While the outcome wasn’t what Colts’ fans nearly expected, as the team fell 20-42 to the New England Patriots, it’s time to recognize the top performers in this past Sunday night’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium. These are players that went above and beyond their positional requirements, albeit in a losing effort:
Coby Fleener: The Colts tight end was one of the team’s few bright spots in Sunday night’s loss. With Dwayne Allen forced out of the game in the 2nd quarter because of an ankle injury, Fleener fully took over the tight end responsibilities. He did it to the tune of 7 receptions for 144 receiving yards, making several spectacular catches in the process. For Fleener, it’s never been about ability; rather, it’s whether he can consistently bring that ability and concentration on a week-to-week basis. As the Colts’ 2012 2nd round pick, there’s no question Fleener has the talent to be a special player at tight end, and hopefully, this was a bit of a coming out party for him going forward.
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo (74) celebrates after catching a pass in the end zone for a touchdown against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium. New England defeated Indianapolis 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Castonzo: On 3rd and goal, with 13:32 left in the 4th Quarter, Anthony Castonzo lined up as an “extra blocker”, only to sneak behind the defense (as an eligible offensive lineman) and catch his 1st (and perhaps only) NFL touchdown. It wasn’t so much the catch, as it was what Castonzo did afterward, doing his “Dhalsim from Street Fighter II” celebration.
Castonzo showed great bend at the knees, ferocity in his face, and even a little “wiggle”; leaving many to wonder how long did he rehearse this in front of his bathroom mirror?
Mike Adams: Perhaps, the lone bright spot of the Colts’ defense, Adams was able to intercept Patriots quarterback Tom Brady twice on Sunday night. While his 2nd one was a gift, it was still a key play, as the Colts ended up scoring a touchdown with little time to spare in the 1st half, only then down 14-10.
All season long, Adams has been one of the Colts’ top performers on defense, specifically in their secondary. At age 33, he’s provided the Colts with a consistently reliable veteran safety, and it’s tough to think about where they would be without him. Remember, he was originally brought in to be veteran depth and competition, not a full-time starter.
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft talks before the game with Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Vinatieri: Against his former team, Adam Vinatieri deserves some love. In 2006, Vinatieri left the Patriots because of the hardball stance the Patriots took with him in free agency. Rather than wait around, he signed with another of the AFC’s top teams then in the Indianapolis Colts. The rest is history.
While some Patriots fans claimed that Vinatieri could no longer consistently kick 50+ yard field goal kicks anymore, he had one on Sunday night from 53 yards at the ripe old age of 41 years old. He was 2 for 2 on the evening and is perfect on the season, having gone 22 for 22.
Pat McAfee: Like his kicking counterpart, McAfee had a brilliant performance. In his 3 punts, he averaged 56.7 yards per punt, including 2 of those being pinned within the Patriots 20-yard line. There’s no question in my mind that McAfee is the NFL’s best punter right now, as “The Boomstick” has simply had performances like this all season.
Run Offense: Ahmad Bradshaw had his worst performance on the season, only rushing 7 times for 4 total rushing yards. To add further injury to insult, he was forced to leave early in the 4th quarter after suffering a broken ankle. Of course, his performance was still a step-up from Trent Richardson, who rushed 7 times for 0 total rushing yards.
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To be fair, it’s not all the Colts’ running backs fault though, as the offensive line didn’t open up any holes and had zero push. The Colts ended up rushing the ball a combined total of 14 times for 4 total yards with their 2 aforementioned running backs. If you needed to know something about this game, that’s all you really needed to see.
It forced the Colts’ offense to be one-dimensional, and while QB Andrew Luck is good, he’s not quite that good. The offense has to maintain some resemblance of balance going forward. With Bradshaw’s injury, the running game has presumably taken a big hit. He’s been the Colts’ best running back this season and will be sorely missed. It’s now “do or die time” for Trent Richardson, as he’ll be the offense’s primary workhorse at running back.
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Patriots running back Jonas Gray (35) celebrates a first half score against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Defense: This unit allowed Patriots’ running back Jonas Gray to rush 38 times for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns. While Gray appears to be a solid running back, the Colts’ defense made him look like an NFL all-time rushing great. It simply can’t happen, and the Patriots weren’t doing anything special either. They were simply running the football up the middle at the heart of the Colts defense, over and over, with continued success.
However, it wasn’t just the run defense that was terrible, it was everything on this side of the ball. Aside from Mike Adams’ two interceptions, the Colts defense couldn’t stop the Patriots at all. They were forced to punt only once and dominated the time of possession battle, 34:21 to 25:39. If Brady doesn’t make those two ill-advised throws, the final score may have been a lot worse than 42 allowed points.