When the Patriots ran:
The numbers would indicate a solid night on the ground for the Patriots: 25 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown with a 4.6-yard average. But a closer look – specifically at LeGarrette Blount's night – tells a different story. Blount averaged a healthy 5.8-yards-per-rush with 93 yards on 16 carries but 38 of those yards came on one attempt – which went for a touchdown off right tackle. Aside from the one Indy breakdown, the Colts did a nice job of bottling up the big man without having to sacrifice extra personnel to do it. Without the big play Blount's night looks a lot different, and while understanding that every play counts and Blount's touchdown was a big one, it was also clear the Patriots did not have the same success on the ground against the Colts that they're accustomed to. Part of that was likely due to the injuries up front for New England, but it also had something to do with Indy's improved front three, and that group even combined to stop a Tom Brady sneak on third-and-one, something that happens about once every couple of years.
When the Patriots passed:
Brady wasn't as surgical as he's been most of the year but he also was victimized by at least three drops by Julian Edelman. Brady hit on 23 of his 37 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns and his first interception of the season, which was returned for a touchdown by Mike Adams, was a perfect throw that was dropped and deflected by Edelman. Brady did a great job buying time in the pocket working behind his patchwork front with two of his touchdowns coming on plays where he wisely moved to avoid pressure. Rob Gronkowski was blanked in the first half but had three catches for 50 yards and a TD in the second half after Adams left with a hamstring injury. Danny Amendola enjoyed his best game of the season with seven catches for 105 yards, which helped make up for Edelman's subpar night that included just 50 yards on his six catches, although one did go for a touchdown. Keshawn Martin continues to make his presence felt in limited opportunities. He turned in a terrific twisting catch for a 39-yard gain on a ball that Brady misfired deep down the right sideline. It wasn't the bludgeoning many expected but it was good enough.
When the Colts ran:
Frank Gore didn't look so old on Sunday night. The 32-year-old veteran running back was darting through and around the Patriots defense during the first three quarters to the tune of 78 yards on just 13 carries, which is a 6-yard clip. He also lost significant yards on runs that were called back for holding, some of which were questionable calls. Unfortunately for Gore, his coach took him out the game – figuratively. When Chuck Pagano rolled the dice with a bizarre fake punt and it backfired, the Patriots ensuing touchdown eliminated Gore from making an impact the rest of the way. He didn't get one carry after that and had to settle for what might have been. Andrew Luck also hurt the Patriots with his legs, picking up 35 yards on four attempts, and the Colts wound up with 120 yards on just 22 carries for a 5.5-yard average. The Patriots were more interested on stopping Luck's throws, and with Dont'a Hightower (ribs) out of the lineup the defense sacrificed some bulk in the running game but Indy was able to push the Patriots around a bit up front.
When the Colts passed:
This is Colts version of the numbers looking a lot better than the actual performance. Luck completed 30 of 50 passes for 312 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was a solid night for the embattled Colts quarterback, but he simply missed too many opportunities to pull off the upset. Coming off a shoulder injury that shelved him the previous two games, Luck appeared to have problems driving the ball downfield and his throws often sailed high and off the hands of his intended receivers – many of which were open. He did a nice job of not forcing too many throws and taking the underneath stuff early, but in the third quarter when the Patriots ultimately won the game he failed to mount any sustained drives, mostly due to his high throws. Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton each made six catches and scored touchdowns but the production wasn't as high as normal with the pair combining for just 143 yards on those 12 grabs. The combination of Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman did a nice job competing in the second half and forced Indy to earn everything it got.
While some of the numbers of the other matchups may have been a bit deceptive there was nothing hidden about the Patriots edge in this one. It was there for everyone to see on national television when Pagano picked a bad time to get cute. Trailing just 27-21 late in the third quarter, and having watched his defense just force the first two punts of the night, the Colts boss called a strange fake punt that never had a chance. Griff Whalen, normally a wide receiver/return man, lined up at center with Colt Anderson creeping up to take the snap. Meanwhile, the other nine Colts shifted out to the right sideline, most of them lining up in the backfield to create an illegal formation. Through it all Jon Bostic and Brandon Bolden hovered near the ball and when Anderson took the snap Bolden immediately tackled him. The Patriots took over at the Colts 35 and six plays later it was a 13-point lead with less than 13 minutes left in the game. Otherwise it was a rather even night with neither team doing anything in the return game – other than accumulating illegal block in the back penalties. It was rather meaningless at the time but Jamie Collins' insane leap over long snapper Matt Overton and subsequent block of Adam Vinatieri's PAT was the stuff of legend. The Patriots may also have caught a break on an onside kick attempt in the first half that looked like Moncrief recovered but the officials gave the ball to New England.