The Patriots came out of Indy with a hard-fought 34-27 victory over the Colts, and one of the main reasons for that was the play of the special teams. While the Colts tried to pull out all the stops in the kicking, the Patriots preparation was key in preventing any of the trick plays from working.
Bill Belichick addressed some of those special plays during his Monday conference call and offered some of the highlights.
SPECIAL FORCES - The key play of the game came late in the third quarter with the Patriots leading 27-21. The Colts were forced to punt, facing a fourth-and-three inside their own 40-yard line, but coach Chuck Paganoopted to try a fake. He shifted his formation to the right sideline with nine players moving outside, leaving just a center (Griff Whalen) and a quarterback (Colt Anderson) with the ball. The Patriots adjusted quickly and stopped the play, giving New England a short field and that led to the insurance touchdown that put the game away.
"I think the pay was a version of the swinging gate play. I don't know exactly how it was supposed to work, that's something you'd have to ask them about. They brought the gunner in to snap the ball so he would have been an eligible receiver so we had to cover him.
"Punt formations like that it's just a numbers game and you want to have enough guys to match to the smaller numbers and as many guys as you can to match to the larger numbers to where they were over-shifted. We certainly knew the punter can throw. He's done that before. He's thrown passes to uncovered guys on punt formation. We saw him run against Tennessee so we were aware of those things.
"It was just everyone making sure they took care of their responsibility on the shift to make sure we can defend the formation and know who's eligible. It's something every special teams coach goes over."
SWAT TEAM -Later, Jamie Collins leaped over Colts long snapper Matt Overton and blocked an Adam Vinatieri extra point attempt. The play allowed the Patriots to maintain a seven-point lead and rendered an earlier Belichick decision for pass up a shot at going for two moot.
"It was an interesting situation. When we scored the touchdown after the fake punt there was strong consideration to going for two there and as it turned out that would have been the right thing to do. Now there was still quite a bit of time to go in the game and that one-point swing the way the game turned out it would have been better to go for two but had there been other scores involved, like in the Cleveland-Denver game (on Sunday), with time left that can change the equation a little bit. We elected to kick it and make it a 13-point game given the amount of time that was left.
"The blocked extra point led to it being a touchdown game instead of a six-point game but as it turned out it didn't make any difference. But had they recovered the onside kick it would have made a world of difference.
"Anytime you run a play like that you need some kind of coordination. I don't think you want to have your player do that on his own because you could have one of your interior linemen making a move into a gap where he's trying to get through and then you run into each so I don't think that's what you're looking for. If you want to try to run that type of a block you need it coordinated. Otherwise you're probably asking for something to go wrong. We definitely didn't want anybody running to where he wanted to go."
GOOD HANDS PEOPLE -The final special teams play that clinched the victory came when Rob Gronkowski handled the Colts final onside kick attempt.
"The onside kick, Rob made a good play on that. The guys in front of him made a real good play. They knocked off the blockers and Jonathan Freeny actually had a block where he pushed his guy into [Donte] Moncrief and kind of got a two for one. We tell him if you can handle the ball cleanly then get it and he did. It was well executed by the entire hands team."