Here are some random thoughts from the Patriots 42-20 victory over the Colts:
Falling in line – In what has become a common occurrence of late the Patriots got great performances by linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins. Both were outstanding in coverage and tackled effectively around the line of scrimmage. For the second straight game the at times maligned run defense was outstanding, and Hightower and Collins were big parts of that. Indy's running backs finished with 4 yards on 14 carries and were never a factor in the game. Collins was also excellent tackling Ahmad Bradshaw in space after short catches, catching the running back shy of the first down sticks on two key third downs early.
Road kill – Much had been made of the Patriots lack of dominance on the road in recent years but that went out the door in a big way in Indianapolis. The Patriots controlled the tempo from the start, jumped out to a 14-3 lead and never looked back. New England scored first for the sixth consecutive game, which allowed the Patriots to once again dictate the way the game was played. It was a quality win against a potential playoff team on the road and those have been in short supply the last couple of seasons.
The New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, November 16, 2014.
The closer –** Reggie Wayne got off to a fast start taking advantage of Brandon Browner on a couple of occasions early on, and the veteran took advantage of a zone on a 46-yard reception in the first quarter. At that point the Patriots switched things up and moved Darrelle Revis from T.Y. Hilton to Wayne and things changed. Revis put the clamps on Wayne from there, none better than on a second quarter throw that he deflected into the arms of Devin McCourty to halt a Colts drive. Wayne finished with five catches for 91 yards but only one of those receptions came with Revis in coverage.
Browner struggled – The flip side of that equation was Browner, who didn't fare well whether working in man or zone coverage. He appeared to be matched up with Coby Fleener frequently and the Colts tight end torched him. Fleener racked up a career-high 144 yards on seven catches. Browner was also beaten badly by Donte Moncrief deep down the sideline but was bailed out when Andrew Luck's pass was overthrown. On the positive side Browner was not called for any penalties despite playing as physically as ever, particularly when knocking Hilton to the ground on a first-half play.
Three's a crowd – After missing the previous five games Cameron Fleming was back in the lineup and played a big role in the Patriots huge rushing night. The rookie tackle served as an extra blocker throughout, getting 12 first-half snaps including Jonas Gray's 20-yard run on third-and-one in the first quarter. He also took part in six plays of the Patriots touchdown drive that opened the second half including Gray's third touchdown of the night and was in there again for Gray's fourth TD. Fleming's work as a third tackle was a big part of New England's production on the ground. Unfortunately, Fleming suffered a lower leg injury late in the game after getting rolled up on during a Gray run.
Bad checks – Tom Brady and the Patriots appeared to be in control up 14-3 and facing a third-and-inches from their 17 late in the first half. Gray had already piled up 100 yards on the ground and the Colts hadn't really stopped a running play to that point. Yet Brady opted to check out of a run and tried to lob a deep pass under heavy pressure toward Rob Gronkowski. Mike Adams raced over for the easy interception, and soon the Colts picked up a touchdown to get back in the game at 14-10. Given the way the running game had dominated previously it was a terrible choice by Brady and one that gave the Colts some unnecessary life.
Un-Belichick-ian –** After the Colts crept within four with a late first-half touchdown the Patriots took over at their own 14 with :51 left and all three timeouts. In the past this would have more often than not led to at least a field goal. On Sunday night it precipitated a pair of Brady kneel-downs before halftime. The curious move came after the Colts appeared to make an error following a pass to T.Y. Hilton that set up first-and-goal from the 10 by calling timeout with a minute left. Instead of letting the clock wind down and ensuring the half would end with its possession, Indy's timeout opened the door for Brady to answer. Evidently Danny Amendola's modest kick return to the 14 forced Bill Belichick to play it safe, which was way out of character for the Patriots coach.
Bad deliveries – The offensive line continues to show tremendous improvement, paving the way for 245 yards on the ground and four touchdowns – the first four for the team since Week 5. One minor nitpick is with rookie Bryan Stork's shotgun snaps, which have occasionally gone awry. He hasn't had one get away completely but Brady was forced to make a quick reaction to grab one and every once in a while Stork struggles with his consistency. Just something to keep an eye on.
Extra points – The Patriots improved to 11-4 after the bye week and are now 31-3 in the second half of the season since 2010. … New England has averaged 40.5 points per game during its current six-game winning streak. … Gray finished with 199 yards rushing and the Patriots improved to 40-1 when having a 100-yard rusher. The total tied with Curtis Martin (1997) for the third best in team history behind only Tony Collins (212, 1983) and Jim Nance (208, 1966). … The Colts finished with just 19 yards rushing, which is the fourth lowest total the Patriots have allowed in their history. New England allowed just 2 yards on the ground in 1961 against San Diego and 14 twice -- against Kansas City in 1998 and Buffalo in 2005. … Gray's four rushing touchdowns set a team record during the regular season. LeGarrette Blount had four in the playoffs last season. … Brady improved to 37-11 in the month of November. … Rookie Zach Moore and wideout Brian Tyms made their first career starts.