This game pretty much came down to a couple of plays. 1) Belichick using a challenge and losing a timeout three minutes into the second half on a play which would’ve gained the Pats five yards, instead they were facing just 2nd and 10. 2) Belichick using the team’s last timeout as Cassel snuck for a first down on fourth and one near the goal line. 3) Jabar Gaffney’s horrific dropped pass which would have been a touchdown. 4) David Thomas’ personal foul penalty which pretty much ended the game. Here’s a look at the answers to my pregame questions:
- Can the Patriots front seven continue to step up? Though the front seven didn’t record a sack and Peyton Manning threw the ball effectively, the front seven did a decent job stopping the Colts from scoring more points than they did. If you look at Manning’s numbers (21-29, 254 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs) you’d probably think this was a blowout. However, the front seven kept the game close, allowing just 32 yards on 17 carries for Joseph Addai and only lost the game because Vinatieri hit a field goal of more than 50 yards for the first time in years. Yes, it could have been better on the pass rush but anytime you hold the Colts (or any team for that matter) to 18 points, you give your team a great chance to win.
- Will Kevin Faulk and BenJarvis Green-Ellis provide enough ground support? They provided enough support to win, but were just a few yards short when it counted. Faulk had 60 yards on 10 carries and Green-Ellis had 57 yards on 15 carries. Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had a great conservative game plan to slow down the Colts offense and defense and it almost worked out perfectly. The big play that stands out in my mind is on the play where Thomas received his personal foul penalty, had Green-Ellis fought just a little harder to get that first down, the Pats would’ve had a whole new set of downs to work with. But he came up short and the resulting penalty made it 3rd and 16, a down and distance situation where no quarterback can be expected to convert very often.
- Can you believe how far this matchup has fallen in just 12 months? This wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve seen from these teams in the recent history of this rivalry but it was played with high intensity. It was pretty much a must win game for the Colts if they had any realistic chance at the playoffs and the Patriots – with a win – could’ve been at the top of the AFC East. Both teams could go in either direction from here on out, but the Patriots can hold their heads high after this gutty loss.
While it was a tough loss considering how the Patriots were closing in on the game-tying field goal with a few minutes left before the stupid Thomas penalty, but it seemed like another good step for the team as a whole. Playing at Indianapolis isn’t an easy thing to do and though Cassel did have a late interception, he played pretty well and gave his team a chance to win the game in the final minutes. The secondary still has a lot of question marks but you have to like what we’ve seen from Faulk and Green-Ellis the last few weeks. The Patriots have a lot of tough games left with the Jets and Bills coming to Foxboro over the next few weeks in what could be the decider on the 2008 AFC East.
Tags: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bill Belichick, David Thomas, Jabar Gaffney, Joseph Addai, Josh McDaniels, Kevin Faulk, Matt Cassel, Patriots, Peyton Manning