While much of the world – especially sarcastic columnists from Boston to New York – is second-guessing Bill Belichick's decisions in regards to playing key players late in blowout victories, here at Take Two-sday we're going in a different direction.
There were a lot of big plays in the Patriots win over Indy, maybe none bigger than Julian Edelman's 68-yard punt return for a touchdown that kicked off the fourth-year receiver's career day.
But, that play came thanks in large part to a key mistake by a former Patriot, one that practically catapulted Edelman down the sideline and into the end zone even though it didn't actually come on the TD return.
The Colts led 14-7 and faced a fourth-and-10 from their own 26 with 12:14 to play in the second quarter. It was the first time the upstart visitors had been stopped on the day, following up a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives.
As Indy punter Pat McAfee awaited the snap, the Patriots initially left Brown, the Colts left gunner on the punt team, uncovered. Just before the potential snap a pair of New England punt return blockers – Aqib Talib and Derrick Martin -- drifted to their right to get in position to block Brown. When Brown saw this he seemed to flinch a bit in an effort to get a jump on the snap, and his would-be blockers.
That flinch not only drew the 5-yard false start penalty, it wiped out a booming McAfee punt that sailed over Edelman's head and landed inside the Patriots 20-yard line. Though Edelman saw the clear flag and never made an attempt to catch the punt, it was still a good boot.
That can't be said for McAfee's post-penalty punt, which was a low kick to the left side that Edelman caught in stride around the 35-yard line before making a couple moves down the home sideline on his way to the touchdown.
In fact, if you watch closely, you can see McAfee react when he actually kicks the ball in a negative way, acknowledging that he just put off a very dangerous, returnable punt. Edelman did the rest taking it to the house to tie the game at 14.
While there is a good chance the Patriots – who scored or missed a field goal on seven of their first eight positions of the day – would have driven to points either way, the punt return was a big play and big boost of momentum for the home team. It took away even the slightest chance the Indy defense may have had at getting a stop. It was a crusher, an unacceptable, unnecessary flinch for a guy who wasn't even being blocked and has a perfect view of the ball from his gunner position.
Both the Patriots and Edelman went on to make plenty more big plays on the day. But old-friend Brown's bone-headed mistake got the big play party started. And for that, he gets a second look in this week's edition of Take Two-sday!