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Analysis/reaction: Colts-Patriots

Posted Dec 4, 2011

New England nearly lets an easy win slip away against undermanned Indianapolis.

Ultimately, a win is a win is a win.

That said, the Patriots will take their 31-24 victory over the still-winless Colts Sunday.

But they’re not thrilled with it.

Not after yet another sputtering start on offense and another collapse in the fourth quarter on defense that nearly turned what should have been a blowout win into a catastrophic defeat.

“Yeah, made a lot of mistakes, especially at the end of the game,” conceded cornerback Kyle Arrington.

“Poor execution, lack of focus,” were reasons he offered to try to explain. “Got to really look at the film, look in the mirror, see how we can get better.”

“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” added linebacker and co-captain Jerod Mayo. “[We need to] go back to the drawing board, try to improve. You know, just have to finish games.”

The middle 30 minutes – quarters 2 and 3 – New England looked as sharp and well-oiled as a machine can be, making plays on offense and defense.

In the final stanza, however, the Patriots offense had three possessions, all of which were three-and-out results.

“Yes, the middle 30 minutes we were playing great, we were executing well, everyone was on pace,” observed tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught a pair of touchdowns and rushed for third.

“We have to start the beginning of the game and execute hard, go out in practice at the beginning of practice and make sure we work on that stuff and finishing games. We have to close better than that.”

In fairness to the defense, they’ve had to make due with shuffled lineups and new faces almost on a weekly basis because of a rash of injuries to the secondary and linebacker corps.

We saw it again Sunday with newcomer Nate Jones, a veteran signed just four days earlier, and reserve wide receiver/special teams ace Matthew Slater starting at safety, with James Ihedigbo moving up to play more of a linebacker-type role for much of the first half. Niko Koutouvides, another veteran journeyman, was thrust into the starting lineup against Indy as well.

That lack of consistency has undoubtedly contributed to Patriots’ inability to put together a complete 60-minute performance.

“We’re not happy with how we finished the game,” Slater admitted. “We have to finish games better, especially down the stretch. It’s in all three phases, not just defensively.”

“Regardless of what their record was, we were playing the Colts in our house and we wanted to make a statement. We did that for a large part of the game,” Ihedigbo pointed out, “but we have to close out and finish games. That’s just the bottom line.”

As you can tell from their post-game comments, the Patriots understand they have to stop making a habit of this. It’s December, with the playoffs clearly in sight and with them, tougher opponents. They can’t afford to take more than a quarter to wake up, nor can they survive week-to-week in the postseason by giving up long scoring drives in the fourth quarter.  

“We talk 60 minutes all the time. Didn’t happen today,” lamented Arrington.

“We started off fast, we just … couldn’t finish the game … I don’t know. Haven’t watched the film yet. I’ll let you know tomorrow,” a frustrated Mayo continued, struggling to find answers.

“Those guys [on the Colts] fought back and executed at the end of the game. We have to learn to put two halves together. Hopefully, we’ll do it next week.”

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