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Bill Belichick: Patriots ‘definitely deserved to win’

11.17.14 at 12:38 am ET
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Bill Belichick and the Patriots won for the first time in franchise history at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick and the Patriots won for the first time at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Heading into Sunday night’s game against the Colts, it was clear the Patriots could win games through the air, but what about on the ground, as in three of their last four games (all wins) they finished with less than 100 yards rushing.

Those questions were answered in a big way Sunday night.

Running back Jonas Gray led the way, rushing for 199 yards and four touchdowns, as the team finished with 244 total yards on the ground in its convincing 42-20 win Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium — a building in which the Patriots had never won in three previous tries.

“That was good win for our team today, I was really proud of the offensive line and the running game,” coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. “I thought those guys did a really good job — controlled the line of scrimmage and really helped us get the game under control.”

“Hats off to the offense line, the tight ends, the offensive line, Jonas [Gray], [James] Develin, those guys. They blocked well, ran well,” he added.

The Patriots had an extra week to prepare for the game with their bye week (so did the Colts) and they played one of their stronger overall games of the entire season in getting a signature road win. Belichick now is 11-4 coming off the bye week as coach of the Patriots.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, James Develin, Jonas Gray

What we learned: Jonas Gray leads Patriots in blowout win over Colts, 42-20

11.16.14 at 11:29 pm ET
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Jonas Gray celebrates after one of his four touchdowns Sunday night against the Colts. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jonas Gray celebrates after one of his four touchdowns Sunday night against the Colts. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots survived a subpar performance from Tom Brady and got four rushing touchdowns from Jonas Gray to post a 42-20 win over the Colts Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Brady tossed a pair of first-half picks — one of which led to a late second-quarter score that cut the Patriots lead to 14-10 before the end of the half — but New England was able to overcome with a steady and consistent ground performance from Gray, who ended up with 199 rushing yards on 38 carries yards in the win — the sixth consecutive victory for the Patriots.

In the end, Brady ended up 19-for-30 for 257 yards with two touchdowns to go along with his two picks. New England also got four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown from Rob Gronkowski.

On the other side of the ball, Andrew Luck was 23-for-39 for 303 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. In addition, Coby Fleneer had seven catches for 144 yards.

Here’s what we learned about the Patriots Sunday night, who picked up the first win in franchise history at Lucas Oil Stadium:

Jonas Gray is capable of achieving beast mode.

The youngster out of Notre Dame had his best night as a pro, running violently between the tackles all evening on the way to his first career 100-yard game. The 24-year-old, who finished with more yards on Sunday than he had in his entire NFL career coming into the game, was a difference maker for the Patriots against the Indianapolis rush defense. While the New England running game is still lacking its lead option in Stevan Ridley, with (mostly) solid performances since he arrived on the active roster, Gray has earned the right to be called feature back going forward.

Shane Vereen can still get it done out of the backfield as a pass catcher.

The running back was a really dependable presence in the passing game against the Colts, catching four passes for 59 yards, including a 39-yarder in the second half that set the stage for the first second half score for the Patriots. Vereen isn’t the traditional between-the-tackles back like Gray, but the fact that he continues to bring a multidimensional presence in both the running game and the passing game makes him a valuable part of the New England offense.

Rob Gronkowski has a good memory.

Two weeks ago, Gronkowski was seen jawing with Denver’s T.J. Ward, the defensive back who went low on him last year and ended up knocking him out for the season. On Sunday against the Colts, Gronkowski went toe-to-toe with safety Sergio Brown on a number of occasions, and at one point, drove him clear off the field in the name of finishing off his block. It’s not as obvious as the Ward situation, but it is worth mentioning that Gronkowski and Brown share a similar history — Gronkowski injured his forearm in 2012 blocking Brown on an extra point. While it’s not know what they were jabbering about at the end of the play, it’s worth putting that series of plays between the two in some sort of historical context. Maybe Gronkowski is settling up all family business, Michael Corleone-style, or maybe it’s just coincidental. Regardless, it was still pretty interesting.

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Halftime analysis: Patriots 14, Colts 10

11.16.14 at 9:51 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — After two quarters here at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Patriots hold a 14-10 lead. Here are a few quick notes.

