Expecting a very tough game in New England, the Colts started well with consecutive scoring drives to take a 14-7 lead. But two return touchdowns in the second quarter put them behind, and they never recovered the rest of the game. The Patriots ran it up to 59 points, with three big return touchdowns, including two interceptions of Andrew Luck.
While Luck still did some things well, he needed to bring his A+ game for the Colts to have any hope in this one, as the defense surrendered 38 points on their first eight drives. You know things are bad when your second best defensive effort of the game was allowing the opponent to drive 57 yards and miss an easy field goal.
The focus will be on Luck’s four turnovers, but there were 48 other plays (and then some when you consider penalties) to look at as well.
Drive No. 1
Drive Stats: 15:00 left (1st quarter), tied 0-0. 7 plays, 80 yards (Delone Carter 1-yard TD run).
The first quarter was at least great for the offense. They started with a bubble screen to Reggie Wayne for seven yards. After a play-action pass looking for the big play, Luck moved to his right and checked down to Dwayne Allen for two yards. Robert Hughes converted the 3rd and 1 with a 5-yard gain.
Vick Ballard ripped off a 20-yard run. Two plays later Luck went deep to Donnie Avery, but he was interfered with, resulting in a 40-yard penalty. Two runs finished off the drive with Carter’s 1-yard touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.
Drive No. 2
Drive Stats: 7:03 left, tied 7-7. 10 plays, 84 yards (14-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton).
Protection held up well on a deep shot over the middle to Allen, but it was just out of his reach. Emptying the backfield, the second screen of the day was also a success, gaining 13 yards with T.Y. Hilton.
Five plays later, Luck converted on 3rd and 7 with a good adjustment down the sideline by LaVon Brazill for 25 yards. Later in the red zone, Luck found a sliding Hilton in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, and the Colts had their second straight touchdown drive of 80+ yards.
Drive No. 3
Drive Stats: 12:26 left (2nd quarter), leading 14-7. 3 plays, 0 yards (three-and-out punt).
With a chance to build on the lead, Luck threw three straight incompletions for the Colts’ 15th three-and-out drive of the season. The first pass was overthrown to an open Allen in the right flat. After a pump fake, Luck’s pass to Wayne was knocked down. On 3rd and 10, Luck’s pass was batted down at the line by Vince Wilfork.
After a false start on the punt, the Patriots returned it 68 yards for a huge game-tying touchdown.
Drive No. 4
Drive Stats: 11:55 left, tied 14-14. 2 plays, 9 yards (Andrew Luck interception returned 59 yards for TD).
Following a 9-yard run by Donald Brown, more disaster struck when Luck badly overthrew Wayne, and Aqib Talib made the interception and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown. It is the kind of mistake Colts fans have seen all too often when they play in Foxboro, and the Patriots went up 21-14.
Drive No. 5
Drive Stats: 10:55 left, trailing 21-14. 12 plays, 52 yards (Adam Vinatieri 47-yard field goal).
Things were ready to fall apart in a hurry after Ballard lost three yards on a run to start the drive. But Luck completed two passes to Wayne for 17 yards to gain a first down. Luck was able to escape a sack – really the first big pressure of the day – and threw the ball away intentionally. Luck converted 3rd and 5 with a short pass over the middle to Brazill, who made a nice move after the catch for a gain of 21 yards. Avery picked up nine more yards on a screen.
With a 1st and 10 at the NE 29, Luck proceeded to throw three straight incompletions again. The first was a bad drop by Allen near the 10-yard line. Next, Brazill was unable to hang onto another good pass down the right sideline. On 3rd and 10, Luck overshot Wayne and Vinatieri had to kick a 47-yard field goal.
Drive No. 6
Drive Stats: 1:47 left, trailing 24-17. 9 plays, 50 yards (Adam Vinatieri misses 58-yard field goal).
New England matched the field goal, but things were set up well for Luck to lead a drive in the last 1:47 (all three timeouts) for points to make it a very close game at halftime.
