Monday, November 06, 2006
Have you ever seen the Patriots play a game that poorly since the infamous 31-0 route in Buffalo? I don't think I have. Nevertheless, we nearly won the day. We were handed this victory over the undefeated Colts on a silver platter several times, but each time we messed it up.
The Colts did their part, too. They gave us the ball on several occasions, and even Adam Vinatieri missed a few field goals. Can I just say that I'm glad that this game didn't come down to an AV4 field goal that he made, because otherwise the reactionary, simple-minded morons in New England would instantly blame the loss on the loss of Vinatieri, instead of blaming the entire team for the loss. Thank God we won't have to suffer through that maelstrom of morons.
We had this game. We had this game at any time we wanted to take it. But we didn't. It wasn't that we couldn't, we just didn't. We didn't execute. We F'ed up and they got away.
To paraphrase Denny Green, the Colts are who we thought they were.
As upsetting as it is to lose a game you easily could have won, I'm going to be optimistic here. We lost, but if we had played just a little bit better, we would have beaten a team that is now 8-0. I don't think this game will be the only meeting between the Colts and Pats this season. And from what we all saw on Sunday night, they look very, VERY beatable.
Let's get down to the nitty gritty.
On the first drive of the game, we started off in the wrong direction. Dillon was stuffed for a loss of 2, then Caldwell was called for offensive PI. On 2nd and 21, Dillon ran for 10, then Brady hit Watson for 15 and a 1st down. Brady hit Jackson for 9, then Maroney ran for 12. It looked as though the Colts defense was already dissected and waiting for us to chop them up on the field.
After a false start, Maroney ran for 6, then Dillon for 7, then Dillon for 4 more and a 1st down. Then, something strange happened. We were at the Indy 34, we had a 1st down and we were in total control of the Colts defense. The entire playbook was open. For some reason we decided to throw deep, and into coverage. We weren't desperate enough to do that. We weren't in a position in which we needed to be that aggressive. We could have handed off to Maroney, or thrown a mid-length route for 8 to 12 yards. Nope. We decided to try and hit the end zone. Maybe Belichick wanted to keep the safeties back so the run would continue to work. That's about the only reason I can conceive of to call that play. Brady threw deep to Gabriel, but it wasn't caught by Gabriel, it was caught by the Colts. What seemed to be a sure scoring drive ended with the Colts gaining possession at their 32.
After two incompletes and a false start, the Colts were facing 3rd and 15. We put good pressure on Manning and Colvin almost got to him. But Peyton got the ball off and hit Harrisson for 44 yards and a huge 1st down. The Colts eventually put the ball in the end zone to go up 7-0.
We got the ball back but then the mysterious penalties started. Fourteen year veteran Troy Brown got a 15 yard taunting penalty. This was because.....ummmm...he said something mean to a Colts player. And we all know how sensitive those guys are. You can't touch them, or even say mean things because they are quite fragile and delicate.
Anyway, on 3rd and 20, Brady hit Gabriel for 39 yards. At the end of the 1st quarter, Brady hit Faulk on 4th and 3 for 14 yards and a massive 1st down. Dillon took two shots at the end zone and got in on the second try. 7-7 game.
The Colts got the ball back and easily drove downfield for 7 points and retook a 7 point lead.
The Patriots responded with their own struggle free touchdown drive to tie it at 14-14.
The Pats kicked off and allowed a 70 yard return. Then they committed a PI penalty and the Colts had the ball at our 7 without a single successful offensive play ran. Then we stopped Adai in the backfield for a loss of 1. Then Seau sacked Manning for a loss of 9. So now the Colts were facing 3rd and goal from their 17.
Manning attempted a pass to the end zone that was picked off by Samuel. But, the Colts receiver ran into Samuel downfield. You see, when the Colts are on the field, you can't touch them, even if they run into you. You have to let them run by you, then you can try to cover them. They need a lot of help and a lot of encouragement. In fact, if it's a jump ball, not only should the defensive back avoid making a play for the ball, he should whisper words of encouragement into the ears of the sensitive Colts receiver. They need special help and care and love. Asante Samuel should have known that by standing downfield in the perfect spot to defend against the route the receiver was running, he was being mean to the Colts. Asante should have gotten out of his way instead of allowing himself to get run into by the receiver. The ref was totally justified in throwing a penalty flag for Samuel's outlandish behavior. Imagine, a defensive back in the NFL being mean and not doing everything in his power to help the receiver catch the ball.
End of sarcasm.
The call on Samuel was BS, in my opinion. He was standing there, got run into, then made a play for the ball. Isn't that good pass coverage? The drive should have ended there with the Patriots getting the ball at the 20. Instead, the Colts got a fresh set of downs and were able to kick a field goal.
Afterwards, Brady and the offense had a chance to get some points to end the half, but that drive ended in a misguided throw into triple coverage on Ben Watson.
Here's a few reasons why you don't throw into triple coverage:
1. The pass has to be dead on perfect, a bit off in any direction is probably an INT
2. If a pass is a jump ball pass, the defense has three guys against your one, bad odds for your guy catching it, great odds of it getting picked
3. Even if you do throw a perfect pass, the receiver MUST catch it. If he bobbles it into the air, it will probably be a pick.
4. If the pass is picked, the defender already has two blockers with him and can have a big-time runback, maybe even all the way to the end zone
The Colts got the ball to start the second half. Immediately, Manning hit Harrisson for 36 yards. After Adai got 2 and Manning threw an incomplete, the Pats stopped the Colts on 3rd down. Until the refs threw a flag. They called Vrabel for illegal contact downfield. Replays showed that Vrabel glanced a Colts receiver, but within the 5 yard hit zone. Maybe the refs meant to call it on someone else. Regardless, Vrabel didn't do anything wrong, and it didn't seem as though any other Patriot did.
