Tom Brady and the Patriots marched down the field on their first possession after electing to receive the first kickoff. But then Brady threw a floater intended for receiver Doug Gabriel in the end zone that was intercepted by rookie Antoine Bethea.
After the game, Brady said he felt he was trying to force the pass.
"The first one for sure [was forced] - the first interception. Other than that, I think you try to be aggressive and you try to throw to the guys who are open. We moved the ball well in the first half. We had four possessions, and two were picked and two were touchdowns," said Brady, who threw his second interception of the night in the final play of an 8-play drive at the end of the first half. That one was nabbed by defensive back Bob Sanders.
"The one before the half, some days that's a catch and some days that gets batted up and picked. It is just one of those nights," said the dejected Brady.
It certainly was one of those nights. And not just for the Patriots. The much-touted Colts quarterback, Peyton Manning, was sacked three times in the game and threw an interception to defensive back Chad Scott, which was only Manning's third in eight games.
"Scott made a good play," said Manning after the game. "I'm not exactly sure he was supposed to be there or not. You know, sometimes that happens. You know, fouled up the coverage and I thought I had a good assessment of it. He was just kind of in the right place at the right time, he made a good play, I'll say that. I thought I had a pretty good read. Usually I feel like I kind of know what's happening; guys don't really pop-up that I don't see all too often. I'm not sure that he was supposed to be there, but he was and he caught it and that's really the end of the story and I should've avoided that turnover."
Safety Rodney Harrison left the game in the Patriots first defensive series with an arm injury, and didn't return to the game. Scott had been filling in when the interception came.
"It is the same story here," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs of Harrison's injury after the game. "Guys get hurt. It is the NFL. It is part of the game. That is why everybody gets paid. Everybody has to come in and be ready.
"Communication-wise and trying to figure things out, it's almost like the ship gets rocked a little bit and you have to get it back steady again. I think we did a great job as time went on, even in the first half we did a good job of adjusting. Then we did an even better job of going at them in the second half."
Scott stepped in for Harrison at safety, though he started the game at left corner. The interception was his second in as many games and came in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the opportunity he created for the offense wouldn't come to fruition. Two plays later, Brady threw his third interception of the night on a pass intended for running back Corey Dillon.
Entering the second half, the Patriots were down by three. The Colts offense took the field and the Patriots defense stopped them just inside the red zone. Then something happened that Pats fans – and Colts fans, for that matter – haven't seen much of. Former Patriot kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.
The Patriots offense took the field, but they wouldn't be there long. Dillon ran one up the gut for a 4-yard gain, but fumbled – another rarity, for it was his first of the season – and the Colts recovered the football having lost only 20 seconds since their last possession. Another opportunity had slipped from the Pats grasp.
Both teams exchanged punts in the third quarter (the only punts in the game), and then Manning connected with receiver Marvin Harrison for a touchdown. Harrison reeled the ball in one-handed over the head of Hobbs and got both feet down just before exiting the right side of the end zone.
"That's why Marvin's Marvin," said Hobbs, who's broken left wrist, sustained in the team's only other loss to Denver, is still healing. "We were jawing a little bit. I made my plays. He made his plays. He made better ones. Even if I had a good hand on my left side, I don't think I could've got that. Peyton and Marvin have this connection where he puts it where no one else can get it. He almost put it so well that even Marvin couldn't get it. But I guess his little skinny frame and a little length on him got him the ball. That happens. Good plays happen. My hat is off to him."
Dillon and rookie running back Laurence Maroney combined for 111 rushing yards against a Colts defense that entered the game ranked 32nd in the NFL at stopping the run. Both teams produced strikingly similar offensive numbers. The Colts had 354 net yards in the game and the Pats had 349, though the Colts relied on their passing game more.
Despite the interceptions, Brady connected with eight different receivers. Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk tied for the team lead in receptions, and Brown broke Stanley Morgan's career-receptions record in the first quarter. He finished the game with a new franchise record of 538 career-catches, though the record-tying reception was marred by a taunting penalty, which Brown drew by inadvertently hitting a Colts defender with the ball while trying to toss it to the ball boy.
"I don't know [why the official threw the flag] either, but he apologized to me," said Brown after the game. "I told him the ball boy was standing right beside him and I just usually throw it to the referee or toss it to the ball boy when I get up off the ground. That's what I've done my whole career. Later on in the end of the first quarter or in the second quarter, whenever it was, he apologized to me. He said, 'If I made a mistake, I apologize.' And I said 'You did.' For me to get up and throw the ball at somebody, I mean common sense would tell you not to stand up and look at the referee and throw the ball right at the player's head. But he called it and we overcame it. Doug [Gabriel] made a big play on the sideline to get us out of that jam. Sometimes I guess that happens."
Brown said he was too upset about the loss to enjoy breaking the record, adding that he had enough to think about with the loss hanging over his head and the Jets game to prepare for.
One final Patriots opportunity arose just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. The Patriots defense made another stop, and Vinatieri missed another field goal, this time a 46-yarder. The Patriots offense, down by seven points, took the field and moved into Colts territory with a 25-yard completion from Brady to tight end Benjamin Watson. But a Patriots team that began each half with a turnover and ended the first half with another one seemed doomed to failure in this final drive of the game. Brady threw his fourth and final interception of the game on the next play. The final score was 27-20.
"Obviously, it's difficult to win when you have turnovers and you don't create a whole lot," said defensive end Richard Seymour after the game. "We definitely were on the minus-side of that and any time you give an offense like that more opportunities, it's just a matter of time. Obviously, you want to keep those guys off the field. I think we had some opportunities to go three-and-out, but we just didn't take advantage of it. If you don't take advantage of a team like that, you know it's going to be a long night. But I just think for the state of the team, we can't let one game determine the next game. We're not going to let things snowball. We've got to accept it. We took one on the chin, and that's what it is. You accept that. You give them credit and it's on to the Jets."
Mays moves upRookie linebacker Corey Mays made his NFL debut against the Colts, participating on the Patriots kickoff team. Mays was a member of the Pats practice squad for the first seven games of the season before being signed to the active roster in time for Sunday night's game. He recorded his first career special teams tackle with a big hit on Indy's kick returner Terrence Wilkins in the second quarter.
Gabriel flies again
Brady and receiver Doug Gabriel connected on a 39-yard pass play in the first quarter. The catch marked the second straight week that Brady and Gabriel have hooked up on a lengthy completion. Last week at Minnesota, they got together for a 45-yard gain.