The New England Patriots are above.500 for the first time this season after a 26-3 beatdown of the Indianapolis Colts. The offenses weren’t pretty, but New England’s defense made Colts QB Sam Ehlinger look like the rookie he is. The Patriots head into the bye having won their last two straight and four of their last five before welcoming the Jets to Foxboro in two weeks.
Most of the focus will be on the struggles of the Indianapolis offense but both of these teams looked bad with the ball. It was a mild November day in Massachusetts, so weather wasn’t a factor for either team. Sam Ehlinger didn’t complete a pass until midway through the second quarter. He completed 15 of 29 passes for 103 yards but was also sacked nine times for a loss of 60 yards. Ehlinger also threw a pick-six late, one of two touchdowns on the day for either team. Matt Ryan could’ve given them that. Mac Jones wasn’t a lot better, but he didn’t make mistakes. Mac completed 20 of 30 passes for 147 yards but threw a touchdown pass and had his first game without a turnover this season. Mac wasn’t great, but in this game, he was as good as he needed to be.
PATRIOTS DOMINATE ON DEFENSE
While the offenses were anemic, the Patriots definitely showed dominance on one side of the ball. As I mentioned, they sacked Ehlinger nine times and forced an interception. The pass rush put a stranglehold on Indy from the first play of the game and never let up. In the end, they forced Ehlinger to start the game 0-for-14 before he finally completed a pass. If the offense is going to continue struggling, the Patriots are going to need defensive performances like this.
TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD
Bill Belichick likes to preach consistency in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Well, the defense and the special teams both came through for new England on Sunday. Punt returner Marcus Jones had a nice early punt return to set up a short field for New England and an easy Nick Folk field goal. On the Colts next series, Jonathan Jones would block the punt and the Patriots would recover inside the five-yard-line setting up a Mac Jones TD pass to Rhamondre Stevenson. In the second half, another good punt return set up another Nick Folk field goal and basically put the game out of reach. The special teams play set up the only offense we saw from either team.
AROUND THE AFC EAST
The Patriots needed a win because they got very little help in the division. Miami beat Chicago in a great game keeping New England behind Miami in the standings. New York beat Buffalo setting it up where the other three teams in the division all have six wins. New England enters the bye in last place, but they are only 1.5 games back of division leading Buffalo and they still have two games with the Bills. This division is far from over.
After the bye, New England welcomes the New York Jets to Foxboro. It’s the first time the Patriots will play back-to-back games at home this season. And they’ve already beaten the Jets at the Meadowlands, so New England should be riding high on momentum. Unfortunately, the season doesn’t get easier from there. New England takes on three good teams in Minnesota, Buffalo and Arizona in successive weeks before getting a respite against the Raiders. During Sunday’s game, CBS put up a graphic showing the Patriots had the second hardest remaining schedule in the NFL. They will need all the momentum they can muster for the home stretch.
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