The drive started with an illegal contact penalty on the Patriots, giving the Colts a first down. A 3rd and 3 was converted with a great 19-yard catch by Avery, but he was injured on the play.
Brown lost a yard on a catch Luck threw while being tackled. That burned some time, though Luck was able to find Allen for 16 yards. Wayne dropped a pass over the middle, but made a short one for four yards. Instead of using the final timeout right there, the Colts hurried up to run a play, which was just a deep ball overthrown for Nathan Palmer.
With only 0:03 left, Vinatieri attempted the 58-yard field goal, but it was wide left to end the half and what was a disappointing drive.
Drive No. 7
Drive Stats: 11:02 left (3rd quarter), trailing 31-17. 7 plays, 41 yards (punt).
The defense failed to slow down the Patriots, and the Colts now trailed 31-17 in the second half. Luck was nearly picked off on his first pass. With Rob Ninkovich draped all over him, Luck still converted the 3rd and 12 with a 16-yard pass to Hilton. Getting better protection with play action, Luck threw another perfect pass to Wayne for 21 yards.
Hilton gained three yards on a screen, and two plays later a critical 3rd and 4 came up. Luck was looking left for a while, but came back over the middle only to have his pass deflected at the line again by Wilfork.
Rather than go for it on 4th and 4 at the NE 39 down two touchdowns and your defense struggling, the Colts just punted.
Drive No. 8
Drive Stats: 4:53 left, trailing 31-17. 3 plays, -2 yards (Andrew Luck sack/fumble).
However, the defense did hold this time. Brown carried twice for three yards, setting up a 3rd and 7. Luck tried to step up and throw, but the defense got him from behind and forced the fumble by knocking the ball out before the arm went forward. This has happened several times to Luck already this season. It was the only sack of the day, but it was a big one.
It only took the Patriots one play to turn that into a touchdown, so this was another key juncture of the game.
Drive No. 9
Drive Stats: 3:22 left, trailing 38-17. 8 plays, 57 yards (Andrew Luck interception returned 87 yards for TD).
Now in a three-touchdown hole, things needed to happen fast. Luck gained a first down after a roughing the passer penalty on Jerod Mayo for a hit to the head/neck area. Luck then scrambled for four yards, which was his only rush of the day. He then had gains of 12 to Wayne and 19 to Allen. Hilton had a nice catch down to the NE 23 as the third quarter ended.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Luck threw wide of Wayne near the left sideline, and Alfonzo Dennard easily intercepted the pass and went 87 yards for a clinching touchdown. It was Luck’s worst play of the game.
Drive No. 10
Drive Stats: 14:43 left (4th quarter), trailing 45-17. 5 plays, 74 yards (43-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton).
Luck came back and just missed a deep ball to Brazill. Two plays later he was on target to Hilton for a 43-yard touchdown with 12:32 left, but the Colts still trailed 45-24.
Drive No. 11
Drive Stats: 9:02 left, trailing 52-24. 3 plays, 8 yards (three-and-out punt).
New England was able to add yet another touchdown anyway. Luck threw to Ballard in the flat for seven yards. On 3rd and 2, Hilton could not hang on over the middle, and the Colts just punted for their second three-and-out drive of the game (16th of season).
Around this time Phil Simms and Jim Nantz started talking about Wes Welker in the Hall of Fame, so the game was becoming hard to watch.
Drive No. 12
Drive Stats: 3:55 left, trailing 59-24. 7 plays, 35 yards (interception).
Even in garbage time, New England scored again, and lost Rob Gronkowski in the process. Luck’s 11-yard pass put him over 300 yards for the record fifth time as a rookie, while the catch also put Wayne over 1,000 yards on the season. Allen made two more catches for a total of 24 yards, with a drop in between.
Finally, Luck ended with a tipped pass that was intercepted.
Drive No. 13
Drive Stats: 0:28 left, trailing 59-24. 1 play, 20 yards (end of game).
