 13 yards in eight rushing attempts. New England averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Three field goals by PK Adam Vinatieri and a good punting performance by Hunter Smith (four for a 52.8 yard average) were the highlights. The Colts struggled a bit on kickoff coverage, allowing 231 yards on eight returns and 39 yards on three punt returns. Smith did a pretty good job holding the ball for Vinatieri, coming up with a couple low snaps. KR-PR Terrence Wilkins had 92 yards on five kickoff returns and 40 yards on three punt returns.
COACHING: A-plus -- When a team is down 21-3 at one point in the second quarter and then rallies to score 32 points against the league's No. 2 scoring defense, that's a pretty good night of work. Tony Dungy and his group of assistant coaches didn't panic despite the early deficit, went into the locker room at halftime, made the necessary changes and then let the team play. Not many coaches have handled a team with as much moxy as Dungy and his assistants have done with the current Colts squad.