Bill Belichick's Patriots entered last weekend's bye considered the best team in the NFL.
And while things weren't exactly a cakewalk Sunday night in Indianapolis, Belichick's team took care of business against Andrew Luck and the Colts to improve to 8-2 on the season and maintain a hold on the driver's seat toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, November 16, 2014.
On a day when the Broncos (7-3) had already lost and with the Colts (6-4) looking to break into the conversation for top dog in the AFC, New England overcame a couple uncharacteristic turnovers to pull off the road upset.
Those who've criticized the Patriots for lacking a marquee road win in recent years are going to have to find something else to rant about now, because the 42-20 dismissal of the Colts was certainly an impressive effort against a playoff-caliber team in its house on primetime. That, is indisputable.
On a night when Tom Brady wasn't at his best, especially in terms of decision making, plenty of Patriots picked up the slack to send the home team home with a losing taste in its mouth. New England had a 75-percent success rate on third down against what's supposed to be the NFL's best third-down defense. The Patriots went a perfect five-for-five in the red zone. Josh McDaniels dialed up a game plane to churn out 244 yards on the ground. And Matt Patricia pulled a lot of the right strings to hold the Colts to 19 yard rushing, 15 of those coming from Luck. And the coverages were a mixing-and-matching of success.
Clearly the Patriots remain the team to beat in the AFC and continue to building momentum with a six-game winning streak heading toward Thanksgiving and the stretch run.
It's on to Detroit.
But first, here's a look at the individual highs and lows from New England's win in Indy:
Jonas Gray** – In his third season but seeing his first stretch of playing time, the former undrafted rookie Gray had a breakout day, career game and just about everything else you could say about a positive performance. Gray finished with 38 carries for 199 yards and four touchdowns -- the first four of his career. He was the recipient of some great blocking up front, finding plenty of room to run before running into Colts defenders, as well as nice blocks by fullback James Develin and tight end Rob Gronkowski to spring a few runs.
Jamie Collins – Collins was a tackling machine all over the field – dropping pass catchers in space with ease while putting occasional pressure on Andrew Luck. The versatile, athletic linebacker finished with a team-high eight tackles, including a pair of for a loss. He also forced a fumble. Collins is on the rise of late, a good sign for the Patriots defense.
Darrelle Revis – The Patriots threw a variety of looks and coverages at the Colts, but Revis was at the middle of it all. Revis worked in man and zone, inside and out. He took away a side of the field at times and tackled well in other times. He pretty much shut Reggie Wayne after the veteran got off to a fast start. He deflected a ball that turned into a Devin McCourty pick. Revis is the centerpiece of the defense much the way Rob Gronkowski is the man around which the passing game is constituted.
Brandon Browner** – Luck found a lot of luck throwing in Browner's direction. Seemingly getting a season's fill of Coby Fleener – who finished with seven catches for 144 yards – Browner was beaten a bit too often. He was toasted by Donte Moncrief on a play that saw Luck miss his wide-open target. Browner also got away with an obviously illegal contact on T.Y. Hilton. Browner is clearly physical, including a nice tackle on Hilton on a quick screen, but the veteran needs to tighten up his coverage a bit.
Tom Brady – No. 12 had been on a hot streak for the last month-plus, but he had a bit of a downer in Indy. Brady threw a pair of picks, including a terrible falling-backwards, up-for-grabs interception in his own end. He had another pick on a deep ball intended for Brian Tyms in which he couldn't step into his throw into triple coverage. Brady had his first multiple interception game since Kansas City, having had just one pick in the previous five weeks. His 85 rating in Indy was also his worst since the Chiefs game, and while he was hit six times he was not sacked on the night. It just wasn't a great game for Brady, given his high standards.
First-half kneel-down – Rarely, if ever, does Belichick decide to take a knee with a chance late in the first half. But that's exactly what he did with the Patriots up just 14-10 with 51 seconds to play and holding three timeouts. Maybe it was a message to a quarterback and offense that hadn't taken care of the football. Maybe it was a chance to regroup early. Just didn't fall in line with New England's usual aggressive ways. Even one draw or screen to see what happened would have been more the norm, rather than just tucking tail and heading to the locker room. Just seemed a bit weird.