Patriots vs. Colts takeaways: Matt Judon, defense wreak havoc in 26-3 rout

Patriots-Colts takeaways: Judon, defense wreak havoc in 26-3 rout originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Indianapolis Colts are as bad as we thought they were.

The New England Patriots' defense put on a clinic Sunday at Gillette Stadium, holding the Colts' offense to 121 total yards on 60 plays (2.0 yards per play) and 0-for-14 on fourth down en route to an easy 26-3 win.

New England sacked quarterback Sam Ehlinger nine times to tie a franchise record and cashed in on four Nick Folk field goals to pick up its second consecutive win and move above .500 (5-4) for the first time this season.

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Here are our takeaways from a Patriots victory they'll carry into their Week 10 bye:

Offense a work in progress under Mac Jones

Mac Jones didn't need to do much for the Patriots to win Sunday. Which is a good thing, because he didn't do much.

The second-year QB completed 20 of 30 passes for just 147 yards with one touchdown pass. While he didn't commit a turnover, he also took four sacks as New England mustered just 203 yards of total offense.

Part of the offense's struggles fall on the offensive line, which is down two starters in center David Andrews and right tackle Marcus Cannon. Isaiah Wynn replaced rookie Cole Strange at left guard in the first half and continued his disappointing season with more miscues.

Still, the offense shouldn't be this bad. The Patriots scored their lone TD after recovering a blocked punt at the 3-yard line, so Jones technically didn't lead a single touchdown drive in 14 possessions. New England's offense stalled out four times in Colts territory, leading to four Folk field goals.

The Patriots have a bye in Week 10, and they should use it to try to figure out how to get Jones and the offense back on track entering the stretch run.

Judon-led pass rush terrorizes Ehlinger

The Colts' offense was historically bad Sunday -- in part because Ehlinger had no time to throw.

Matt Judon was a menace, racking up three sacks while repeatedly beating right tackle Braden Smith off the edge. When the Colts made a point to stop Judon, another leak sprang free, allowing Josh Uche (three sacks), Ja'Whaun Bentley (one sack) and Raekwon McMillan (one sack) to get in on the fun.

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Indy's offense is a shell of itself without Matt Ryan and top running back Jonathan Taylor, so we shouldn't overreact to Sunday's performance.

But it's hard to ignore New England's nine sacks -- tied for the most in franchise history in one game -- which gives the team 32 sacks on the season, second in the NFL behind only the Dallas Cowboys.

New England will need this kind of elite pass rush down the stretch if it wants to slow down top offenses like Josh Allen's Buffalo Bills.

Special teams provides a needed jolt

Nothing makes Bill Belichick happier than good special teams play, so the Patriots head coach should be smiling after this one.

Marcus Jones sprung a 23-yard punt return and a 32-yard kick return, while Folk drilled all four of his field goals. But the Patriots' punt-block unit made the play of the day when Jonathan Jones screamed in to block a Matt Haack punt that was recovered by Brenden Schooler at Indy's 2-yard line.

It was an excellent play design that paid dividends for the Patriots, who cashed in two plays later on a Rhamondre Stevenson touchdown reception to take a 13-0 lead.

With the offense still stuck in neutral, New England needs its defense and/or special teams to step up and make key plays. Both units obliged Sunday, with cornerback Jonathan Jones sealing the deal in the fourth quarter with a late pick-six of Ehlinger.

An excellent defense, strong special teams and just-good-enough offense might be the formula for success for the 2022 Patriots.