Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) passes the ball under pressure from New England Patriots middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (55) in the first half of an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Blowout. We all knew it could happen, but we wanted to believe it wouldn't.
Today, the Indianapolis Colts walked into Gillette Stadium with a tall order to fill. They needed to either get some stops against the NFL’s top offense or somehow match them score for score in a shootout. For a team who has been outscored on the season, that is a difficult proposition. For any team facing Tom Brady and the Patriots, it is a tough task.
This team has been winning despite having some big talent holes in their roster. They have done so in admirable fashion, bonding together through adversity and playing for their leader, Coach Chuck Pagano. Today, the Patriots were just too much. Too much Gronkowski. Too much Tom Brady. Too much Wes Welker. Too much.
There have been games this season where the offense has felt the pressure to score, but none like this. Today, Andrew Luck and company took the field feeling that pressure like never before. The defense stopped the run most of the day but could not defend the pass. No pressure. No sacks. One pass defended (Jerry Hughes). In the secondary, it seemed at times as though every matchup as a mismatch.
Therefore, each time Luck took the field, he was almost visibly bent on scoring to make up for the defense’s difficulties and keep up with Brady and the Patriots. The result? Lots of passing yards, but a 54% completion percentage, three interceptions, and a 63.3 rating. The Patriots harassed him in the backfield with consistent pressure and forced four turnovers in all.
The crushing pressure to score notwithstanding, the Colts started the game on fire. The offense drove 80 yards in seven plays on their opening drive and capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown by Delone Carter. After New England showed that the defense would have its hands full all day with a quick 80-yard touchdown drive of their own, Luck and company scored again. Indy ran and passed well en route to another touchdown, a 14-yard beauty from Luck to T. Y. Hilton. At that point, if one were to turn their television off, it would have been a satisfying game.
With all the momentum and a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, the Colts punted to Julian Edelman, who sprinted 68 yards down the sideline for the tying touchdown. On the ensuing drive, with a chance to recapture some of that momentum, Donald Brown took the ball 9 yards on first down. Things were looking better. But then, Luck, taking contact in the backfield, threw a pick -6 intended for Reggie Wayne to Aqib Talib.
Just like that, in a few short minutes, the team that was rolling with a 14-7 lead was down 21-14. Momentum shifts quickly in the NFL, but this time, it shifted without Tom Brady and the NFL’s number one offense even taking the field. The teams traded field goals afterward, but there was already a feeling that the wheels were falling off. The Patriots offense seemed unstoppable, and the team scored two straight touchdowns without their help.
At the half, Andrew Luck had 159 yards passing, but only a 5.9 average and a 69.8 quarterback rating compared to Tom Brady’s 110.6. The Colts ran the ball very well with 71 yards in the first half, led by Vick Ballard’s 11 rushes for 56 yards. Indianapolis outgained New England by a small margin (230-210), but like many other Patriots opponents, turnovers were a factor.
In the second half, the wheels really did fall off. New England scored 21 unanswered points starting with their first drive of the third quarter and finishing with their first drive of the fourth. Indianapolis had a chance in the third to regain some momentum with a nice drive after the first of many scores by the Patriots. However, down 31-17 at the New England 39, the Colts chose to punt on 4th and 4. The defense still managed to force a punt after pinning the Patriots deep, but the offense failed to capitalize, fumbling on their own 24-yard line.
Brady walked back onto the field and tossed a 24 yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski, who the Colts, like most teams, simply could not cover. If it wasn’t already, the route was certainly on at 38-17.
The rest is history. Luck managed a late touchdown on a great deep pass to T. Y. Hilton, who had six catches on nine targets for 100 yards and Luck’s only two touchdowns. But the Patriots weren’t even finished scoring. Throwing deep and running end-arounds in the fourth quarter, New England managed to pad the final margin to 59-24.
On a day when the Colts ran well (119 yards and 5 ypc), stopped the run (other than Edelman’s end-around, 14 carries for 68 yards, 2.8 ypc), and held the edge in time of possession, none of those things mattered. The Patriots were just too much. Too much Brady. Too much everything. Time to move on. Bring on the Bills.