Pats take advantage of Colts’ aggressive play in 34-27 win
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts coach Chuck Pagano stayed aggressive. Bill Belichick just wanted the Patriots to stay composed.
It was no contest – again.
This time, Indianapolis’ unusual-looking punt formation fooled nobody and the ill-advised play backfired. The botched fake punt gave Tom Brady the ball back at the Colts 35-yard line late in the third quarter, and six plays later he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to LeGarrette Blount to seal a 34-27 victory.
”It turned out to be one of the worst failed fakes probably of all time,” Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee said.
Actually, the play was put in during practice last season and pulled out of the playbook at exactly the wrong time – with New England clinging to a 27-21 lead.
The Colts (3-3) shifted most of their players near the right sideline. Pagano was hoping to draw the Patriots into a mistake. Instead, receiver Griff Whalen inexplicably snapped the ball to safety Colt Anderson, who was immediately tackled for a 1-yard loss.
”I saw the formation, and I wasn’t sure what was going on,” Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones said. ”It was great awareness by our team.”
The bizarre play overshadowed everything else in one of this season’s most hyped games – the rematch of January’s AFC championship game, which spawned the ”Deflategate” controversy.
Tom Brady was his usually brilliant self, going 23 of 37 with 312 yards, three touchdowns and his first interception of the season as the Patriots improved to 5-0 for the first time since they’re 16-0 season in 2007.
Andrew Luck returned from an injured right shoulder after missing the previous two games and played his best game of the year. He was 30 of 50 for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
Pagano’s risky play calls did pay some dividends.
His first fourth-down gamble, on the game’s opening series, resulted in a 5-yard TD pass from Luck to Donte Moncrief. His second, an onside kick after Indy took a 14-10 lead, nearly worked but the refs ruled New England recovered the ball, a play that was upheld on a coach’s challenge.
But after Brady’s 25-yard TD pass to Rob Gronkowski gave New England a 27-21 lead early in the third quarter, the fake punt proved costly.
”We expected this to be a gadget game,” Belichick said. ”Their punter ran a sweep against Tennessee a couple weeks ago, so that’s something they’ve done in the past.”
Here some things we learned from Sunday’s game:
SWITCHAROO: New England has won seven straight in the series. In the last four, the Patriots battered Indy on the ground. But Belichick is a master at changing his ways, and he did that again Sunday. This time, he put the ball mostly in Brady’s hands and the Patriots ran 25 times for 116 yards and one score.
GETTING BACK: Luck’s return wasn’t the only good news for Indy’s offense. Indy ran the ball effectively, getting 13 carries for 78 yards from Frank Gore. T.Y. Hilton, who was shut down in both meetings last season, wound up catching six passes for 74 yards. And the Colts had two long touchdown drives in the first half. Now they must figure out how to play that way for four quarters.
PLAYING THROUGH: New England went into the game without starting left tackle Nate Solder (injured reserve) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Marcus Cannon, who moved from right tackle to left tackle, also left in the first half with an injured toe on his right foot and did not return. But the Patriots still had 417 yards in offense and kept Brady clean most of the night. Indy lost starting safety Mike Adams (hamstring) after he returned Brady’s interception for a touchdown.
PLAYOFF PLANS: Indianapolis was hoping it could stay away from New England in January, if the playoff road winds that way. That’s not likely now. The Patriots now have a 2 1/2-game lead over Indy and control of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
AP NFL websites: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL