What We Learned: Patriots - Colts

What went right and what went wrong in the Indianapolis game? Rich Lyons reviews his keys to the game to examine if the keys were on, or off the mark.

Patriots Go Into Bye Week After Monumental Win In Indy
By Rich "Mell-o" Lyons

The Pats were able to win the "Game Of The Century" and "Super Bowl 41.5" against the Colts, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the comeback victory, something New England has not had to do all year. Now, let's take a look back at what I thought was the matchup that would determine the outcome, and the keys to the game for both sides.

Matchup Of The Game: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis vs. Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, and Whoever Else Can Possibly Block Him

From the very first play on offense for New England, this looked like it was going to be a huge problem. Mathis used a spin move on Kaczur like he was a rookie, and sacked Brady on the first play of the game for the New England offense. Kaczur had trouble stopping Mathis all day long, coming up with two sacks and numerous pressures on Brady. Freeney also burned Light on a few plays. However, when you look at this from an overall perspective, the tackles and the help (Kyle Brady, Ben Watson, Kevin Faulk, and Heath Evans) were able to keep the dogs off of Brady just long enough for him to get the ball off. What makes Indy's ends different is that they line up outside the tackle box and are able to get a quick step or two around the tackles, which means they run a straight line to the quarterback, instead of running around the blockers. So, even the best offensive linemen will have problems with these two. All and all, three sacks, fifteen yards lost...things could have been a lot worse.



New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk (33) runs aganst Indianapolis Colts defensive end Raheem Brock (79) in the third quarter of NFL football action in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

 

New England Keys To Victory:

1. Protection From Brady: As I stated above, the linemen seemed overwhelmed from the start of the game, but as the game progressed, and a running game was established, Brady eventually was able to get at least a little time to look over the field and find a receiver.

2. Attack The Middle: Yes, Brady was able to make plays in this area towards the end of the game, but personally, it was incredibly frustrating to see Brady rely on Randy Moss so heavily the whole game. This isn't last year. It's not as though Brady has one or two reliable receivers, he's got four or five now. Perhaps I'm biased because I love the way he plays, but I was disappointed at how long it took for Wes Welker to be involved in the offense. Finally, in the fourth quarter, Brady started to spread the ball around, throwing to Welker and Faulk for touchdowns, and connecting with Welker on a critical first down right before the two minute warning. The Patriots won the game, but I'm hoping that during the bye week, Brady looks at the fourth quarter, and keeps that mentality for the rest of the season.

3. Keep Attacking Manning: This was also one of the more frustrating moments of the game. The Pats came out in a 4-3 defense (sometimes a 4-2-5), and not their normal 3-4 base. This meant that the Pats were comfortable in only sending four guys against one of the best lines in the league, which was a huge problem, as Manning was able to sit in the pocket and dissect the Pats' coverage. Had it not been for two huge drops by Anthony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne, the deficit before the comeback may have been much greater. Once the Pats got out of the 4-3 and changed things up, they were able to send more pressure on the quarterback, which produced the biggest play of the game, when Jarvis Green broke loose, sacked Manning, and forced a fumble that landed right into the awaiting hands of Roosevelt Colvin with two and a half minutes left. For whatever reason, the Patriots were not playing like...the "Patriots." Basically, they played the way the Colts wanted them to for three quarters, and then finally, they started playing the way they have all season in the fourth. Again, overall, they were able to control Manning, and outside of the 73-yard touchdown scamper by Joseph Addai, really did a good job in coverage to make up for the lack of pressure applied to Manning.

Indianapolis Keys To Victory:

1. Bob Sanders: Sure, he only recorded five tackles, but Sanders was one of the reasons Brady stayed away from the middle of the field. Just his presence on the field made the Patriots stray from their gameplan. However, I was surprised that the Colts did not send Sanders on more blitzes. This was almost a reversal from the AFC Championship last January, when the Patriots had the lead, then softened up on their defense, and allowed the Colts to come from behind and win the game. With a big lead, the Colts started only sending four guys, and even though they speed rush better than most anyone, especially on turf in a dome, a good line like New England's will be able to figure out how to make a 5 vs. 4 matchup work in their favor, and that allowed the Patriots to come back and win their ninth straight game of the year.

2. Test Richard Seymour: What was fascinating was that even though Seymour was obviously not playing at full strength, the Colts ran most of their running plays to the right side of the line. Ultimately, given this turn of events, the Pats felts comfortable giving Jarvis Green reps in Seymour's spot, which ultimately led to Green making the big play. Addai had a monster game though, and credit has to be given to the Colts' line, which was dominant, nearly all game.

3. Spread The Ball Around On Offense: With Marvin Harrison inactive, this was a lot harder to do for Manning. There was a lot of Reggie Wayne, a lot of Joseph Addai, but not a lot of anyone else. Wayne and Addai combined for 10 receptions and 176 yards, while the rest of the team went for six catches and 49 yards. Credit the New England defense for keeping Dallas Clark under wraps all game long. He was targeted just four times, and made two catches. Not bad considering Clark came into the game first in touchdowns amongst tight ends.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Rich's pregame analysis in his Keys to the Game each week.

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