Written by Rizzo:
Sunday Night Football featured our beloved Patriots and our worst enemy, the Indianapolis Colts. Usually this is a must-see game, but with the Colts struggling to even get to .500 and the Patriots without league MVP Tom Brady, this game didn’t have the hype around the country it usually does. But this game had huge implications for both squads. A loss for the Colts and they would be 5 ½ games back of the still undefeated Titans and all but mathematically eliminated from the division. The Patriots could take sole possession of first place in the AFC East or fall into a three-way tie with the Bills and Jets for the lead.
As we all know by now, the Indianapolis Colts pulled out an 18-15 victory over the Patriots and got themselves to 4-4 while the Patriots fell to 5-3 and first in the AFC East (by tiebreak only). The Colts are still 4 ½ games back of the Titans and realistically can only compete for an AFC Wild Card spot. The Bills, Jets and Patriots all sport a 5-3 record with those dangerous Dolphins just one game back at 4-4. The Patriots will have a chance to distance themselves in this division in the next three weeks with one game against each AFC East foe.
With the standings talk out of the way, let’s delve into what the Patriots did to lose this game as they didn’t do much to win it. There are few moments that stick out in my mind (as I’m sure they do for many Patriot fans) that we can look back and criticize.
These first two are mistakes made by players and are definitely the easiest to look back on and curse about. The first was the pass down the left sideline to Jabar Gaffney, who had beat the cornerback and the safety was too slow to get over and make a play on the ball. The ball was perfectly placed by Matt Cassel and was a sure six points… until Jabar dropped it. This one hurt as it would have put us up 19-15. The drop cost the team four points as the drive stalled and only yielded a field goal, tying it up at 15 a piece. That was the first devastating mistake from the players.
The second, and probably the one that stung the most, was the personal foul, unnecessary roughness penalty slapped down on David Thomas late in the 4th quarter. Instead of it being 3rd down and 1 yard to go on Indianapolis’ 32 yard line with a little under 5 minutes to, it became a 3rd and 16 on the Colts’ 47. This foolish penalty on Thomas put the Patriots out of field goal range that could have tied the game and, subsequently, ended our last chance to tie or win the game.
Now time to take the focus off the players and place it right on the head coach. Bill did not coach his best game, especially in the 2nd half. All three of our timeouts were wasted, leaving Matt Cassel no choice but to rush a snap on a crucial 4th down in the 4th quarter which subsequently led to an interception by Bob Sanders. One timeout was surrendered via a challenge where Belichick thought the Colts had 12 men on the field at the time of the snap. He was wrong and one timeout was gone. Two other timeouts were used on 4th downs where the Pats lined up to go for it on 4th and short, but Bill changed his mind. Not having the timeouts was detrimental down the stretch. Also, calling a timeout on 4th and 1 actually cost us the first down deep in Colts territory which could have led to a game-changing touchdown. I know there are a lot of “what-ifs”, but that’s all we can do looking back at the game.
This wasn’t your typical Colts/Patriots game as the teams only combined for 33 points, but it was just as crucial as any of the other regular season meetings have been. The Patriots look to rebound next week as they host the 5-3 Buffalo Bills to Gillette in their first meeting of the season.