(SportsNetwork.com) – It wasn’t all that long ago that people were writing off
the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.
That’s not happening anymore.
New England tries to further cement its status as the top team in the AFC on
Sunday, as it goes after a sixth straight win against Andrew Luck and the up-
and-coming Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Patriots were beaten badly by the Kansas City Chiefs, 41-14, to fall to
2-2. Since then, though, they have reeled off five straight wins and have
averaged 40.2 points per game in those wins.
New England enjoyed a bye last week, but that came after an impressive 43-21
win over the Denver Broncos in Week 9. Brady threw for 333 yards and four
touchdowns in that win and moved past John Elway into fifth place on the all-
time passing yards list.
Brady did throw an interception, his first in five games and only his third of
Rob Gronkowski caught nine passes for 105 yards and one of Brady’s scoring
strikes, with Julian Edelman adding nine receptions totaling 89 yards with a
touchdown along with a huge punt return.
Over his last five games Gronkowski has 36 catches for 516 years and five
touchdowns. Gronk has caught 18 balls in his last two games for 254 years and
“Tom’s spreading the ball around, but Rob’s a matchup nightmare,” Colts coach
Chuck Pagano said. “It’s all hands on deck to try to make sure that that guy
doesn’t wreck a game. You see everybody trying to do that, but he finds a way
to make unbelievable plays. He’s a great player and they’ve got a bunch of
them, a bunch of skill guys that are making great plays.”
Since 2010, the Patriots are now a combined 30-3 in the second half of the
regular season. In both 2010 and 2011, the Patriots were 8-0 in the second
half of the year. New England was 7-1 in 2012 and 6-2 in 2013. Since Bill
Belichick became Patriots head coach in 2000, New England is 90-23 in the
second half of the season, and has gone 8-0 in the second half four times in
Belichick’s tenure and 7-1 three times.
New England’s defense had Peyton Manning rattled all day in that one, forcing
him into two interceptions. On the other hand, the Patriots have turned it
over just six times all season and is tied for the NFL lead with a plus-12
That could be bad news for Luck and the pass-happy Colts, who come into this
contest averaging a league-best 32.2 points-per-game, but are even in turnover
Luck has thrown nine picks on the season but is in the midst of what could be
a record-setting campaign. The 25-year-old has set a franchise record with
straight games of over 300 yards and leads the league with 3,085 yards and is
on pace to narrowly surpass Manning’s record of 5,477.
Over his last seven games Luck has thrown 21 touchdowns and has averaged 363.3
yards for a 104.5 rating.
“Their offense is doing a great job this year. They score a lot of points,
especially at home, and he’s kind of the ringleader,” Brady said of Luck.
“… When you play another great offense, you’re going to have to put up a lot
of points, similar to our last game. We realize we have a big job, too. You’re
right, my focus is on the other side of the ball, but you also know you’re not
going to be able to score 13 points and win the game.”
Like New England, Indianapolis is coming off a bye in Week 10, but was a big
winner the previous week against the New York Giants.
Luck tossed three of his four touchdown passes in the third quarter and the
Colts cruised to a 40-24 win in Week 9.
T.Y. Hilton hauled in three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, Reggie Wayne
posted four receptions for 70 yards and a score and Dwayne Allen had four
catches for 48 yards and a score in the triumph.
Indianapolis has now won six of its last seven games after starting the year
New England beat the Colts, 43-22, in an AFC Divisional Playoff game last year
and has won six of the last 10 regular season matchups. New England has won
the last three in the series, including the playoff game, but it has dropped
the last two in Indianapolis.
The Patriots need one more victory to guarantee a finish of .500 or better for
the 14th consecutive season. In fact since 2001, the Patriots are the only
team to finish with a record above .500 in each of those seasons.
Every other NFL team has had at least one losing season between 2001 and 2013.
Since 2001 no team has more November wins than the 38 posted by both New
England and Indianapolis.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Colts could be in for a long day defensively, as they have given up 31
passing plays of at least 20 yards and ranks 27th with an average of 263.6
yards passing allowed.
If Brady is given time, he could have a field day. With another 300-yard
performance he could tie Hall of Famer Dan Marino (63) for the third-most such
“They blitz quite a bit more than most of the teams that we’ve played, which
is going to be, I would say, a very critical factor in the game, our ability
to handle that,” New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.
Luck has been as good as any quarterback in the league this season, but New
England’s revamped secondary with cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon
Browner is really starting to hit their stride.
“They are very talented,” Colts wideout Reggie Wayne said. “They are ball-
hungry. They are definitely talented. It gives them a little bit to where they
can be a little bit more of risk-takers with blitzes and things of that
This probably won’t be the last time these two teams square off. Another
postseason matchup could be in the offing this January. But where that game is
played might be decided this Sunday.
Brady has been terrific, almost playing with a chip on his shoulder since that
Week 4 loss to the Chiefs. Luck has been tremendous as well, but look for
Belichick to confuse him all night. The Patriots brought Revis in for games
like the win over Denver and this one coming up. It might be a long night for
Sports Network predicted outcome: New England 35, Indianapolis 17