Boston TD Party
Tonight was not unlike watching a movie where the villain wins. And what a villain this was. The New England Patriots. Scoundrels, cheaters, soulless wearers of Uggs and hoodies. Okay, they’re not that bad, but there’s no denying that around the NFL, a loss to the Patriots stings a little extra.
Several of the things we all expected happened tonight. The Patriots tried to take T.Y. Hilton away. Hilton moved all over the offensive formations to counter it, also as expected, and still ended up with 4 catches for 106 yards on 6 targets and a 25.8 yard average while Coby Fleener exploited the middle of the field when Hilton was double teamed and reeled in 6 receptions for 74 yards.
Tom Brady even came through by being less than stellar, as some people had predicted: 13/25 for 198 yards, 2 sacks, and a 78.4 QB rating.
Some problems are too much to overcome, however, and several of those happened tonight as well. After looking as though they had found their stride late in the season, the offensive line collapsed. Andrew Luck was under nearly constant pressure, taking 3 sacks and 10 hits, and despite throwing for 331 yards, had 4 interceptions (one came after the game was out of reach).
The Colts defense struggled, and despite some bright moments, still gave up 43 points and a heap of big plays. They kept Brady in check for the most part, and slowed running backs Stevan Ridley (3.7 ypc, though he scored 2 touchdowns) and Shane Vereen (3.4 ypc), but they could not contain LaGarrette Blount (24 carries, 166 yards, 6.9 ypc, 4 touchdowns – 4 ypc outside of his one back-breaking 73-yard run).
There were the bad calls, of course. No one could miss those, most notably the P.I. no-call on a play in which Griff Whalen was thrown to the ground. A second possible interference no-call happened on the same drive, and a defender who hit Luck long after he threw the ball earlier in the game was never penalized.
The list goes on and on, but no matter how badly the referees do – and it’s going to happen at some point every week in the NFL – the blame cannot rest squarely on the officials in a three-touchdown loss with four turnovers.
As for the game itself, we’ll keep it short. The Colts came out with same shotgun-oriented, no huddle offense they had been using during their 4-game win streak, but on the third offensive play of the game, Luck stared down LaVon Brazill on 3rd and 2, and Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard picked off the errant pass.
Dennard returned the interception to the Colts’ 2-yard line, and Blount punched it in on the next play to take a 7-point lead barely two minutes into the game.
Indianapolis came back with a three and out, and New England quickly made them pay with a 74-yard drive and a 2-yard touchdown run by Blount.
The Colts vaulted right back into the game with a quick-hitting 80-yard drive capped off with a 38-yard bomb to Brazill down the right sideline to make it a manageable 14-7.
To follow that up, Erik Walden sacked Brady on third down (what in the world was that sack dance?), giving Indianapolis the ball, and what seemed to be all the momentum, at their own 27. The offense failed to capitalize, however, and the Patriots made them pay with another touchdown run from Blount and a 21-7 second quarter lead.
Luck and the offense drove to the New England 18 but had to settle for a field goal and a 21-10 deficit. After Darius Butler and Ricky Jean Francois teamed up to stop Blount for no gain on 3rd and 2, the Patriots sent in their punt team, but the snap sailed over punter Ryan Allen’s head. Allen recovered it near his own end zone but was quickly plastered by three Colts players, jarring the ball loose for a safety.
Down 21-12, the momentum seemed to have swung the Colts’ way again as Luck marched the offense back into Patriots territory. With a 1st and 10 at the 39, Luck, still running that wonderful no huddle, threw to fullback Stanley Havili, who bobbled the pass before it landed in the hands of Don’t’a Hightower for another pick.
Indy forced another three and out on defense, and the offense quickly moved downfield, thanks largely to a 40-yard Luck-to-Hilton connection. Unable to punch it in with Richardson or hit Fleener with a jump ball from the 3-yard line, they settled for another field goal. 21-15. Still a close game.
Ridley helped make it 29-15 on the next drive with a 3-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion. Still not out of the game, Luck fired back. After a loss of one by Richardson, Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for 46 yards on the left side, then fired down the middle to Brazill for a 35-yard score. 3 plays, 80-yards in 1:17. 29-22.
Things were looking up for the Colts as a series of defensive stops by each team carried them into the fourth quarter. Then, amidst the punt exchange, the Patriots handed the ball off to Blount for a quick run around the right tackle that turned into a 73-yard score.
