The Patriots offense was unable to produce a touchdown in Germany as New England fell to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday 10-6, dropping their season record to 2-8 as they enter a much-needed bye week. The Pats had a promising first drive to the game, but from there they were unable to make much happen through the air the rest of the way, leaning into the ground game where they got some yards but still couldn't get into the end zone.
Defensively, the Pats got a takeaway from Myles Bryant and were generally stout outside of a touchdown drive on the Colts first possession. But Indy put up five sacks, got a missed short field goal from Chad Ryland and grabbed two fourth-quarter interceptions as the Colts did enough to knock off the Pats overseas.
Here's our instant analysis and key takeaways from the loss.
1. Sack stops strong opening drive, Colts counter
The Patriots strung together their longest opening drive of the season to open the game, however, a third-down sack inside the red zone forced them to settle for a 37-yard field goal that handed the Pats an early 3-0 lead. The sack was an early harbinger of third-down problems to come.
The 13-play, 61 drive featured big plays from Mike Gesicki, who secured a tough catch on an initial third-and-7, and Ezekiel Elliott, who took a screen pass for 19 yards. Rhamondre Stevenson also racked up 19 yards on three carries.
It was a pretty good start for the Pats considering how some of their starts have gone this season, but it was frustrating to settle for three points instead of seven, as the interior push from big-time problem DeForest Buckner helped blow up the final third-down play.
The Colts would carry some momentum over from that red zone stop, with Gardner Minshew picking up a big third-down conversion on a 30-yard scrambling throw to former Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie along their way to the end zone. Running back Jonathan Taylor was an issue for the Patriots defense on the drive, picking up 31 yards on the ground as well as the drive-capping touchdown on a fourth-down attempt from the one-yard line.
It was a 14-play, 75-yard drive that almost saw the Patriots force an initial three-and-out but instead lasted over seven minutes. Indy took a 7-3 lead as the Patriots were left to figure out how to contain Taylor and the big plays.
2. Pats sacks piling up, in a bad way
The two teams traded punts on their ensuing possessions, with Mac Jones taking another third-down sack after rookie right guard Sidy Sow was beaten for a quick pressure up the middle. The Patriots forced a three-and-out and sent heavy pressure looking for a block on fourth down but weren't able to make a play. Without a returner back the ball took a favorable Colts bounce and eliminated any potential gain in field possession.
The Pats would punt for a second time after Mac took another sack, this one on first down that lost five yards and put the offense in a hole deep in their own territory that they couldn't climb out of. Mac would take a third third-down sack on New England's fourth possession of the game and then a fourth third-down sack on the fifth possession. That wrapped up five first-half sacks taken by the Patriots, the defining element of the team's offensive performance, setting a season high in just two quarters of work.
The protection issues were an early problem for New England, but luckily their defense stepped up after allowing the long opening touchdown drive, forcing two-straight three-and-outs and three-straight punts. The Colts missed a field goal to wrap up the first half after converting a fourth-down attempt, taking their 7-3 lead into the locker room.
3. Bryant "picks" up Patriots
Needing a play to get back on track, Myles Bryant delivered on the first drive of the second half, securing a tipped-ball interception that set up the offense inside Colts territory. It was the game's first interception and a sign of a positive trend for the Patriots defense, picking up their eighth takeaway in the last five games. Jahlani Tavai played a role too as the defender who tipped the pass from Gardner Minshew.
But in a continuing theme, third-down pressure stunted the Patriots ensuing drive, and then, to make matters worse, Chad Ryland pulled his 35-yard field goal attempt just wide. The offense was unable to capture any magic off of the turnover, and the short-lived drive featured six-straight runs before Mac dropped back to pass on third down.
4. Pats ride the run, special teams lets them down
The Patriots ran 11 runs to just three passes on their drive that ended the third quarter, as Mac Jones continued to have some scary plays including a near interception in the end zone. The offense was forced to settle for a field goal but it came off of a needed 15-play, 93-yard drive to get them back within just a single point in the contest. The team's third-down performance continued to be a hindrance, with just three conversions on 10 attempts to that point in the early fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, the Colts got a huge 41-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff as Indy snatched back the momentum. They'd cap off a short 20-yard drive with a field goal that reestablished a 10-6 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
5. Mac picked, Zappe falls short
The Patriots continued to have success on the ground, responding nicely to the Colts' scoring drive. As they entered the red zone they looked poised to potentially take the lead with a touchdown but the team's first giveaway of the day would strike at the worst time.
Mac came off play action and lobbed a short-armed throw off his back foot that was picked off at the Indy five-yard line. It was a killer mistake at a terrible time, costing the Patriots near-sure points.
The Pats defense couldn't respond by forcing a quick punt, instead allowing a conversion on third-and-five that went for 26 yards and helped Indy eat up more clock. They'd finally force a punt at the two-minute warning, as the Patriots inserted Bailey Zappe looking for a spark to end the game but that spark would fail to materialize as Zappe would close the game out with an interception of his own.
6. Patriots are 2-8
With the lackluster loss the Patriots drop to an ugly 2-8 on the season as they head into their bye week looking for answers that simply might not exist within this roster. The Patriots offense could not produce meaningful points and had two game-killing interceptions, while their defense allowed just enough to be the difference in the game. It's been a game of whack-a-mole, as this week's problem du jour was allowing sacks, especially on third down. Mac's interception late in the fourth quarter was a final dagger to the heart.
Now, New England will look to their week off to reassess their direction for the final seven games. In the meantime, it will be a long flight back from Germany for the floundering team with a trip to the New York Giants waiting on the other side of the bye.