Though todays' 31-24 win over the woeful Indianapolis Colts was anything but artistic, it's nonetheless a win...as the Pats move on to the final quarter of their season. No doubt, many of you are upset with the fact that the Dan Orlovsky led Colts to 21 unanswered 4th quarter points. But, let me remind you that the Pats were up, 31-3 going into the quarter...and that the game truly wasn't as close as the final score would indicate.
Should the Pats have poured it on, and won by four TDs? Sure. But, how thrilled can you expect the Pats' players to get playing an 0-11 team, especially when up by 4 TDs, going into the final quarter? Even BB pulled Tom Brady in the 4th, with the Pats nursing a 31-17 lead.
The bottom line is that the Pats' did what they had to do to get this win under their belt...while the Colts played as if it were their SB. Give them credit for playing hard throughout. Here are my grades:I.) OFFENSE:
The Colts managed to keep Brady and Company off the field for the great majority of the first quarter. They employed a ball control offense, and played a deep zone, forcing the Pats to patiently work they way down the field, in short increments. This strategy worked until the last half of the second quarter, and the first half of the third quarter, in which the Patriots rung up four (4) TDs...before snoozing.1.) QB:
An efficient, yet unspectacular performance by the Terrific One, was more than enough to reign in the Manning-less Colts. Tom finished with 29 completions in 38 attempts, for 289 yards, and two TDs. Though he missed some throws, by and large he was his usual accurate self. His escape of the rush and completion to Wes Welker to convert on a 3rd and 15 play set up the Pats' first TD...and was perhaps the key play of the game. His two TD passes to Rob Gronkowski were of the ho-hum variety, as Gronk was wide open on both occasions. Nonetheless, kudos to Tom for his patient, turnover free direction of the offense: GRADE: A-;
Nothing special again from the RBs. It's becoming readily apparent that the Pats need better options at this position. Steven Ridley ran reasonably well, with 33 yards on 8 carries. But, BJGE and Danny Woodhead posted just a combined 26 yards on 10 carries. Worse yet...none of the above backs participated in the passing game. The one RB reception was a 13 yard completion to Kevin Faulk.
The poor Patriots' ground attack is one of the reasons why the team is having trouble closing out games. Though the OL may not be opening up huge holes for the RBs...it's readily apparent that the overall talent of the Pats' staple of RBs is extremely limited. If the Pats" RBs can't gain yards against the weak Indy run defense, who can they successfully run against?GRADE: D+;
After another slow start, the Big Uglies picked things up in the second quarter, and started giving their leader time to throw. The results were predictable, as Tom Brady picked apart the loose Colts' secondary for 28 points in about 15 minutes of play. Though it was enough to put the game on ice, it's troubling that the offense is having so much difficulty closing out games. The main problem appears to be that the Pats' OL is a finesse group, that cannot impose it's will on the opposition via the ground game:GRADE: C+;
4.) WRs & TEs:
The Colts' soft zone was tailor made for Wes Welker, who finished with ten (10) receptions for 110 yards. Deion Branch chipped in with three (3) catches for 37 yards...and the Pats' third WR was, as usual, the Invisible Man.
Though I realize that Jim Caldwell is a rather inept coach, and that the Colts were breaking in a new DC this afternoon, can anyone tell me how a team can ignore Pats' TE Rob Gronkowski in the red-zone? Gronk scored three (3) TDs, including two on intermediate passes, in which he was wide open. Forget studying film. A cursory look at the Pats' stats sheets would have revealed that.
Gronk and Aaron Hernandez combined for 12 catches for 107 yards:GRADE: B+ (Thanks to Welker and Gronk)
Aside from allowing a time consuming 19 play, 71 yard drive in the first quarter (which netted just a FG), the "D" acquitted itself well for the first three quarters. But, in the fourth quarter, the unit embarrassed itself by allowing the jalopy-like Colts' offense to motor down the field on drives of 88 yards on 15 plays, 93 yards on 11 plays, and 90 yards on only 5 plays, for three (3) TDs. YUCK!!!1.) DL:
Did Andre Carter play this week? It didn't seem like it. That said, Vince Wilfolk had one of the better games of the season, finishing with ten (10) tackles, including five solos, and a sack. Vince also drew a holding penalty on Colts' pro-bowl caliber center, Jeff Saturday...which ruined Indy's initial drive. The Colts did little damage on the ground largely due to Wilfolk and company. But, aside from Vince's early sack, Andre Carter and the rest of this group put very little pressure on Dan Orlovsky. As a result, Orlovsky had ample time to pick apart the tattered and battered Patriots' secondary:GRADE: C-;
Though the LB corp did a decent job of defending against the run, there were issues in pass coverage. The Colts attack on the Pats' "D" was similar to the approach used so successfully by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Indy used their TE Jacob Tamme and WRs on a slew of short passes over the middle and on the sidelines...slowly matriculating they way down the field. Aside from the interception by Jerod Mayo, the LBs failed to adequately defense these plays. In fairness, part of the problem was that the Pats chose to employ a very looose, prevent type coverage throughout most of the 4th quarter.
