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Sun., Feb. 18, 2018 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM EST
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After Further Review: Colts-Patriots
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on Patriots.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New England Patriots organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Patriots officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
...The Patriots are getting very adept at running legal pick plays in the passing game. Case in point, RB Shane Vereen's 3rd-down pickup that gained 13 yards and a 1st down. Hooman and Vereen were lined up wide left at the snap, with Vereen on the inside. Hooman ran his route directly toward Vereen's defender, which brought Hooman's defender along with him and created a log-jam that gave Vereen space to cut underneath and collect Tom Brady's pass, turn upfield, and get the five yards for the 1st, along with 8 more. Very precise route-running by both Hooman and Vereen.
...The running game's effectiveness certainly helped keep the defense honest, but credit the o-line with doing a nice job protecting Brady when he dropped back to pass. One exception was a 3rd-down sack on the third possession. OLB Erik Walden beat RT Marcus Cannon with a nice speed rush. Actually, he ran past Brady, but still got by Cannon. Brady sensed this and knew that Walden was bearing down on him from behind, while DT Jeris Pendleton was driving Solder back into Brady from the front at the same time. With those vice grips clamping down, Brady gave himself up before getting walloped.
1st Quarter – Defense
...DEs Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich got the better of Indy's tackles for much of the quarter. Though they didn't sack Luck, they were able to collapse the pocket several times and make Luck uncomfortable.
...Rookie LB Jamie Collins gave up a 3rd-down completion to TE Colby Fleener on Indy's first scoring drive, which help keep that possession going, but he came back later with a great downfield play to knock a pass away from Fleener along the Colts sideline. It was a great display of athleticism by Collins on another 3rd down to force a punt.
...CB Aqib Talib was shadowing the Colts' top receiver, T.Y. Hilton, from the get-go.
2nd Quarter – Defense
...Sealver Siliga is getting better each week. The young D-tackle is playing with more and more confidence, both against the run and in getting pressure up the middle on opposing QBs.
...LB Dont'a Hightower has been playing much better of late, and with the loss of Brandon Spikes to IR, he stepped up and had one of his best games against Indy. His heads-up interception was more a product of the intended receiver not holding onto the ball, but even if he had, Hightower was right there with him and would have easily taken him down for only a short gain.
2nd Quarter – Offense
...The o-line continued dominating the Colts' front line on running plays. New England was just the more physical group and was executing its blocking assignments very well.
...Punter Ryan Allen could have avoided injuring his shoulder on the botched snap/safety had he just kicked the ball soccer-style out of the back of the end zone. He picked up the ball down near the goal line after it sailed high over his head and was trying, it seemed, to get off a pass or a lateral to Tavon Wilson, who was to his left, but the Colts coverage team knocked to ball loose before Allen's arm went forward. It was a risky (and bad) decision to begin with, compounded by the fact that Allen sustained an injury on the play, putting his playoff availability in jeopardy. He punted on the ensuing free kick, but then left the game for good right afterward.
...Julian Edelman was spectacular catching the football. He made a couple of great grabs with a defender clinging to his back, one of which gained 13 on a 3rd-and-10.
...Vereen once again had trouble holding onto an easy pass that Brady floated to him on an out-and-up pattern along the Patriots sideline. He's struggled all season with these kinds of over-the-shoulder floater passes, and this time was no different. The ball hit him square in the hands, but he couldn't hold on. Had he, the play would easily have picked up a 1st down. Instead, New England punted to end the half.
3rd and 4th Quarter – Offense
…A couple plays later, Brady – not the most nimble QB ever – did a great job eluding a stunt by the Colts. DE/OLB Robert Mathis looped inside behind Pendleton and nearly got to Brady, but the QB recognized what was happening in front of him and deftly sidestepped the rush. Meanwhile, Edelman saw this unfolding and cut off his crossing route to sit down in a hole in the defense. Brady hit him for the 1st down to continue what wound up being another scoring drive. RT Marcus Cannon may have gotten away with a hold on the Pendleton, but no flag was thrown.
…Mathis almost got Brady again two plays later when he speed-rushed Hooman. The TE never got good leverage on Mathis, who got to Brady’s legs, but the QB threw the ball away for an incompletion, avoiding the sack.
…The PI that Edelman drew against CB Josh Gordy looked like it might have been a bad call when I saw it live, because the ball was badly underthrown by Brady, but the film shows Gordy grabbing at Edelman the whole time they raced downfield. Edelman certainly sold it, too. Could’ve gone either way, but the official must’ve been watching Gordy’s hands more than the ball, and it looked like Edelman may have been trying to stop his route short to adjust to the ball. Understandable, then, why the flag was thrown.
