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Colts outlast Patriots 10-6 to earn first NFL International Series win

The Colts front line recorded five sacks and the secondary secured two clutch interceptions in Sunday’s win

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon (#32) celebrates an interception in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Deutsche Bank Park — November 12, 2023 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts prevailed without allowing a touchdown in Sunday’s 10-6 win over the New England Patriots in Frankfurt, Germany, to enter the Week 11 bye with a palatable 5-5 record.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was benched after throwing a mind-numbing interception at the goal line late in the fourth quarter. Bill Belichick sent in backup QB Bailey Zappe for the Patriots final drive, who attempted a fake spike, but ultimately threw a game-sealing interception to Colts safety Rodney Thomas II.

New England orchestrated a 13-play opening drive – the longest dive of the Patriots (2-8) season – committed to using its weaponry in the backfield for eight consecutive designed runs. Rhamondre Stevenson trucked cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. and Ezekiel Elliot took a designed screen at midfield 20 yards to drive inside of Colts territory. New England controlled the time of possession as Steveson and Elliot took a combined 28 carries for a total of 132 rushing yards.

The Patriots’ drive stalled out inside the red zone as Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner stuffed Stevenson at the line of scrimmage, then teamed up with defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo to sack Jones. Patriots kicker Chad Ryland drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the Patriots their only lead.

Odeyingbo corralled Jones on third down to end the Patriots second possession, then secured his third sack on the first snap of New England’s third possession. The Colts front line recorded five sacks in the first half as Tyquan Lewis and Kwity Paye managed to wrap up Jones. Linebacker Zaire Franklin led the Colts with 12 tackles, increasing his NFL-leading season total to 114 tackles this season.

Colts head coach Shane Steichen choreographed the first drive starting with three dropbacks, which set up Jonathan Taylor to follow with eight consecutive designed runs for 31 rushing yards. Facing third down, Minshew scrambled out of a collapsing pocket and found receiver Isaiah McKenzie near the sideline for a 30-yard gain to drive inside Patriots territory.

Inside the red zone, Michael Pittman Jr. took a screen pass for a 10-yard gain and was tackled inches from the goal line. After a failed tush-push set up fourth-&-goal, Minshew tossed right and Taylor scored the lone touchdown from one-yard out to give the Colts a 7-3 lead. With a season-high 24 carries, Taylor finished with 69 rushing yards.

On the Colts fifth play of the second half, Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai tipped Minshew’s pass and cornerback Myles Byant picked it off at midfield to give New England its best field position of the game. The Patriots stuck with the ground attack on six consecutive rushes to drive inside the red zone. After Jones flung a dangerous underhand pass that fell incomplete, New England came away empty as Ryland missed a 34-yard field goal wide and above the right upright.

Starting from their own six-yard line, New England marched to midfield with six runs on seven plays, then Jones dashed left for 15 yards to drive inside of Colts territory. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jones hit Elliot on a screen to set up the offense with goal-to-go. Colts safety Julian Blackmon dropped a near-interception in the end zone, which allowed Ryland to make a 24-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, specialists Nick Cross and Segun Olubi set up a country road for Isaiah Mckenzie to return it to the Colts 47-yard line. On a pivotal third down, Indianapolis’ offensive line gave Minshew enough time to dance Michael Jackson’s Thriller routine in the backfield and deliver a first down completion to Pittman to move the sticks. Pitman led the Colts with eight receptions for 84 receiving yards, his seventh game with at least eight catches, which is the most in the NFL. Matt Gay drilled a 51-yard FG to extend the lead to 10-6 with 8:54 left in the fourth quarter.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Jones completed his longest pass of the game across the middle to Demario Douglas to march inside Colts territory. On third-&-5 from inside the 20-yard line, Jones fed Stevenson on a designed draw to convert the first down. New England came away empty for the second time as Jones lofted another errant pass short of the goal line that landed into the arms of Blackmon. Despite producing four red zone drives, the Patriots finished with six points.

Indianapolis kept its drive alive as Minshew slung a 28-yard floater from his own goal line, which was ultimately caught by a diving Josh Downs to force Belichick to burn his three timeouts. While New England leaves Germany with an array of questions to answer on how things ultimately unfolded, Indianapolis secured its first franchise win in the NFL’s International Series.