Look for other teams to attack the Pats' in a similar way in the future. This type of offense moves the ball...eats up the clock...and keeps Tom Brady off the field.
Aside from a Rob Ninkovich sack, the LBs applied little pressure, and seemed to hardly ever blitz. Niko Koutouvides and Mayo combined for 14 tackles (5 solos), and Tracy White added five more, two of which were solos:GRADE: C;
Hung tough throughout the majority of the first three quarters, but fell completely apart in the fourth. Colts' QB Dan Orlovsky completed 30 of 37 passes for 353 yards, and two TDs, for the game. But, in the fourth quarter, against a "prevent defense", Orlovsky completed 17 of 19 passes, for 223 yards, including TD passes to Pierre Garcon, of 33 and 40 yards!!! Prior to that, Orlovsky had just 13 completions in 18 attempts, for 130 yards, and no TDs!!!! Yup...that prevent defense...works every time it's tried!!!
Folks, is there really any need to further elaborate on the performance of the secondary...aside from the woeful missed tackle by Devin McCourty on the Donald Brown TD run??? GRADE: F;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS:
Julian Edelman nearly cost the Patriots' big-time, bu muffing on a punt. Fortunately for both he and the Pats, the ball bounced right back into his arms. But, the muff earned him a seat on punt returns for the remainder of the afternoon. The Pats also allowed a 21 yard punt return to Indy's Joe Lefeged. It was by far the Colts' best punt return of the season.
Usual good job on kick-offs and punts by Stephen Gostkowski and Zoltan Mesko, respectfully. Good job also by the Pats' "hands team" in recovering two onside kicks:GRADE: B-;
BB was correct in preaching all week long that a teams' record is irrelevant to winning a game. It's how each team performs on game day that matters.
Up until the 4th quarter, the Pats' had performed pretty well, both on offense and defense. Yet, for some reason, the coaches got ultra conservative in the final 15 minutes. The offense tried to "pound the rock", but instead pounded sand. The defense backed completely off Dan Orlovsky, and went in full prevent mode, which almost prevented the Patriots from winning. May I suggest that the "prevent defense", employed in the last two games, be permanently unemployed? In spite of the prevent, Orlovsky was able to complete TD passes of 33 and 40 yards to Pierre Garcon.
The Pats need to face the fact that they have a weak running game. It's not something that they can depend upon to close out games. Their best defense is to score, and to take chances with the "D", in hopes of creating turnovers. Rushing three and dropping off in a deep zone just isn't cutting it:GRADE: C;
V. PLAY OF THE GAME:
Late in the second quarter, with the scored tied at 3, the Pats faced a 3rd and 15 from the Indy 34 yard line. On the 3rd down snap, Tom Brady rolled a bit to his left, and toward the line of scrimmage, and completed an 11-13 yard pass to Wes Welker...who turned it into an 18 yard completion, and a first down, at the Indy 16. This was a huge momentum changer. Two plays later, Brady would hit Gronk for an 11 yard TD...and a 10-3 Pats lead. The Pats would get the ball back shortly thereafter, and score another TD in the two-minute drill, putting them up 17-3...and putting them in complete control of this game. VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Rob Gronkowski edges Tom Brady and Wes Welker. His three (3) TDs scored are hard to ignore. Gronk finished with 5 catches for 64 yards...along with his three TDs. With apologies to the Saints' Jimmy Graham and the Packers' Jermichael Finley, Gronkowski is the games' best all around TE: http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/articles/2011/12/05/tight_end_rob_gronkowski_of_patriots_on_course_for_greatness/?rss_id=Boston.com+%2F+Boston+Globe+--+Sports+News
; and http://www.indystar.com/article/20111205/SPORTS03/112050342/Gronkowski-has-field-day
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=311204017
As always, your comments and opinions are welcome.