With heaps of heart and a wonderful game-plan of clock control, the Patriots dominated the Indianapolis Colts 20-3 last evening in snowy Foxboro. Game review is provided by Dan Shaughnesseyof The Boston Globe, Michael Felgerof The Boston Herald, Jarret Bellof USA Today, Tom Curranof The Providence Journal, Alan Greenbergof The Hartford Courant, and Michael Parenteof The Woonsocket Call.
When the Patriots traded for him last April, fans were quick to envision the benefit of Corey Dillon should the team find itself in yet another cold, blustery playoff game. Despite having never played in the postseason before, Dillon lived up to these visions, and more. Dillon held the key to victory all afternoon and evening, as his 144 yards on the ground enabled the Patriots offense to hold the ball for nearly two-thirds of the sixty-minute game. Dillon also made a season-high five catches out of the backfield in his sensational playoff debut. Dillon had runs of 42 and 27 yards, each of which set up Patriots points, and the crowd showed its appreciation with chants of "Corey, Corey." For more on the remarkable back, check out Fluto Shinzawaof the Globe, Shalize Manza Youngof the Journal, Parente, and Lenny Megliolaof The MetroWest Daily News.
Forgotten all week in the hoopla surrounding his record-setting Colts counterpart Peyton Manning was a quarterback with a 6-0 career playoff record. Tom Brady did his usual thing yesterday, playing mistake-free football in horrendous conditions while captaining the Pats ship to victory. Brady threw for only 144 yards, but his 5-yard touchdown pass to David Givens, as well as the long drives he helped engineer, led the team to a win. Nick Cafardoof the Globe, Karen Guregianof the Herald, and Jim Donaldsonof the Journal cover the now 7-0 (in postseason) Brady.
In the losers locker room last night was the league's MVP, Peyton Manning. Manning was very gracious in defeat after the New England defense harassed and harangued him into his least productive game of the season. Nonetheless, the story on Manning has clearly become that he cannot beat the Patriots or win the big game. Almost immediately after last night's loss, Manning was being likened to Dan Marino and other sports stars who have produced gaudy numbers in every statistical category but championships. Read more from Jackie MacMullenof the Globe, Kevin Mannixof the Herald, Jon Saracenoof USA Today, Art Martoneof the Journal, and John Altavillaof The Hartford Courant.
Early in the game, it looked like it would be a long offseason for Patriots left tackle Matt Light if the team did not gut out a win. On New England's first sustained drive, which took up over nine minutes of the first and second quarters, Light was called for holding on a Dillon touchdown run. Orginally run as a fourth-and-goal from the one, the Patriots opted for a field goal on the subsequent fourth-and-goal from the six, putting Light on the hook for four points. Undeterred, Light and the rest of his offensive-line mates played hard and tough, consistently opening up HOV lanes for Dillon and Kevin Faulk to drive through. Christopher Gasperof the Globe, Rich Thompsonof the Herald, Felger, and Martone cover Light and company.
Ron Borges of the Globe lauds the Patriots for their smash-mouth approach to yesterday's game. Much like they did in last year's AFC Championship, the Pats dealt with the Colts speedsters in a very physical manner, beating them up from the first whistle to the last.
No play epitomizes this style of play more than the one Asante Samuel laid on Brandon Stokley late in the first half. Shortly before the Colts kicked a field goal for their only points of the game, Stokley cut in on a short slant on a third-and-five. He did make the catch, but was immediately leveled by a devastating Samuel hit that prompted a collective gasp in the press box. Kevin Paul Dupont of the Globe recounts the jacking.
Also in the Globe, Amelie Benjamin reports on do-it-all stud Troy Brown, who was at it once again last evening. Brown played in all three phases, making two catches and three tackles while returning two punts.
Cafardo reports on the Pats clock-management, which was clearly a cornerstone to the methodically-crafted plan of attack. It was easy to say the way for New England to stop the Colts supposedly unstoppable offense was to keep it off the field. It was another thing entirely to go out and grind out nearly forty minutes of clock under a carefully balanced offensive set. The Patriots achieved this yesterday and, in doing so, kept Manning and his crew from getting into any kind of a rhythm.
Mark Blaudschun of the Globe replays two close calls from the game that might have changed the Colts fortunes had they been called differently. Then again, they might not have.
Stephen Harris of the Herald features scat-back Kevin Faulk, who had 56 rushing yards and caught an 11-yard pass out of the backfield. Faulk's performance, in his return from a knee injury, helped keep the Indy defense reeling when Dillon was on the sideline.
Dan Venturaof the Herald and Mike Reissof the MetroWest spotlight yesterday's defensive star, Tedy Bruschi. Bruschi played like a man possessed yesterday, making eight combined tackles, forcing one fumble, and recovering two. With New England holding onto a slim 6-0 lead, and the Colts in Pats territory, Bruschi swooped in for a tackle of Dominick Rhodes. However, instead of just tackling the Indy back, Bruschi muscled the ball away from him as they fell to the ground. On a play that will forever be a microcosm of the entire game, Bruschi simply wanted it more.
Steve Conroy of the Herald gives credit to the defensive backs, the unit that was largely expected to be exposed by the Manning-led attack. Instead, the group stepped up, routinely knocking down passes and making quick tackles that prevented larger gains.
Manza Young of the Journal and Greenberg of the Courant each revisit the defensive unit's overall play. Disregarding the Colts season finale, a 33-14 loss in which their starters barely played, the fewest points Indy scored all year was 20, and that was in a victory over the vaunted Baltimore defense. Somehow, the Pats D did the unthinkable, keeping the Colts out of the end zone and holding them to three points.
While many are wondering today how the Patriots dominated the Colts so thoroughly, Reiss explains it was by virtue of a team effort. The Patriots depth and versatility ruled the day, while the Colts were left searching for answers when they were unable to use the one blueprint for success they employed all season. As Reiss points out, Bill Belichick believes in prowess across the board. One stellar unit like, say, an offense, is not going to cut it against a team that plays well in all phases.
Mike Lowe of The Portland Press Herald reminds us that one week ago, the slew of so-called experts were picking the Colts to upend the undermanned Patriots.