Things fell apart from there. After being so close. After being within striking distance for so long. Two plays after the Patriots made it a two score game again, Luck threw another interception as he tried to avoid the rush and hit Fleener over the middle.
After a 20-yard return, the Patriots took over at the Indianapolis 18-yard line, and Ridley eventually scored his second rushing touchdown from 3 yards out. 43-22.
Indianapolis got the ball back with just over eleven minutes left, plenty of time for a miracle, but incomplete passes (and questionable no-calls) on 2nd and 1, then 3rd and 1 set up 4th down.
Now, you’re down three scores with around 10:30 left in a playoff game. One yard to go. It’s do or die. Do you tell your team to get out there and try to win, or do you try to lessen the margin of defeat? The Colts punted. Game over. It may have been over anyway, of course, but we’ll never know now.
Robert Mathis tacked on a sack, and Luck tacked on another interception, but at that point, they all knew it was almost time for an offseason of rest, reflection, and preparation.
It’s been an incredible season. 12-6. I watched this team play 18 games that mattered, and 12 times, they ended with a victory. Some of them were hideous, some of them were beautiful and exciting, and some of them left us all wondering how on this Earth they were able to pull off the win.
Such is football. An offseason of glaring needs and limited draft picks looms, but there’s a good foundation. A quarterback on the cusp of greatness, a wide receiver who when utilized properly is apparently superhuman, and bright spots here and there throughout the roster.
For now, I’m glad to have watched this team win twelve times. Thanks to everyone who’s come along for the ride. When you wake in the morning, I recommend avoiding ESPN, especially First Take, and just be glad you’re not a Raiders or Bills fan. Or Jaguars.
A few (very) quick notes:
- I have been awake for a very long time. I apologize in advance if I’ve missed any weird typos.
- They are who we thought they were…and we let ‘em off the hook.
- Pep Hamilton stopped trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole, and it worked well. Turnovers increased with the vertical attack, but they were running plays, formations, and whole style, that they never intended to run.
- So many times, people have wondered why a team gave up on the run against Indy. The Patriots must have been wondering the same thing.
- The season is over, which means we can stop talking about Trent Richardson for a little while.
- New England had three fumbles but didn’t lose any of them. Antoine Bethea and Darius Butler each dropped interceptions. Ah, what might have been.
The big thing in my mind is that the offseason can dictate either a full or empty running back roster. Brown's a free agent now, Bradshaw was only signed for one year, we don't know yet how recovered Ballard is from his injury, and while highly doubtful, it's not impossible for Richardson to get cut completely. So *if* Indy re-signs either Brown and Bradshaw - or gets them both - and *if* Ballard comes back okay and healthy, it's possible for the RB stable to be full and Indy won't have to worry about that part of the game. But if Indy takes the opportunity, they can clear the slate as well.
What an odd position to be in. The roster can either be completely full of that position, or completely empty.
Either way, my big concern is that they can choose to concentrate on a position that's at best situationally important instead of getting more foundation block players in (like replacements for the interior offensive line). I HOPE they'll get Brown, Bradshaw, and Ballard back so that we won't have to worry about T-Rich and won't waste what little draft slots we have. But I don't know if that will actually happen. :(
The Colts had managed to overcome bad calls and bounces before but, as long-time fans know, if something bad is going to happen, it's going to happen in Foxboro. (I had forgotten about the missed trip on Luck). What if the ref (the officiating in the NFL is in crisis situation) had ruled the Pats punter attempted to make a forward pass? Wouldn't the Colts have had the ball on the 2 yard line?Well, let's face it...the calls didn't affect Pagano and staff's complete lack of preparedness at the beginning of this game (and at least 10 games this year!). Everyone knew what the Pats were going to do in this game and somehow the Colts staff missed the memo. I'm having serious doubts about Chuck Strong's game-management skills. I mean, even Dan Dierdorf and the hot dog vendors knew that Chuck should've gone for it on 4th and 1!