With just 0:28 left, the Colts handed the ball off to Carter, who ripped off a meaningless 20-yard run to end the game.
Andrew Luck finished 27 of 50 for 334 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, and a 63.3 passer rating. He lost a fumble on one sack, and rushed once for four yards.
The road has not been kind to Luck or the Colts, but I thought he played better in this game than say Chicago or at the Jets. There were chances to capitalize on in the first half that were missed. The return touchdowns really took the Colts out of the game. You never account for those, let alone three of them.
While early in the season Luck’s main problem seemed to be his downfield throwing, that has been fixed. Now the bigger concern may be the pocket presence as he has struggled to feel the guys around him at times, resulting in some more turnovers. Luck has eight fumbles (five lost) this season, and I believe most of them involve a guy coming from behind to knock the ball out.
The pass protection was fairly good again this week. New England did not often blitz and had very little pressure early (only three pressures in 27 first-half drop backs).
Luck did make a few nice plays under pressure, including the 3rd and 12 to Hilton and the 43-yard touchdown, both in the second half. He did avoid four sacks, and only had the one with the fumble.
Luck had 23 incompletions. He threw two passes away intentionally under pressure. He had two passes batted down at the line by Wilfork. The Patriots tipped five more passes down the field. Luck was wide of the mark twice, and had seven overthrows.
Receivers had five drops (two contested or defensed if you will) and one of the lower YAC weeks of the season.
By my count, the Colts have 28 dropped passes this season, and an additional eight passes that could have been caught but were defensed and dropped.
Only three screens this week despite the fact they all worked for a change, gaining seven, nine and 13 yards.
After a lot of play-action production the previous three weeks, there was not much this week. The Colts did abandon the run in the second half and used a lot of shotgun though. Luck used shotgun on 27 of his last 35 drop backs.
This week Luck will play Buffalo at home, which should be a return to more efficient numbers and hopefully more points on the board. Most importantly, it is a game the Colts need to come away with a win in, and put this New England game behind them. It was a learning experience though.
While I wouldn't say the Patriots got great pressure, it felt like, at least up until the first two interceptions (at which point I paid markedly less attention to the game), that they did a good job of 1) confining Luck to the pocket, and 2) occasionally collapsing the pocket around Luck.
To me, it seemed like the first (I think it was first) interception was the result of Luck having to change his step into the throw to account for a lineman being shoved into the space where he was going to step and the second a result of changing his throwing arc to avoid Vince Wilfork's outstretched paw. Now, whether he should have had the presence of mind to change those decisions at that point (especially when, at other times, he makes throws with two guys draped on him and/or going to the ground) is perhaps for someone more knowledgeable than me to say.
That being said, that it appeared that last second obstacles threw off his throws (I didn't see the third INT, but when you are attempting to make big plays while far behind, INTs happen, so whatever) is encouraging to me, especially given that he seems to make those throws more often than he misses them.
The problem seems to be that he is called on to make those throws 10-15 times a game and one out of five is a likely turnover when the goal should be maybe five to seven times a game at most. One could say that, given the line he has, he holds onto the ball too long, but he might hold onto the ball too long because his receivers aren't getting open...
As such, I remain optimistic that with an improved line and/or more experienced or better receivers in the coming years that we'll see much better results, even if Luck didn't improve himself (which of course he will).
Great stuff as always. Having watched every Luck play, I am curious what your assessment is regarding Luck's home vs. road numbers, the disparity seems pretty dramatic. They've played some pretty tough road games (Chicago and New England especially), but it's still an interesting split.
@Colt_Following I think it's fairly common for a young player to do better at home than on the road. Obviously Chicago was a very tough defense to start your career with. The problem on the road is they have got behind big as the defense played very poorly in those 3 road losses. He's forced some things because of the score.
He played well in Tennessee and Jacksonville, so that's a good sign this isn't a serious problem, and should improve as he and the Colts get better.