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The title says it all; with the game in hand, the Patriots gave it away to their arch rival Colts, who took the game 35-34 in the closing seconds.
It started out punch for punch, with the Colts getting the ball to start, and each team going three and out. The Colts struck first with a Joseph Addai touchdown reception after the Patriots lost a challenge against a long completed pass by the sideline. The Pats answered right back after a 55 yard reception by Randy Moss set up the tying touchdown. Later, Moss would catch a 20 yard pass down the sidelines, which led to Brady running a quick quarterback sneak on 1st and 10 (I’ve always wanted to see that happen) in case the Colts felt like challenging.
Despite an offensive holding penalty on the next play, the Patriots were able to turn it into a field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.
Piling it on, the Pats would get the ball back, and give it to Moss for a 63 yard touchdown catch, which was followed by another touchdown for Julian Edelman. The Colts finally answered back with a touchdown of their own, making it 24-14 Pats, which is where the game would stand at the half.
New England would get the ball to start the second half, though this time, the Colts were ready. Brady was intercepted on a pass deep into the end zone from the Colts 33 yard line. Manning would toss an interception on the following drive, which would allow the Pats to drive down the field. However, Laurence Maroney fumbled the ball on a carry right in front of the end zone, going for a touchback. The Colts ended up punting, with the punt being returned to the Indianapolis eight yard line. This lead to a touchdown for the Patriots to open the 4th.
A 29 yard touchdown pass by Peyton Manning brought the score to 31-21, and the Colts later had a chance to further decrease the lead, but Jonathan Wilhite returned an interception to the Indianapolis 31 to set up a field goal. A pass interference penalty on a deep pass (at the New England 13) helped the Colts get right back in it, giving them a touchdown with 2:23 left. New England had two timeouts left, but burned them both before the two minute warning (for some reason), and ended up with a 4th and 2 from their own 28.
Here’s where things get interesting. Instead of punting it, (or sneaking instead of incomplete passing on the last down), the Pats went for it. The pass was juggled, so forward progress that would have resulted in a first down, was not given. And because the Pats had used their timeouts, they could not challenge, which would have had some shot of succeeding. Much better clock management gave the Colts a touchdown with about a quarter of a minute remaining, not enough time for the Pats to do anything, and giving the Colts a heartbreaking 35-34 victory after erasing a 17 point deficit in the 4th quarter.
Brady threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns; Randy Moss had 179 of those yards and two of those touchdowns.
Laurence Maroney’s fumble comes in a close second for not getting the game winning score, but Bill Belichick’s decision to go for it is too big to be ignored. Let the Colts try to go 70 or so yards with two minutes left. You’ll be able to send more defenders to defend the obvious incoming pass. Not cool, Billy.
“As much as you respect Peyton Manning … you have to punt the ball.” – Former Colts coach Tony Dungy on Belichick’s last minute gaffe.