Schlosser’s Spotlight on Colts at Patriots
The New England Patriots trailed by 14 multiple times against Baltimore, but they refused to give up, and they fought back every time, coming away with a 35-31 victory.
It wasn’t the most convincing way to win ever, since they trailed for so much of the game, but they were playing a very good Baltimore team and they definitely proved that you can’t count them out.
Likewise, the Colts weren’t insanely convincing in their win, but they also didn’t look like they had too much trouble with the Denver Broncos after the opening drive.
Indianapolis kept Denver under 100 yards on the ground, they flustered Peyton Manning, and they simply looked superior for most of the game.
Andrew Luck proved that the Colts were right to invest in him, making some beautiful throws and really driving the team forward.
So, how will they match up in the AFC Championship game?
All respect to Andrew Luck and Vontae Davis, who I thought were stand-out players in yesterday’s matchup. Davis had some incredible jumps in coverage, and the Colts only let Peyton break the 200 yard mark because of some garbage-time stats. Though he did throw a pick, Luck made big plays when he needed them, with perhaps none bigger than the third-and-long toss to Coby Fleener.
I have to give them their due because those guys are very good, and they give Indy a chance, but my gut says that New England is realistically going to make short work of the Colts.
Tom Brady looked absolutely unstoppable at times in that Baltimore game. As soon as you started to think the Patriots were falling out of it, he’d come out and lead a drive down for a score, just seeming to hit on those mid-range passes over and over and over. He didn’t need to take huge shots down the field, but it felt like every pass moved the chains. He was brilliant at finding the right matchups, and the play calls definitely made that even easier.
I understand that John Harbaugh is frustrated because he lost, but it’s absurd to say that what happened was unfair. Deception is part of the game. As a coach, it’s his job to teach his guys what formations to look for, how to tell if a guy is on or off the line, and how to recognize which receivers are eligible and which ones are not.
To complain that the Patriots cheated—when they lined up four lineman and then declared Shane Vereen ineligible on the outside so that another player on the other side of the formation was uncovered—is ludicrous. To say that deception is illegal is crazy, as well. Like Mike Golic said Monday morning, even a play-action pass is based around deceiving the defense. That’s NFL football.
That wasn’t the only trick play that the Patriots’ used. They also ran a bubble screen to Julian Edleman, after seemingly waiting for Edleman’s entire career for people to forget that he was a college quarterback. He caught the ball and then threw a flawless bomb to Danny Amendola for a touchdown.
It’s that sort of swagger and confidence that’s going to propel New England. Their offense is clicking in a way that Denver’s never did yesterday. Anyone watching the Denver/Indy game saw how off Manning’s throws were, how many balls Demaryius Thomas dropped, and all the rest. Credit goes to Indy for playing good defense, but they still allowed Denver to stay within one score. New England’s offense, with the way that it played to dig out of two huge holes, would have been up by 14 at the least.
That’s what I think will make the difference. Indy has an absolute star in Luck, but they’re not that deep otherwise. Vontae Davis may be able to take one receiver out of the game, but Brady has never cared about throwing to a certain guy. He’ll throw it where he has the best shot. Every time. He’ll just stay away from Davis and carve the Colts up elsewhere.
Luck also showed his one weakness in this game: He does tend to throw a fair amount of picks. I think he had 16 on the year, so he averages one per game. In yesterday’s game, he threw two. Denver couldn’t fully capitalize, but New England will. Luck will keep it close for a bit because he’s a next-level player, but he ultimately does not have enough to beat New England all on his own, especially in New England. He’ll make a mistake late and the Patriots will extend their lead.
New England will win, in the realm of 31-17, to advance.
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