Four Downs with DJK: Colts at Patriots
This week the Patriots hosted the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday Night Football, a rivalry renewed, sort of.
Ever since Tom Brady's career began, he was always connected to the Colts; it was his first NFL start, the countless instant classics with Peyton Manning, and even Andrew Luck's first few years in the league made the Colts seem like a legitimate threat for years to come.
But not anymore.
Luck's career has been extremely inconsistent and injury-riddled. T.Y. Hilton did not play, so this should've been an easy victory, and it was. The Patriots dominated early, but let the Colts come all the way back to make it a seven-point game, before finally holding them off to win 38-24.
The Patriots offense looked completely different tonight with the return of No. 11. The very first pass of the night was an eight-yard completion to Julian Edelman, and the crowd erupted. This is the guy who makes the engine that is the Patriots offense run. It was crazy to think this was the first game Edelman has played since Super Bowl 51 (not including preseason), and he looked amazing. Sure, there was rust with his hands, but that was never my fear as that will get better. I was worried coming off an ACL injury if he could cut the same now as a 32-year-old, but he looked as shifty as ever. Perhaps the most important part of Edelman's return was how defenses would react, and it may have been the best part. I have not seen Rob Gronkowski streak right through the heart of the defense like I did last night since last year's Super Bowl. It also allowed Chris Hogan to return to receiving coverage from teams' weaker defensive backs, allowing him to look much better (even though he also had a dropped pass-turned-INT). Now instead of forcing receivers to play outside their normal roles, players like Cordarrelle Patterson could go back to exclusively catching screens and playing in space.
This Patriots defense is much worse than last year's on paper, and on the field. They don't generate much pressure and their coverage skills aren't great for about 80 percent of their opponents' drives until they hit the red zone. This will absolutely be another bend-but-don't-break defense this year. Yards will be given up at a potential record high but as far as points per game, the most important defensive statistic, the Patriots will probably be in the middle of the NFL rankings. This defense is very reminiscent of the 2011 Patriots defense that was all-time bad and even had players like Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman playing as defensive backs, but the one saving grace of that team was turnover ratio. The 2011 Patriots defense was exceptional at generating turnovers when it mattered, so much so that Kyle Arrington (boy, was he terrible) tied for the league lead in interceptions that year. I don't quite know if this Patriots team can generate turnovers like that team. They did generate three turnovers Thursday night, which is very impressive, but against the Colts it doesn't wow me. Let's see how they hold up against the potential best offense in the NFL next week in Kansas City.
Very ironic, on a night Tom Brady played very well, his touchdown to Josh Gordon was potentially his worst decision of the night. Gordon was double covered and Chris Hogan was open for most of the entire eight seconds that Brady had to throw the ball, but when it rains, it pours. The Colts defense is terrible, and even when they had an interception waiting for them, they messed it up. This throw was actually a milestone from Brady, as it was his 500th regular season career touchdown pass, and Josh Gordon was also the NFL record 71st receiver to whom Tom Brady has thrown a touchdown pass. The real highlight of this play was actually everything but Brady's throw, and it may not have even been the catch (although wow, was that spectacular in double coverage). I was most impressed with the offensive line, which held off the Colts rushers for what seemed like an eternity. Needless to say, with all these weapons coming together like Gordon, Gronk, Edelman and White (once again the teams leading receiver), in a matter of weeks and especially when the postseason comes, this offense could put up record numbers.
The Colts got the rough (no pun intended) end of the stick on this one. What is supposed to be the NFL's major rule change of the 2018 season, and we've seen it cost teams games already, was extremely inconsistent last night. The "body weight" rule insinuates when a defender sacks a quarterback, the QB is now defenseless at that point. The defender cannot throw his body weight on top of him and drive him to the ground, as it causes many potential injuries, like Aaron Rodger's collarbone last year. On the Colts' first series, Patrick Chung and Trey Flowers collided on top of Andrew Luck and sandwiched him all the way into the ground. There was no flag, while Tom Brady got a roughing the passer call when a Colts defender touched his helmet--which is the correct call, but it needs to go both ways. These calls are especially critical in a game like this, where at one point this was a one-score game and that call would've extended a Colts drive early.