The Other Team Has Something to Do With It When You Win, Too.Jonas Gray deserves his moments in the sun for having had the best regular season rushing performance by a Patriot in over 40 years. It has to be gratifying for all the Pats, most of all Bill Belichick, that in the first half of Sunday night's win over the Colts Tom Brady positively stunk (10 for 19 for 90 yards and two interceptions) and New England still led 14-10 at the gun.
As I watched the rout unfold, however, it stirred cloudy recollections of football past. A bit of memory-refreshing research confirmed my vague impressions. In almost every particular, the most notable element of the Pats' 42-20 victory was its spittin' image similarity to the Pats' 43-22 thumping of Indy in last season's playoff game.
Gray is justly lauded for his 38 carry, 199 yard, four touchdown performance. But back in January, LeGarrette Blount, currently pouting himself out of a paycheck in Pittsburgh, had 166 yards in 24 carries and four TDs against the Colts. Brady's second half this year was as superior as his first was subpar. In the playoff win, he was very much the second banana to New England's running game once more, with a 13-25-198 passing line. The weather is always perfect in Lucas Oil Stadium, but at Gillette that January night, temperature at kickoff was a football-pleasant 57 degrees. Hell, Pete Morelli's crew officiated both games.
These parallels are most suggestive evidence that the 2014 Patriots are a superior team that has neared or reached its peak form since its narrow escape against the Jets. They are conclusive evidence that whatever form the Pats are in, they just offer a dreadful matchup for the Colts. The Pats can block the Colt front seven at a level which turns journeymen running backs into Emmett Smith. The Colts can't return the favor, which leads to Andrew Luck's arm getting very, very tired by the third quarter.
Diving a little further into the 2014 Colts, their dispiriting loss to the Pats stands as part of a much more dispiriting pattern. Simply put, any NFL team whose offense has a pulse is a horrendous matchup for Indianapolis.
The Colts have four losses in 10 games, having been beaten by the Broncos, Eagles, Steelers and Pats. In them, they allowed 31, 37, 51 and 42 points respectively. They couldn't stop Jonas Gray from running, and they sure couldn't stop Ben Roethlisberger from passing.
The concept is abroad in NFLland that Luck isn't all he's cracked up to be, that he's not "elite" because he has too many turnovers. Luck cannot offer his best defense from the charge, so I'll make it for him. Look at the other guys with the horseshoes on their helmets and note its likely that Luck will quarterback this bunch to the playoffs for the third time in three seasons.
Any quarterback who takes the field thinking "35 might not be enough points to win it for us" is going to wind up throwing interceptions. Luck also leads the NFL in pass attempts. That's becaus the Colts don't have many other ways of winning.