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Bridgestone Performance Review: Patriots-Colts

Film breakdown of New England's Week 11 matchup against Indianapolis.


1st Quarter

…New England's running game got off to a fantastic start. RB Jonas Gray did his part, of course, protecting the football and gobbling up yards at an impressive clip. He would not have been able to do so, of course, without his o-line and extra blockers. FB James Develin, TE Rob Gronkowski, and rookie OL Cameron Fleming, just back from a month-long game absence due to a finger injury, were particularly effective in executing their blocking assignments, and this was crucial for Gray's success on the ground. Throughout the opening quarter, each of those players threw crushing blocks that sprang both Gray and RB Shane Vereen for big gains.

…There wasn't anything fancy about Gray's first of a club-record four touchdowns on the ground. The Patriots' offense came out in a standard running formation, with Gronk on the left and Fleming on the right, both in three-point stances next to the respective tackles, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. WR Julian Edelman was slot right, with WR Bandon LaFell wide right. Gray was alone behind Brady, who took the snap from under center on 2nd-and-goal from the IND 4. Left guard Dan Connolly pulled to the right at the snap to form a wedge with Vollmer and right guard Ryan Wendell. Gray followed his three big blockers, and while Connolly didn't get a great block against ILB Jerrell Freeman, who wrapped up Gray's legs, the big back kept those legs churning and muscled his way over Wendell's back and lunged across the goal line for the score.



](…CB Darrelle Revis gave up a big play to WR Reggie Wayne on Indy's second series that went nearly half the field. Revis didn't jam Wayne at the line of scrimmage, and barely got a hand on him at all as Revis allowed Wayne to run right by him while Revis kept his eyes on QB Andrew Luck in the Colts' backfield. Revis may have expected there to be reinforcements behind him in the form of a safety was who he thought was supposed to pick up Wayne. Safety/co-captain Devin McCourty eventually came over to make the tackle, but it seems the Patriots (aside from Revis) were more concerned with WR T.Y. Hilton on the opposite side of the field. Revis would atone for this with a great play later in the game.

…Brady's first of two INTs on the night came on the second possession, when Vollmer was beaten by OLB Erik Walden, who was bearing down on Brady. The QB, standing in the pocket, was forced to rush his throw and just heaved up a deep pass to WR Brian Tyms, who was being triple-covered just as the ball arrived inside the 10-yard line. It was a desperation pass, and an ill-advised one, considering how outnumbered Tyms was on the play.

…Defensively, New England was able to pressure Luck fairly well in the opening quarter, forcing him out of the pocket a number of times, and was staunch against the run.

…DE Rob Ninkovich made a couple of nice plays that cost the Colts some field position. He flushed Luck out of the pocket with one rush move on 2nd-and-5 deep in Indy territory. Two plays later, he then read perfectly a fake end-around that was a direct handoff to RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Ninko held his contain position and was in the backfield almost as soon as Bradshaw received the handoff. The ball carrier went down for a 2-yard loss.

2nd Quarter

…From a pure football standpoint, it was fun to watch the Patriots o-line run-block against Indy. Precision execution, with lots of pulling and timing blocks, and a back in Gray who was decisive when he hit the holes that opened up.

…Looked like New England was using Revis to match up 1-on-1 with Wayne a lot, and on the other side of the field, playing zone to help cover Indy's other top receiver, T.Y. Hilton. This, though, sometimes opened up big areas for TE Coby Fleener, and he exploited them.

…The front seven was very effective in bottling up running lanes for Colts ball carriers. By halftime, Indy gained just 14 yards on the ground – 8 of them from Luck.

…Revis made up for his earlier completion to Wayne by creating an interception for safety Devin McCourty. Luck fired a pass over the middle and downfield for Wayne, who was blanketed by Revis. The corner made a great play to reach from the side of Wayne and knock the ball away from the receiver and toward McCourty. Both defenders showed nice awareness on the play. Impossible to say for sure if Revis was intending to steer the ball in McCourty's direction, but it sure appeared that way. And it stalled a Colts drive that was heading deep into New England territory.

…The second Gray TD – on 2nd-and-goal from the 2, began as a quite obvious run formation, with TE Michael Hoomanawanui beside Solder, Fleming and Gronk next to Vollmer, and all three in three-point stances. Develin was in an I with Gray behind Brady. All the run action was to the right, with rookie center Bryan Stork, Wendell, and the rest of the right side driving the Colts left side away. Hooman and Solder created a wall on the left, which left Connolly alone in between these two masses of bodies to take on a Colts defender 1-on-1. Gray spotted this gap and decided to cut into it. ILB Andrew Jackson got around Connolly's block, but Gray ducked under him and dove over the goal line. Nice adjustment by Gray.