After a gift 1st down, Wayne fumbled. The ball sat on the ground, waiting for someone to grab it. Nobody did. It was knocked out of bounds by the Colts so they retained possession. Eventually, Vinatieri tried a field goal but missed.
So the Pats had 1st and 10 on their 27, down 17-14 with plenty of time. Then Dillon fumbled. The play was reviewed and the recovery touchdown was called back. The Colts were unable to do anything with the ball despite great field position. Colvin had a huge sack that knocked Indy out of field goal range. The fumble wasn't totally game changing, but it did run another minute off the clock, and resulted in a -16 change of field position for the Pats.
The next drive was confusing. Brady hit Brown for a nice 12 yard gain. Dillon was stuffed for a loss of 1. On 2nd and 11, the Patriots attempted a fake reverse screen. Why? Of all the plays in the playbook, why that one. Both the passing game and the running game were working for us. On 2nd and 11, we could have handed the ball off or thrown a mid-range pass to try to make it 3rd and manageable, not 3rd and long. The Colts defense was weak, but they were also very fast. They eat up plays that take time developing like screens. The fake reverse aspect of the screen was also a bit too much. I think Bellichick was trying too hard to outcoach the Colts.
The play didn't work. On 3rd and 11, Brady was flushed out of the pocket and ran for 9 yards, still shy of the 1st down marker. We punted.
The Colts scored on the next drive thanks to an amazing grab by Harrisson. Not much you could do about that play. But now it was 24-14, and the clock was ticking.
The Pats, thanks in large part to a pass interference call on Indy, were able to drive to the Colts 31 yard line. They were then stopped. Gostkowski attempted a 49 yarder and hit it to make it a 24-17 game.
On the kickoff, Artrell Hawkins made a great special teams play and stripped Wilkins during his return. The Pats got the ball on the Indy 46 and seemed to have a great deal of momentum with them.
We drove all the way to the 16, but were stopped in the red zone, something which hasn't happened much this season. Gostkowski attempted a 36 yarder but kicked it terribly wide right.
The Colts got the ball back and the 4th quarter started. Troy Brown had an absolutely stupid penalty on 3rd and 7 that gave Indy an automatic 1st down. The Colts drove all the way to the 30. Then Chad Scott picked off Manning at the 14 yard line and returned the ball all the way to near midfield.
Huge opportunity for the Patriots. Still only a 7 point game, with 13:16 on the clock. Then Brady threw a ball through the defensive line. It was tipped at the line, and a Colts defender was the one who caught it.
The Colts got the ball back and didn't really move it much with the exception of one 16 yard pass play and a stupid, yet still ticky-tacky flag on Roosevelt Colvin. Vinatieri hit the 31 yard field goal to make it a 27-17 game.
Brady hit Gabriel for 6, Faulk ran a draw up the middle for 10, Maroney ran left for 17, Brown caught a 6 yard pass, then Watson a 5 yard pass and all of a sudden the Pats were on the Indy 15. A PI penalty got them to the 10.
We ran Faulk again on 1st and goal from the 10, but were only able to get 2. I don't know why we weren't using Dillon in this situation. Brady threw incomplete to Thomas on 2nd and goal. On 3rd and goal, Brady threw to Faulk, who was on the 2, but Faulk dropped it. He might have been able to dive into the end zone, he might not have been. Either way, you can go for it on 4th and goal on the 1 or 2 yard line. The Pats settled for a field goal. Not the end of the world, but time was running short.
The Colts drove the ball downfield, but Vinatieri missed a game clinching field goal. We still had a chance. We didn't have any timeouts, but we still had 1:55 on the clock to work with. Brady hit Watson for 25 down the left. We had about 90 seconds to go 39 yards, certainly doable. Brady threw over the middle short to Faulk who once again dropped the ball. The throw wasn't absolutely perfect, it was a tad high, but it hit both of Faulk's hands and he couldn't haul it in. But Cato June was able to. The INT sealed the victory for Indianapolis.
In my opinion, we lost this game on so many levels. The Colts played better than us, but they weren't a more talented team than us. We turned the ball over 5 times. We made some horrendous errors in play calling, and stupid penalties. We also had our fair share of ticky tacky calls against us. Also, did anyone else notice that Ty Warren was getting held on every single pass rush? We didn't score in the red zone enough, we missed a field goal, we allowed a big return on special teams, so many big mistakes and little mistakes. We didn't have that confident stride. We were playing like one of the other 31 teams in the League, we weren't playing like the Patriots.
But I'm hopeful. Indy did not look unbeatable. We rattled Manning and forced some mistakes, we just failed to capitalize on them and we made far too many mistakes of our own. We didn't run the ball enough, especially not Dillon. We had 33 rushing attempts out of 68 offensive plays. Dillon only got 13 carries, but as the power rusher, I think he should have gotten somewhere around 20.
The defense looked good despite allowing so many points. To be fair, they were up against a Colts offense that is stacked. They were often playing in poor field position. The Colts average starting position was at their 37, but that average includes them starting at the 3 after a Brady INT to end the 1st half. Take that drive out and they averaged starting at their 40. One the other hand, we averaged starting out on the 34. The Colts started drives in our territory 3 times, we only had 1 start in Indy territory. The time of possession was split pretty much 50/50 with the Colts having it 1:12 less than us.
We were supposed to dominate time of possession, and starting field position, and the turnover department. We failed to do all three. We played like crap and deserved to lose. But I don't think we'll play that badly again this season.
Ironically, it was mostly the veterans who played poorly. Faulk with 2 dropped balls, Brown with a stupid penalty, Brady with 4 picks, and Dillon with the fumble.
We'll get them in December if we get our minds focused properly.