Having comprehensively outplayed Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos in week 9, the Patriots continued their relentless onslaught by hammering Peyton’s former employers, the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had come into the game with the league’s best offense lead by Andrew Luck and the best defensive record when it came to stopping opponents on 3rd down conversions. Despite having coughed up a mammoth 59 points in a 2012 regular season game and 43 points in last season’s divisional match-up against the Patriots (both at Foxborough), the Colts ought to have come into this match with confidence — after all this one was on their home turf at the Lucas Oil stadium in which even the great Bill Belichick had a 0-3 record.
However, after forcing the Colts to punt on their very first drive, the Patriots scored first for the sixth game in a row with an 89-yard drive (77 of which were rushing) capped by a Jonas Gray touchdown. Jonas Gray touchdowns would become a feature in this match, but not before each quarterback had their first interceptions of the game. Brady, hit by the on-rushing Walden was picked off deep, close to the end zone by Mike Adams on a play-action pass intended for Brian Tyms. Andrew Luck returned the favor soon after, Devin McCourty picking him off after Darrelle Revis tipped off a pass intended for veteran Reggie Wayne.
The Patriots looked to be in cruise control, a 14-3 lead with under two minutes remaining in the first half, facing third and inches from within their own half, when Tom Brady had an absolute howler. Instead of handing off to Gray, he tried a play-action. But under pressure from the rush, all he managed to do was to lob the ball up in the air for Mike Adams’ second interception of the game.
Andrew Luck accepted the gift of having the ball back in opponent territory and drove the Colts for a Hakeem Nicks touchdown. Though the Patriots got the ball back with about a minute to play, Brady took a knee. The Patriots led by a mere 4 points (14-10) and headed into the locker room with coach Bill Belichick fuming.
Tom Brady, who had had an 18-1 TD/INT ratio in his last five games but a 0/2 first half, was determined to leave his mark on the game. He led the Patriots down the field for four touchdowns in their first four drives of the second half, finishing with a 9/11, 2 TD, 173-yard performance in the second half and subsequently extinguishing any hopes of a Colts’ comeback.
Adam Vinatieri showed why even at 41 he remains one of the game’s elite kickers, converting a 53-yard field goal to keep the Colts in the game. Jonas Gray’s breakout performance meant he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 4 TDs coming in the game with 0 rushing TDs and the third in franchise history to have a better than 200-yard performance.
Gray’s determination and tenacity was aided by a stellar performance by the Patriots offensive line. They used an extra lineman in Cameron Fleming or used tight-ends Gronkowski or Hoomanawanui to block as Jonas Gray ripped through the Colts’ defense. Though Gronkowski had a great game blocking and was instrumental in a couple of key third-down conversions, he had his own highlight reel moment late in the game. Having received a pass near the sideline, he fought off a tackle and hustled towards the end zone aided by an Edelman block on Mike Adams and finished off the incredible run with a high jump over two Colts’ defenders to score a touchdown, giving Patriots an enviable 42-20 scoreline.
There is little doubt that this game will be remembered for Jonas Gray’s heroics, and deservedly so. However, a mention must be made of Patriots’ stellar defense. Having negated the run game early on, they made the Colts’ attack one-dimensional. Belichick put his best cornerback, Revis, on Reggie Wayne and Kyle Arrington combined with a covering safety to limit T.Y. Hilton to just three catches.
With the Colts’ elite receivers kept in check for most of the game, Andrew Luck’s college teammate Coby Fleener had a 144-yard receiving performance. But the Patriots D stepped up in the big moments, and Andrew Luck never seemed to have a clue of what the formidable duo of Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia was going to throw at him.