@MarcusDugan Barnwell's preview on Grantland ended with basically, eh, it's a tossup. A lot of people will se one narrative or another (emotional momentum, or emotional exhaustion) but for me, I'll go with turnovers. He was right. It was a close, one-score game but for the picks on our side and recovered fumbles for the Pats. Mathis finally got his strip sack (better late than never) but nobody had a clue where the ball went until #70 fell on it. That stung. Literally every bounce of the ball went the Pats' way, from the missed tackles, ref no-calls, good coaching decisions, Havili's bobbled INT, the Punt that could have been a TD then ended up being just a safety (net 5 pt loss). And Rogers dropping every one of his targets. Dayum. Seriously, if three unusual plays went the other way its a tie game--not one that we should have won, but a much closer contest: Havili hanging on to the ball, The safety being a TD, and somebody tripping Blount on the 73 yarder. Their run game was steady and not bad, but until that point, they averaged under 4.0 YPC and gained maybe 120 yards total--good but not blowout good. As I told my sons, we didn't play well enough to win, but the final score was galling. Pats are 3-1 over Colts in playoffs, with the home team winning each time. Let's see how the 4-4 road team does in Denver next week.
The decision to head into the locker room with 40 sec and 2 time outs rather then take a couple of deep shots to get in field goal range really galled me. From that point on I was really scared about what Pagano would do. Sadly my fears were confirmed.
My first time on website and I got to say this guy actually watched the game. The comment about brady being less then stellar was fruitless though. The only thing the writer missed was a tripping no call that would have extended another colts drive. On top of the other no calls that stopped Colts drives and took the air out of there struggling defensive.
I do believe the Colts team and coaches overachieved this year and the GM needs to keep his mouth shut before playoff games.
Any more years like this for the GM. He should be fired.
Successful season on the field but a disaster for the front office. Bad draft, bad free agent acquisitions and one of the worst in-season trades ever. Grigson was bad this year. I hope he changes his gunslinger approach and his willingness to part with draft picks.
I tried to make this point to Greg and he disagreed, which was my fault for not being clear: the way the Patriots played the game was exactly what the coaches have been preaching all year. Run the ball, stop the run. I believe they're right, that's the direction we should go. But like you said, you can't force it if you don't have the pieces. We need to target a good C, send Satele and McGlynn packing.
Also need to study what Kelly did in Philly to keep his team healthy.
I'm sorry, I don't want to be that guy, but I will:
The commentators of Stampede Blue are collectively insane. They are mix between Daily Mail readers and Up All Night callers with their insane theories and opinions.
Sorry. I just sometimes marvel at being a fan of the same team many of those people are.
One of the more inconsistent teams I've ever watched, this Colts team has potential up the wazoo. Part of being young and dumb is that inconsistency, Pags and Pep MUST reign this in though. This isn't a college team, and while wild fluctuations in play are interesting, they don't make for Super Bowl winners.
That being said this is a gritty, entertaining football team.
It's going to be difficult to stop talking about Trent Richardson since he's dictates the Colts draft strategy. All I can think about is how I don't think any position is safe in the draft (except QB) but they can't pick until late into the second round because of the fourth string running back that cost the Colts a 1st round pick.
It's possible, but I don't see Richardson being cut. Too much investment.
If Grigson doesn't move heaven and earth to get Brown back, he is officially the worst GM in the league. He was soooo obviously the best back on the roster by any measure. Even pass protection.
@gaiter27 If the refs had ruled an incomplete pass, the Colts would've taken over on downs back at the original line of scrimmage (around midfield... can't remember exactly where, but wherever the ball was snapped).
I agree. But I stopped reading Barnwell's preview because it was too Patriot-centric for me. (Is that a word?)
That was awful. Completely agree. It was essentially a tease of the waving white flag...
@M1shot3times I hate our safeties, hopefully we do not keep Bethea around any longer, I have been saying this on the site for year, he is not good anymore and we need to move on, plus he cost too much, and even though Vinitari has been playing pretty good he cost too much as well.
Would like to add that pretty much all the offseason signings under produced, and needless to say non actually earned the contracts that they signed.
Just looking towards the future I do not see us doing much in free agency, but here is hoping our young guys develop and that the old guys skills don't dwindle too much...
Too many mistakes in this game even with the bad calls, we have to be better.
I think you're on it about Grigson. He could find himself on the hot seat if he has another offseason like 2013. That was awful. If he finds a little of the success he had in 2012, should be fine.
Yeah. Not going to open the TRich wound again. As good as he was in 12, he was that bad in 13. I just hope he's on the phone to Mack's agent as soon as he's allowed.
@smonroeI usually agree with Greg to a degree on that point. I don't agree that running and stopping the run are unimportant just because the passing game is such a huge key to success.
Here's what I think the Colts were hoping for. They wanted a team that could go toe to toe in a game like the one last night. A team that can run for 160 yards and suffocate the opposing running game on any given weekend, especially outdoors in January. But they wanted to do all that with an elite quarterback who can effortlessly sling it 30 yards to exactly where it needs to be. They want a pick your poison offense. The only problem is, the running (and stopping the run) part hasn't work out. Not yet, anyway.