…LB Dont'a Hightower nearly scored himself a sack with an up-the-middle blitz late in the quarter. Hightower shot the A-gap to the center's left side and easily shook off RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Luck sidestepped just enough to get the ball away as Hightower was dragging the QB down. The pass fell incomplete, though, so the effect of the rush was positive for New England.

…LB Jamie Collins had a good night tackling.

…Brady's second INT was a desperation heave at the end of the half as he was about to be sacked. From under center, he play-action faked to Gray, then spun around to see DT Montori Hughes in his face. Brady lofted the ball up the left sideline, where Gronk had gotten free, but the ball hung up way too long and gave safety Mike Adams time to run under it like a center fielder. It was atypical of Brady to throw blindly into traffic like that.

…On 1st-and-goal from the 10, Luck took advantage of Brady's miscue with a textbook fade pass to WR Hakeem Nicks, who beat CB Logan Ryan on the left side of the end zone.

3rd Quarter

…New England's opening drive of the second half was impressive. Six of the eight plays featured Fleming as a tackle eligible. Gray carried the ball five times. A busted coverage by the Colts led to Shane Vereen's 39-yard catch-and-run early on. But it was the running of Gray behind the great blocking of his o-line and tight ends that really set up the next touchdown. The 1st-and-goal formation from the IND 2 featured all three NE tight ends. Gronk and Hooman were on opposite sides of the formation (left and right respectively, in three-point stances). Tim Wright motioned from left to right and remained in a two-point stance at the snap. Brady play-actioned to Gray who was running behind Develin to the right. The Colts' D bought the fake, allowing Wright to slip behind them and run a corner route. Brady floated a gently pass over the head of the only defender in the area, CB Greg Toler, and Wright secured the ball as he tumbled to the ground for the score. Would not have been so effective had it not been set up by the quality runs by Gray.

…Gray's third TD: again, simple design, but executed flawlessly. Develin started it off with a crushing block on LB D'Qwell Jackson up the middle. Gray followed him into the hole and wound up ramming the back of Wendell as he barreled through a would-be Colts tackler and reached the ball over the goal line. Nothing complicated. The Colts just couldn't stop the determination and power of the Patriots blockers.

…Fleener had a nice third quarter, shoving aside CB Brandon Browner to get wide open down the right sideline for a big gain, then keeping both feet in bounds as he made an impressive sideline catch three plays later. Just great individual efforts on both plays by Fleener.

4th Quarter

…Those grabs by Fleener led to a rare touchdown catch by an offensive lineman. That drive ended with Colts LT Anthony Castonzo lining up as a tackle eligible on the left side on a 3rd-and-goal from the NE 1. He initially blocked down on the play-action fake by Luck. The Patriots defense let him go, not suspecting he'd be the target, but he was. Wide open on the left side of the end zone, he easily hauled in Luck's floating pass. Hard to blame New Enlgand's D for being so focused on stopping the run first on that play.

…The fourth Gray TD saw him finally go into the end zone standing up. He followed Develin's lead block to the left into a huge hole opened up by Fleming, Solder, and Develin. These scores by Gray were all basic running plays, where the offense imposed its will on the defense. Plain and simple.

…Capitalizing off a nice four-and-out stop by the defense, the Patriots offense struck for the final time when Gronkowski rumbled for a 26-yard score on a pass from Brady, with a major assist from Edelman. Gronk motioned from right to left and was standing up beside Solder at the snap. He then ran a short out-route. Gronk made the catch and spun around Jackson's would-be tackle. As Gronk turns and head back up-field, Adams, the safety, approaches from Gronk's left. Edelman, however, races from across the field and cuts across the face of Gronk to deliver a crushing blow to Adams. Toler, who's trailing Edelman, vainly tries to dive at Gronk's legs. The tight end runs through Toler, runs the final 15 yards, and ends with a flying jump-kick at CB Vontae Davis as he vaults over the goal line. Sheer determination and will exerted by both Edelman and Gronkowski were the key elements to this play, and it seemed to punctuate the way New England played all night on both sides of the ball.




It would be easy just to say that Jonas Gray was the reason the Patriots dominated the Colts in Indy, but it wouldn't tell the full story. Unheralded efforts, like those of rookie tackle Cameron Fleming – who reported eligible some three dozen times (almost entirely on running plays) – fullback James Develin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the entire offensive line, however, made a huge difference. Gray was patient and hit the holes he was designed to hit, and the result was a franchise record-setting performance. The entire Patriots rushing attack, as a unit, did its job very, very well Sunday night in Indianapolis.

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