…RB Stevan Ridley got in the end zone in the 3rd thanks to a good second effort on his part. The play was designed to go right, which it did, but the Colts defense was able to break through momentarily. Ridley was hit short of the goal line, but he kept his feet moving, the defender couldn’t hold on, and Ridley dove over a pile of Colts to break the goal line.
…The ensuing 2-point conversion was a similar play, only to the left. In fact, it looked a lot like Blount’s second run, with Hooman and Mulligan as the two TEs, who did their job on the kickout blocks. Ridley followed Solder and Mankins, however, rather than bounce to the hole that was created to his left. He hit his o-line in the back, but continued to push forward over the goal line. Might’ve been easier to cut to the hole, but the result was the same.
…New England ran well overall, but got stuffed on a 3rd-and-less-than-a-yard on a handoff to Develin. He would’ve gotten the 1st were it not for a great read by Landry, who beat Develin to the line of scrimmage and drove him back.
…Ridley’s second TD run, in the 4th, was a mirror image of the first Blount one, with Slater and Hooman as the two TEs, but on the right side this time. Develin led the way and Ridley followed him to the right side, diving over the goal line. New England’s short-yardage package was at its best against Indy.
3rd and 4th Quarter –Defense
…Jones should’ve had a sack of Luck early in the 3rd after a nice inside rush move he executed. Jones had a clear shot at Luck, but the QB sidestepped him at the last moment and Jones ran right by him. Luck got a pass off, but the rush by Jones did its job. The pass fell short and incomplete.
…Ninko and Jones almost combined for another would-be sack on the next play with great individual efforts 1-on-1 with their blockers. The Patriots were in their 2-DE look, a popular one earlier this season, with Jones playing tackle. Ninko lined up next to him on the left side of the defense. Ninko’s pressure forced Luck to step up in the pocket and nearly into the hands of Jones. However, Luck got an amazing pass off at the last second, off his front foot, for a 40-yard completion to Hilton. It was also one of Talib’s rare bad plays in the game. It appeared that Talib was looking at the Ninko-Jones pressure and may have assumed for a split-second that Luck was being sacked. This hesitation gave Hilton the opportunity to run past Talib and get the necessary separation to make the diving catch.
…New England was in a zone D when Hilton picked up another long pass (Talib not on him that time) in the 3rd quarter. Safety Steve Gregory didn’t do a good enough job of staying with Hilton down field.
…The very next play, also a Patriots zone, saw Brazill run a skinny post pattern against a trailing McCourty. Brazill got no bump by a defender at the line of scrimmage, giving him a clean route to run. McCourty’s slow reaction allowed Brazill to get behind him and haul in the easy lob pass from Luck.
…Collins finally got a sack of Luck late in the 3rd. He came from the inside on an all-out blitz and was undercut in the backfield by RB Donald Brown. But Collins’ speed allowed him to continue diving forward and into Luck’s midsection for the takedown. On the previous series, Collins also made a nice tackle-for-loss while being knocked to the ground. Eye-popping athleticism from the rookie.
…Rookie DT Joe Vellano was credited with a sack of Luck early in the 4th, but in fact, he got away with a blatant tripping penalty that wasn’t called. He actually made a great bull-rush to drive his blocker into the backfield, but when Luck scrambled away, Vellano stuck his left leg out and took Luck down. No flag, however.
…Collins’ INT was another tremendous athletic effort. He was covering Fleener again and dropped back with perfect technique in pass coverage. Fleener actually got behind Collins on his deep in-patter, but Collins wheeled around in time to get in front of Luck’s pass before it arrived at Fleener. The capper to what was a career day, to say the least, for Collins.
…Dennard finally got a second INT on Luck at the very end of the game. It was a poorly underthrown pass by Luck down the sideline and Dennard made a good sight adjustment to stop short before the receiver could to make the play.
DO YOUR JOB: Jamie Collins – By far, the best game of the rookie linebacker’s burgeoning career as a pro. Collins was a force in the pass rush, dropping into coverage, and helping out against the run. He wasn’t perfect, but more often than not, he was in the right position and made several key plays, some of which may have gone unnoticed. His final stat line: 6 total tackles (3 solo), a sack, 2 tackles-for-loss, 3 QB hits, an INT, and a pass defensed.