In the first half of tonight's Colts vs. Patriots game, the Colts hung with the undefeated Patriots and entered halftime with a 21-20 lead. Maybe they could hang a banner for that or something, because they completely imploded in the second half. The Colts were closer than most people thought, but they lost 34-27 to the Patriots at home.
This game truly was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Colts looked as good offensively as they've looked all season, as the return of Andrew Luck sparked the offense to 14 points as Luck completed 17 of 22 passes for 140 yards and two scores without a turnover. The execution was much better than what we had seen, and while the defense struggled, a Mike Adams pick-six capitalized on a Patriots mistake. The Colts built this team to hang with the Patriots, and they did just that in the first half, leading 21-20 going into the break.
Unfortunately for the Colts, it's a sixty-minute football game, but somebody forgot to tell the Colts' coaches and players. In the second half, everything went wrong. Luck was not sharp at all in the second half. The offensive line was awful, including several holding penalties. And then there was that... um, fake punt? I'm not even sure what to call it, but I think we can safely say it was one of the dumbest play calls ever. You just have to see it. The Colts thought that having Griff Whalen at center and then one player to receive the snap would be able to get three yards against several Patriots defenders.
I thought Chuck Pagano did a fantastic job in the first half. I loved his aggressiveness - from going for it on 4th and 1 when he normally would have kicked a field goal to kicking a surprise onside kick, Pagano was coaching to win and being aggressive, which was great to see. But all that anyone will remember from the coaching was that baffling play call. Before the game, the MMQB's Peter King said that one of the biggest reasons why Chuck Pagano hasn't been given a long-term extension is because of the losses to the Patriots, and that if they lost big again tonight that Irsay would have even more doubts about whether Pagano was the guy. So in a close game, on primetime TV, against the undefeated Patriots, that's what Pagano dials up? Really? It's one thing to be aggressive and it's another thing entirely to be stupid. That play call was absolutely in the latter category. Keep in mind that, at the time of that play, the Colts were only down six. The game had absolutely swung in the Patriots' favor by that point and New England had the momentum, but in all honesty, after that stupid play call the game was pretty much over. It was so deflating (no pun intended) that it took all of the energy out of the crowd and the team.
But let's not put all of the blame on Chuck Pagano. That play will be replayed over and over on TV this week (and understandably so), but don't let that get in the way of some of the other takeaways: this defense that was built to beat the Patriots didn't do that. The Patriots racked up over 400 yards of total offense on the Colts, and while the run defense was better than in the past games, Tom Brady picked Indy apart through the air and the Colts looked utterly confused. Everyone knew that, with how good this Patriots offense is, New England was going to score points. This isn't a surprise, and we need to be sure to realize that this might be the league's best offense that the Colts were going up against. But regardless, they didn't look good defensively, particularly against the pass.
And the offense? Well, they scored three touchdowns in this game total, with only six points scored in the second half (all of which were on the final offensive drive of the game). That's not the way to beat this Patriots team with their great offense. The offense did a lot of good things in the first half, but they unraveled in the second half. Whatever gain they made early was undone late, and while I think we did see some positives and did see hope that maybe it will click at some point this season, the second half was another pathetic showing by the Colts offense.
The sky isn't falling for the Colts. This loss drops them to 3-3 in the standings, and they're still in first place in the AFC South. But they have a very tough schedule coming up, and what we saw most of all tonight is that the Colts still aren't in the Patriots' league. The Colts are the best team in the NFL's worst division, but other than that, what do we really know about them? They are 3-0 against the AFC South but 0-3 against any other division (all against the AFC East) - getting outscored 81-48. For a team that entered the season with Super Bowl hopes and expectations, this isn't what they hoped. Give the Colts credit: this game was closer than most people thought it would be. But after a positive first half, things fell apart in the second half (until the final drive). And the team that the Colts built to beat all offseason beat them once again.