When Drew Bledsoe hit Shawn Jefferson in the back of the end zone to pull within five points with a little over three minutes in the game, the heart started beating. When Peyton Manning had the ball accidentally flicked out of his hand on the snap by one of his own lineman, the heart began racing. Suddenly, Lawyer Milloy was holding the ball over his head celebrating the recovery. His team had 2:11 left to win this game; a game that Bledsoe said like no other before, he was sure they would win.
Trailing by five, New England needed a touchdown as a result of a failed two-point conversion try on Jefferson's preceding score. That proved huge since Bledsoe, with no timeouts, was able to drive his team down to the Indy 22. Had they converted the two-pointer, a field goal would have been enough.
On third and 5, however, Mike Peterson broke through the Patriots offensive line and sacked Bledsoe for a loss of 8 yards. The fourth and 13 pass to Jefferson went incomplete. Ballgame.
Red zone problems spelled disaster for the Patriots throughout. Despite 401 yards of offense and several trips deep into Colts territory, the Patriots were able to muster only one touchdown. The problems came in the form of false starts and a failure to make holes for the running game.
With the 20-15 loss, the Patriots dropped to 7-6 while the upstart Colts improved to 11-2 and in control of the AFC East. The heart of the Patriots playoff hopes is back on life support, barely alive.
Two keys to the game were the play of Manning and Marvin Harrison and it didn't take long for the pair to establish themselves. On the very first play of the game, the second year quarterback found his best receiver in single coverage with Ty Law. Harrison just plain beat Law for a 52-yard pick up. That put the Colts in the Patriots red zone where they wound up with a Marcus Pollard 5-yard TD catch to take a 7-0 lead.
The Patriots answered with a nice mix of run and pass on their next drive getting down to the Colts 10 but settled for a 28-yard Vinatieri field goal. It was during this drive in the first quarter that Kevin Faulk went down with a severely fractured right ankle.
The Patriots nibbled away at the Colts lead again when Vinatieri hit another 28-yarder in the second quarter to make the score 7-6. The drive was highlighted by two consecutive Bledsoe runs up the middle, the second one good for five yards and a first down.
Manning and Harrison continued their dominance in the second quarter when the two hooked up for 49 yards on two plays. A shovel pass to Edgerrin James from 2 yards out finished the drive and gave the Colts a 14-6 lead. Manning also contributed to the score with his legs running for 11 yards to bring his team to the New England 2.
A pass interference call on Tebucky Jones to start the second half put the Colts on the Patriots 16-yard line. Jones pushed off on Terrence Wilkins down the left sideline. The Patriots defense held the Colts to three points on a 28-yard field goal but the lead was now 17-6.
Three more points were added to the lead on the Colts next drive. James did most of the work with runs of 14, 13 and two 9-yard bursts. Mike Vanderjagt hit the 32-yard field goal and the Colts had a 14-point lead.
It looked like the Patriots were doing their best to swing the momentum when Bledsoe found Glenn for 52 yards on their next drive. No. 88 did everything he could to bring the ball down to the Colts 3. Two false start penalties killed any chance for a touchdown, however. The second came on a fourth down play from the 3. Bledsoe found Glenn streaking across the end zone but Zefross Moss was flagged for the penalty bringing the play back. The best New England could do was a 26-yard field goal to make the score 20-9.
On the day, Bledsoe moved the ball and could not be accused of still being in a slump. He finished with 379 yards on 31 of 44 passing. Terry Glenn also had one of his best games of the season with 9 catches for 148 yards