Tom Brady completed his first 12 passes of the game, setting a new career-best for accuracy to start a game. Brady's previous best came last season when he connected on his first 10 passes at Buffalo (11/03/02) in a 38-7 New England win. Brady finished his day against the Colts with a .743 completion percentage (26-35), which ranks as his highest completion percentage this season and the third-best completion percentage of his career. Success in the RCA Dome is nothing new for Brady. In his only other visit to Indianapolis, Brady had the most efficient outing of his career, completing 80 percent of his passes (16-20) for 202 yards, 3 touchdowns and a career-high 148.3 passer rating.
BETHEL'S BLAZING SPEED
Bethel Johnson returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half to extend New England's lead to 24-10 at halftime. Johnson showed his blazing speed as he outran numerous Colts defenders to reach the end zone. It was Johnson's first career kickoff return for a touchdown and the first for the Patriots since Kevin Faulk brought one back against the New York Jets on Dec. 22, 2002. Johnson came up with another huge momentum-stopping return in the fourth quarter right after Indianapolis had tied the game at 31. On that play, he returned the kickoff 67 yards to the Colts' 31-yard line and set up the game-winning touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Deion Branch. Including those two big returns, Johnson has five kickoff returns of 50 yards or more this season.
BRIGHT DAY FOR CLOUD
Michael Cloud scored two rushing touchdowns to give him a career-high and team-leading five scores this season. First, he gave the Patriots a 10-0 lead with a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:32 left in the first quarter. Cloud got his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run with 7:36 left in the third quarter to put the Patriots ahead 31-10. Entering the season, Cloud had four career rushing scores and has exceeded his previous career total with five rushing touchdowns in 2003. Today was Cloud's second two-touchdown game of the season. He also reached paydirt twice in a 38-30 win over the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 5, 2003.
The Patriots have established their best 12-game start in franchise history with a 10-2 start to the 2003 season. New England has bested its previous 12-game start of 9-2-1 in 1964. New England was 9-3 in 1976, 1978 and 1986.
TOUGH "D" IN RED ZONE
In the last 3:45 of the game, Indianapolis ran 10 plays inside New England's 20-yard line and came up with just three points as the Patriots hung on to win, 38-34. Of those 10 plays, seven produced a gain of one yard or less and nine of the 10 plays began inside the Patriots' 11-yard line. Edgerrin James had three chances score a touchdown to win the game from inside New England's 2-yard line in the final minute, but was stopped short all three times. On the Colts' previous possession, the Patriots had forced Peyton Manning to throw three straight incomplete passes after Indianapolis had taken over on a fumble at the Patriots' 11-yard line, trailing 38-31 with 3:45 left in the game.
GOAL LINE STAND
The Patriots defense hung on to stop a furious charge by the Colts with a goal line stand in the last minute of the game. Indianapolis trailed by four points, 38-34, but had a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 40 seconds left in the game. New England's defense stopped four Colts' bids to reach the end zone and win the game to give the victory to the Patriots. On first down, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel teamed to stop Edgerrin James for a 1-yard gain. On second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Bruschi and Rodney Harrison combined to stop James up the middle for no gain. On third down, Indianapolis tried a pass play, but Tyrone Poole's coverage on Indy's Aaron Morehead helped force an incompletion. Then, with the game on the line, Willie McGinest broke through to stop James a yard into the backfield to give New England the ball back and secure the 38-34 win.
Mike Vrabel sacked Payton Manning in the first quarter and forced him to fumble the football. Dan Klecko then recovered the ball at the Colts' 36-yard line to give the Patriots great field position. Vrabel's strip-sack produced his second forced fumble of the season and set the Patriots offense up for an efficient drive that ended in a 4-yard touchdown run by Michael Cloud and a 10-0 Patriots advantage.
COIN TOSS STREAK BROKEN
The Patriots won today's opening coin toss, ending a string of 11 straight losses in coin tosses. Before today, the last time the Patriots won a coin toss was the opening toss in Week Two at Philadelphia (09/14/03). The losing streak included nine opening tosses and two overtime tosses.
Tom Brady improved to 21-4 in his career after November 1. The win over the Colts was the 30th of Brady's career as a starter, improving him to 30-12 in his regular-season career. That's good for a .714 winning percentage, leading all active quarterbacks with 20 or more career starts.
POOLE PICKS 'EM OFF
Tyrone Poole recorded his fourth interception of the season off of Peyton Manning in the third quarter. Poole is tied with Ty Law for the team lead. The Patriots have now recorded at least one interception in each of the last eight games and have recorded a pick in 11 of 12 games this season. Unfortunately, New England turned the ball back over after Poole's pick, marking the first time the Patriots have turned the ball over after one of their 27 takeaways this season.
OPENING DRIVE STOPPED
New England forced a turnover on Indianapolis' first possession of the game, as Mike Vrabel forced Peyton Manning to fumble and the Patriots converted it into their first touchdown of the game. It was the second time this season the Patriots have forced an opponent to turn the ball over on their first drive. New England also forced the New York Giants to turn the ball over on their first possession on a Tyrone Poole interception on Oct. 12, 2003.
AT HOME IN THE DOME
Adam Vinatieri hit a first-quarter field goal and five extra points to maintain his perfect streak at the RCA Dome. In his career, Vinatieri is 11-11 on field goals and 22-22 on PAT tries in Indianapolis.
PUTTING UP POINTS
Including today's game, the Patriots have scored 38 or more points against Indianapolis in each of the last three times the teams have played. New England has also scored 20 or more points against the Colts in 12 of its last 13 meetings with Indy. The Patriots improved to 13-6 all-time at the RCA Dome.
New England rolled out the same 11 offensive starters for the second consecutive game, marking the first time this season that has occurred. New England has now started 11 different offensive lineups in their 12 games.
The Patriots used a defensive starting lineup today that they had not previously rolled out this season. The Patriots have not used the same 22 offensive and defensive starters in any of their 12 games this year.
New England improved to 23-1 under Head Coach Bill Belichick when scoring 24 points or more (including playoffs).
The Patriots offense scored on their opening drive for the fourth time this season. All four of the scores have come on field goals.
Tedy Bruschi reached in to bat away a Peyton Manning pass intended for Marcus Pollard at the Colts' 1-yard line on second-and-goal just before halftime.
The Patriots have shown a remarkable ability to hold late-game leads. New England has now won 23 consecutive games when leading at the end of the third quarter, a stat that leads the NFL. New England has also won 18 straight games when leading at halftime and is 21-1 in its last 22 games when leading at the half.