They're just upset after a miserable loss that included some overt favoritism from the officials. I'm sure the conspiracy theories abound, but I always feel like it's a moot point unless it was a narrow margin, which this was not. Nevertheless, here is my favorite Patriots meme from last night. Keep in mind, I'm sharing his because I think it's funny. There's some truth to it, but he Colts lost this game on their own. They didn't need the refs.
@RyanOkunoYou're right. It'll be hard to stop talking about that. But at least we won't hear anyone saying "Richardson is about to break out this week," for awhile.
@RyanOkuno And seriously, what about TRich's run around left end in the 2nd half? You know the one - where he had the edge, but hesitated and made the blocked & falling LB look like a hero by tackling him. That was unbelievable.
@matt_has@hanksterI should've included that. I complained about it on twitter. The worst part was they called a time out so they would have time to take a shot, then decided to concede the half. I strongly believe that sends the wrong message to the team, and that it has a far more profound effect than people realize.
I do hope someone can teach Trent Richardson to get his feet up off the ground higher in the off season. Those hand slap to lower leg tackles takes him down almost every time.
It is a bit weird. Look at that game, every pick from last year (Hilton, Brazil, Whalen, and Fleener) came through.
But Werner and Horton disappointed. As did the free agent signings (those that actually started).How do you do that well and that badly? Weird.
The better team on the field Saturday night won the game. Any Colts fan should be able to concede that point. But to say that the officials didn't have a meaningful impact? First, the officials extend a Patriots drive on a phantom DPI call that turns a FG attempt into a TD+2PT conversion. (5-point swing). Next, the officials failed to call an obvious trip that would have extended a Colts drive. That particular drive? After the second-down trip, the Colts fail to convert third-and-long and then punt. The Pats' first play from scrimmage is the 73-yd backbreaker TD run. The refs had a significant impact on the game at a time when it was still within one score.
Having said all that: even as someone who has complained vociferously all season about atrocious officiating (#NFLRefsSuck!), even I can say that, while the refs impacted the game, the Colts lost because of terrible game-planning on offense and defense, bad execution on offense and defense, and horrendously gutless in-game coaching. That punt will haunt me until the Colts' next playoff game.
@matt_has@RyanOkunoThat play made me sad. It's like he slowed down and waited to be tackled. Also, you might both enjoy this link. Good satire:http://www.sportspickle.com/2013/11/trent-richardson-unable-advance-hotel-elevator-doors-close
@MarcusDugan @matt_has @hankster Message, schmessage. It's surely a wasted opportunity. Always hated that from the Manning Colts, especially when our opponents, in that situation, would take advantage of D weakness and succeed with 30 seconds left about 1/4 of the time. But when you kneel on the ball, you succeed 0% of the time.
@M1shot3timesyeah that excuse is played out for me now, he misses tackles, gets beat, misreads plays and doesn't haul in passes that hit his hands. but I agree on Richardson, he really does not get it, little arm tackles are bring him down now, he doesn't trust his speed, and he does not see open holes or run with explosion. He needs coaching up during this offseason, if he cant get it done, he won't be seeing the field much next year.
@MarcusDugan@hankster@smonroe@vinylsoundsgood @hankster @smonroe He took big gambles that did not workout, all of the guys had questions about production or injury or both, none proved they were worth it, maybe he will not gamble so much during this offseason.
Landry: injury issues, hard hitter plays reckless, I didn't think he was a good fit when he was signed, not the type of guy that Bethea needed next to him.Whalden: unproven, not fluid in pass coverageToler: unproven, injury issuesDHB: unproven, inconsistent, not the type of guy Luck needed, he needed guys with hands who can run routes bad fitCherlius: unproven in terms of the contract he was awarded, 2nd highest paid RT come on.RJF: unproven as a starter.All these players got crazy contracts that were not warranted
Draft picks follow the same trendWerner: lacked experience, and strength to hold the edge and to stiff to be a speed rusher(exactly what I said when he was drafted)Thornton: stiff, played to high at timesHolmes: injury issued, did not play the same when he came back from injuryBoyett: injury issues
This past season was all about taking gambles and non really panned out like we would have hoped, better luck next season.
@chip_bennett Yeah, they definitely had me wanting to punch some zebras in the teeth (not actual, innocent, furry zebras, just NFL referees).