Patriots still waiting for their first complete game
As each week passes, the Patriots continue to find
ways to win, even if the victories aren't as appealing to the naked eye
as fans -- and coach Bill Belichick -- would like them to be.
On Sunday, the Patriots raced out to what seemed
like an insurmountable lead against the winless Colts before holding on
for a 31-24 win, a game not nearly as close as the final score
Trailing 31-3, the Colts scored 21 unanswered
points in the fourth quarter to pull to within a touchdown, but they
ran out of time in the end as the Patriots salted away the final
seconds to improve to 9-3. Indianapolis dropped to 0-12.
What seemed like a near flawless win turned into a
sore subject afterward as most of the Patriots wound up disappointed
with the effort in the fourth quarter rather than reflecting on the
positive, which, in this case, was another win.
"We've really yet to play a 60-minute game,"
quarterback Tom Brady said. "I'd really love to see what the outcome is
if we do play a 60-minute game. There's things that haven't really
allowed us to be able to do that, and hopefully we can get that
straightened out going into this week's game.
"We've won four straight. We had two pretty tough
losses back to back six weeks ago, and now we've won four straight.
We're in a good position. We've obviously got some huge games ahead --
what more could you ask for in the middle of December?"
A complete game might be on this year's Christmas
list. Part of Sunday's fourth-quarter meltdown might've been a result
of complacency, which is seemingly natural when you consider the
Patriots led by 28 points against a team that had yet to win a game all
year. That might suffice for now, but it won't in January when the
Patriots are playing against elite teams in the postseason.
Belichick spent the week hyping up Indianapolis,
which drew a few laughs from the Foxboro press corps, but now he's got
even more ammunition moving forward after his team nearly flushed a
"He was on us all last week about finishing a
game, and I think that's the disappointing part -- he put a lot of
emphasis into that, and we didn't really play to that," Brady said, "so
I think that was the disappointing part.
"We've got to do a better job of that as players
-- we're all accountable as players. Certainly, I am; I could have done
a much better job on a couple of throws there in the fourth quarter
that I didn't make very good throws on. If I do that, then it's a whole
different outcome to the game."
Regardless, the blame will continue to fall on the
defense until the Patriots play that elusive 60-minute game. Brady and
his offensive teammates have been so consistent throughout the year, so
it's hard to blame Sunday's near meltdown on a few errant throws. Until
the defense reaches that championship level, every game will be
dangerous from this point forward.
"We were up 31-3, and I think everyone was
obviously happy with that," Brady said, "but we'd like to close the
game out a lot better than we did (Sunday)."
Patriots keep piling up winning seasons
--With their ninth win of the season, the Patriots
are guaranteed a winning record for the 11th consecutive season.
The Patriots have now won nine or more games in 15
of the 18 seasons that Robert Kraft has owned the team. New England is
the first team to win more than half of its games in 11 consecutive
seasons since free agency began in 1993.
--With two touchdown passes Sunday, quarterback
Tom Brady passed Johnny Unitas and moved into a tie with Warren Moon
for sixth on the NFL's all-time list for touchdown passes. John Elway
is in fifth with 300.
--TE Rob Gronkowski had his 12th and 13th
touchdown receptions of the season with an 11-yard score in the second
quarter and a 21-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He tied the NFL
record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end.
Vernon Davis (San Francisco in 2009) and Antonio Gates (San Diego in 2004) also had 13 touchdown catches in a season.
--LB Brandon Spikes missed another game Sunday due
to a knee injury. Spikes did not practice all week and likely will not
return until he begins practicing regularly.
--CB Devin McCourty returned to the lineup Sunday
but struggled in coverage against Indianapolis. Though it's hard to say
whether his struggles were due to his shoulder injury, it's possible
he's still not 100 percent.
--OL Dan Connolly missed his second consecutive
game Sunday with a groin injury despite practicing throughout the week.
Connolly likely will practice this week, too, but wind up being a
--LB Dane Fletcher returned to practice last week
despite nursing a thumb injury, yet he still missed Sunday's game.
Along with LB Brandon Spikes, he'll undoubtedly return before the end
of the season, but the timetable is uncertain.
--OL Nick McDonald was added to the active roster
Saturday, and he could be used in a pinch if both Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell suffer additional setbacks. Wendell played Sunday, but McDonald
will still remain an option.