This was a matchup that Indy should’ve easily won but their offense was ineffective after their opening touchdown drive. The Pats defense did a great job bottling Jonathan Taylor for the rest of the contest, which put the game on Gardner Minshew’s shoulders.
He was unable to get into a rhythm, and despite seeing little pressure, he played with happy feet and was inconsistent on his pass attempts. This allowed New England to hang in this game in the fourth quarter but the defense was able to close it out for the win. The Patriots were moving the ball well on the ground but an errant pass by Mac Jones led to a Julian Blackmon interception.
This would surprisingly lead to Bill Belichick benching Jones for Bailey Zappe on their last attempt to win the game in the final two minutes. The game ended on one of the weirder sequences I’ve seen.
On a play where it looked like the Pats had a false start, Zappe faked spiked the ball, and tried to force it into a covered wide receiver, and Rodney Thomas II got his hands on the ball to seal the win for the Colts.
This was by far one of the worst products the NFL has put in Germany but for Indy, a win is a win. Here are five takeaways from the contest:
Dayo Odeyingbo balls out
Gardner Minshew playing with happy feet
To no surprise, the Patriots entered this matchup with the game plan of taking away the Indy rushing attack and forcing Gardner Minshew to beat them with his arm. The plan worked well for them.
Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss combined for 71 rushing yards and Minshew’s inability to be a threat through the air allowed New England to hang in this contest.
Despite seeing little pressure throughout the game, Minshew was rushing through his reads, played with happy feet like there were defenders near him, and never got settled into a rhythm.
The offense needed more out of their quarterback, especially considering the offensive line didn’t allow a sack, and only gave up one QB hit. Minshew looked lost when nobody was open after his first read.
He would look to move around the pocket and his choppy feet didn’t allow him to step into his throws to deliver a more accurate ball. I also thought he had moments in the game where he could’ve picked up yards with his legs, which includes the play where he turned the ball over.
Minshew tried to get cute and throw across his body while on the move and the ball got tipped right into a Patriots’ defender’s hands.
The game's first takeaway belongs to @mylesjbryant 🏈
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 12, 2023
If he would’ve elected to run, it would’ve set up a third-and-manageable situation for the offense.
Minshew finished the game going 18-of-28 for 194 yards and an interception. This is the second game in a row he’s finished below 200 passing yards. If the Colts are going to make a playoff push after the bye week then they need more out of Minshew and the passing attack.
Rush defense struggled
This was another week where Grover Stewart’s absence against the run has been felt by the defense. When the Pats’ offense was able to move the ball, it came from their rushing attack with Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott.
It wasn’t explosive run plays by New England that got the job done, the longest run of the game came from Stevenson with a 10-yard gain. It was Stevenson and Elliott each picking up more than four YPC that helped set up their offense in manageable third-down situations.
Both backs combined for 142 rushing yards despite not getting a lot of chunk gains. Thankfully for the defense, the inconsistent passing attack from New England stalled a lot of their drives.
Stewart has two more games until he will be back so Gus Bradley has to find a way to get more out of his rush defense during the bye week.
4. Bend but don't break day defense
It was a mixed bag for the Colts defense. As I mentioned, they struggled in rush defense. As far as their pass defense, they were able to get pressure on Mac Jones in the first half. By the end of the second quarter, they had five sacks and seven QB hits.
It was a different story in the second half. The pass protection for Jones stepped up, they didn’t allow a sack in the final two quarters and allowed just two QB hits.
With the pressure on Jones dying off and their ground game humming, New England was able to move the ball better in the second half. Including the opening series of the game by the Patriots, they had three 60+ yard drives and got into the red zone four times.
That was an area that the Indy defense excelled in. They were able to force three field goal attempts, which one was missed, plus forced their first turnover of the game as well.
If the Patriots were able to get in the endzone just once on one of their four red zone drives, they likely would’ve come away with the win with how the Indy offense played throughout the game.
Interceptions close out the win
There were zero turnovers in this contest entering the second half, which pointed to whatever team won that battle would win this game. New England struck first by picking off Gardner Minshew on the first drive of the third quarter but luckily for the Colts, Chad Ryland missed his 35-yard attempt.
With momentum shifting the Patriots way in the second half because of their stout defense and the offense finding a way to move the chains, Shane Steichen needed his defense to make plays.
They had a missed opportunity on New England’s second drive of the second half. On third-and-goal, an errant throw by Mac Jones just went off of Julian Blackmon’s hands, which led to a field goal that made it a 7-6 game.
Indianapolis was able to make it a 10-6 game but the Pats were once again in the redzone and were poised to take the lead with a touchdown. That’s when Blackmon got his redemption from his missed opportunity, and came down with an interception.
— Cody Manning (@CodyTalksNFL) November 12, 2023
It was a rough day for Shaquille Leonard but something I didn’t notice live is that it appears that he tipped Jones’ pass to deflect it into the waiting arms of Blackmon.
The Indy defense was needed one more time after the offense failed to pick up enough first downs to burn off the clock. That was when that weird sequence happened.
Bailey Zappe forced a throw into a triple-covered receiver and Rodney Thomas II was able to jump on the ball to seal the game for the Colts.
— Cody Manning (@CodyTalksNFL) November 12, 2023
Indianapolis entered this game tied for the fourth most takeaways and will likely remain in the top five after today. In comparison, they had just 21 takeaways in 2022, and now have 16 through 10 games.
This has quietly been a strength for Gus Bradley’s defense this season.