Now sitting at 8-2, your New England Patriots have defeated the Ravens, Chargers, Steelers and Colts this season, all traditional powerhouses in the AFC. They’ve got a crucial match remaining with the New York Jets, but before then they need to worry about the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
The Patriots yesterday jumped out to a 31-14 lead, and held on to defeat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 31-28 at Gillette Stadium. The game was sealed by a James Sanders interception with the Colts already in range of a game-tying field goal.
The Patriots picked off Manning three times yesterday, and for the first time since January, 2005, Patriots fans got to see the Manning face at Gillette Stadium.
As has been their habit this season, this game was not a pretty nor easy win for New England. Then again, these are the games they were losing last season. These are the games they won in the early part of the decade, when the win would leave observers scratching their heads and wondering how the Patriots manage to come away with yet another undeserved (in their opinion) win.
Coaches love these games because their team got the win, but they have plenty of ammunition to throw at the players during film and practice sessions about what did wrong and need to improve on. The Patriots need to improve in several areas, most notably the pass defense in the middle of the field, but despite giving up 396 passing yards yesterday, they did manage to come up with those three interceptions (Meriweather, McCourty, Sanders) winning the turnover battle once again.
A high point during the CBS telecast was seeing Manning disgustedly throw down the overhead coverage photographs, as if to say “I fell for THAT??”
Patrick Chung was routinely getting beaten in the passing game, though it seemed at times he was expecting one of his teammates to be in a different position. He was beaten on both Blair White touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Expect a quick bounce back for Chung who has been perhaps their most impactful defender this season.
When did Gary Guyton become a decent linebacker? At times this season I’ve wanted him off the field completely, but in the last two games, he has been making plays at opportune moments. When did James Sanders become the big-play guy? He’s always been known as a steady-not-spectacular type safety, yet in each of the last two games he’s made a huge fourth quarter interception.
The offense was remarkably efficient, at least until the fourth quarter when they bogged down and could not extend drives and take time off the clock. With this defense, that is something that absolutely much improve. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 96 rushing yards and a TD, continuing his strong play, and Danny Woodhead continued to be downright Faulk-like when he comes into the game.
The Patriots roll into Detroit this Thursday afternoon, in a game that again seems to have the potential of being a “trap game.” Coming off wins over the Steelers and Colts, and with the Jets coming up two weeks from tonight, it might be tempting to overlook the 2-8 Lions, but that would be a mistake. We’ll see if the Patriots learned anything from that Cleveland game.