The Colts' season ended the same way it did last year, in New England, with a thud. I would argue, and I think many would agree, this year's game was worse than last year. The offense got nothing going, and the defense was smashed by LeGarrette Blount yet again.
It was another hurtful loss to the Patriots. I will say this, though, as frustrating as the game was, as a fan I would rather endure a loss like that than what Packers fans had to endure just hours earlier.
In any case, I've got some awards to hand out for the final time this season. As tempting as it was to copy and paste my awards from the November game, I won't.
MVP - None
The Colts were out classed and out coached by the Patriots last night. The offense couldn't get going, and the defense didn't give them a chance. Andrew Luck was off on a night when he was needed, and his team gave him no help.
Daniel Herron dropped two key passes on the Colts second drive, Hilton dropped a, somewhat irrelevant, third down pass, and Nicks had a drop in the third as well. All season the Colts have struggled with drops, and it was no different on Sunday.
The defense didn't help either. If you had told me before the game that Tom Brady would have under 300 yards, and Rob Gronkowski would have 28 yards on three catches, I would have been happy. Unfortunately, that just meant that New England's run game steam rolled the Colts yet again.
Terrible Decision Award - 51-yard field goal & No Hail Mary
I'm giving this award for two instances here, and both are on Chuck Pagano.
The decision to have Adam Vinatieri kick a 51-yard field goal is typically a good one. However, that's normally when the Colts are at home, and inside. To have him attempt a kick outdoors, from that distance, in the wind and rain was stupid. Jim Nantz said that Vinatieri's career long in Gillette Stadium was 49 yards. Terrible decision to kick the field goal.
Then let's talk about the lack of a Hail Mary to end the first half. A poor squib kick by Stephen Gostkowski gave the Colts surprisingly good field position. As Nantz noted, Luck easily has the arm to throw up a 60-yard (or so) pass. Throw in the fact that Hakeem Nicks and Coby Fleener are big dudes, why not take a shot? I know things could go wrong, but on a road game, for the championship, take a shot there.
Curtain Call Award - Tom Brady to Nate Solder
Going into the half, the Colts were down 10. Considering a missed field goal, Josh Cribbs, and two dropped passes all happened, I wasn't too upset. No, the Colts couldn't stop the run, but that 93-yard drive was encouraging.
Then the Patriots came out of halftime and marched right back down the field. After Blount scored his first touchdown I was worried. On this drive the Patriots chewed up 87 yards in five minutes.
Of course, it culminated in a 16-yard pass to an offensive tackle. Sixteen yards to a lineman! This put the Colts down three scores, and made the game look incredibly bleak. It's one thing to give up a goal line touchdown to a lineman. It's another to give up a long catch and run to one.
Deflator Award - Patriots Running Game
Against the Ravens, the Patriots had 14 yards rushing, and completely abandoned the run in the second half. Against the Colts, they ran the ball 40 times, five more times than Brady threw the ball.
Blount again smashed the Colts defense to the tune of 146 yards and three scores. I suppose, if you wanted to look at the glass half full, his stats were better than last year's game.
And yes, I did pick the name of this award for a reason.
LVP - My Expectations
I suppose I'm guilty of drinking a little too much of the Kool-Aid after the first two games. So many times we've seen teams randomly get hot in the playoffs. The ‘07 and ‘11 Giants, the ‘05 Steelers (ugh), the ‘12 Ravens, and even the '06 Colts are all recent examples. After the defense showed up, in all aspects, against the Bengals and Broncos I thought, maybe they could topple the Patriots.
After all, last year the Colts strung together wins over the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers, and shut them down in doing so. After three punishing, and similar, losses to the Patriots, I expected the defense to come ready. I didn't necessarily expect the Colts to win, but I didn't think they would lose the same, exact way. Again.
They did. I'll be the first to tell you that I didn't see a way the Colts could beat the Patriots, on paper. But in the playoffs, you can throw paper out the window, just look at the NFC game.
Really, though, it was a great season for the Colts. After losses to the Steelers, Patriots, and Cowboys in the regular season, no one would have put Indy in the AFC Title Game, and there they were. They should improve (hopefully) and be right back in the thick of things next year.
For now, I'll retire my Pat McAfee jersey until Week 1 in September when the Colts open up the 2015-16 campaign.