Tom Brady has played a pretty poor first half, throwing a pair of interceptions. After two quarters, he’s 10-for-19 for 84 yards and two picked balls, both of which were intercepted by Mike Adams. Time will tell just how bad a decision it was for Brady to decided to drop back on third-and-inches at his 17 and throw off his back foot. The lob pass was picked by Adams and set up Indianapolis’ only touchdown and gave the home team a huge boost with 55 seconds left in the half. The best offensive player for the Patriots through the first two quarters was running back Jonas Gray, who has 14 carries for 100 yards and his first two career touchdowns. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck is 13-for-19 for 173 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and Reggie Wayne has three catches for 70 yards.

— The Patriots got good pressure on Luck on their first series, and they forced a three-and-out. The New England offense was able to put together one of their longest drives of the season out of the gate, an 11-play, 89-yard sequence that ended with a 4-yard run up the gut by Gray. Gray provided 34 of the 89 yards on the series, with 77 yards in all on the series coming on the ground. On that drive, the Patriots displayed a commitment to physical football with the addition of an extra tight end (tackle Cameron Fleming) on three of the 11 plays.

— The Colts answered with an eight-play drive that included a really impressive 46-yard pitch and catch between Luck and Wayne when the receiver found a nice hole in the seam and got the Colts into New England’s red zone. (It looked like there was a miscommunication between defensive backs on the play, leading to the big pickup by the Colts.) Indy stalled out, however, and had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri to make it 7-3 with 4:19 left in the first.

— Best defensive moment of the first half for the Patriots likely came after Luck had maneuvered the Colts into New England territory at the start of the second quarter, but Darrelle Revis tipped a Luck pass that was gathered by by Devin McCourty. New England was able to cash in on the ensuing drive when Brady and the offense turned in an 11-play, 68-yard drive that took 4:36 and ended with a three-yard run from Gray to make it 14-3 late in the first half.

— Worst offensive moment (aside from the aforementioned pick) for the Patriots in the first half came when Adams picked Brady on New England’s second series, a ball that looked a lot like the attempted connection that went for a big score against the Bills. Erik Walden hit Brady on the play, affecting the flight of the ball. The Colts took over at their own six-yard line, but couldn’t respond with a score. The Colts were also gifted with a great chance at the end of the pass when Brady floated one up there that was picked off Adams a second time. The Colts turned that around quickly with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks just before the end of the half.

Live Blog: Patriots, Tom Brady take on Andrew Luck, Colts

11.16.14 at 8:01 pm ET
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Live Blog Patriots vs. Colts, live blog
 

Patriots suit 8 offensive linemen as Cameron Fleming returns, Dominique Easley will play

11.16.14 at 7:11 pm ET
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Cameron Fleming

Cameron Fleming

INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots will be dressing eight offensive linemen tonight as the result of their inactive designations for Sunday night’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

In a bit of a surprise, special teamer Don Jones was made inactive to make room for the return of Cameron Fleming, who has missed the last five games with a finger injury. For Jones, it’s just the second time in 10 games he’s been inactive and the first time since Week 3 against the Raiders.

Other inactives for the Patriots include DE Chandler Jones (hip), DL Casey Walker, RB James White, DB Alfonzo Dennard, OL Jordan Devey and WR Aaron Dobson.

Defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday, will play after returning Thursday and getting treatment for his knee.

Dennard is inactive for the third straight game after starting the previous three games. Chandler Jones is missing his third straight game since injuring his hip against the Jets on Oct. 16.

For the Colts, Ricky Jean Francois will start at defensive tackle for Arthur Jones, the brother of Chandler. Arthur Jones is out with an ankle injury. Other inactives for the Colts include ILB Henoc Muamba, OLB Victor Butler, OG Lance Louis, C/G Khaled Holmes, OT Xavier Nixon and DT Kelcy Quarles.

Read More: Cameron Fleming, Don Jones, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Rams help Patriots by pounding Broncos, Peyton Manning into submission

11.16.14 at 6:25 pm ET
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The Rams had Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the run all day. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Rams had Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the run all day. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — The stage is set for the Patriots to grab complete control of the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. And they can thank the St. Louis Rams for their help on Sunday.

Rookie running back Tre Mason had 113 yards on 29 carries and Kenny Britt caught four balls for 128 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown to power the Rams over Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 22-7. Greg Zuerlein added a career high field goals on five tries.

Manning was 34-of-54 for 389 yards with two interceptions. His only touchdown was a 42-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, ending a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes.

The Rams beat up the Broncos physically, as Julius Thomas sprained his ankle and will reportedly undergo an MRI on Monday. Emmanuel Sanders suffered a concussion in the third quarter, further slowing Manning’s passing game. On a day when they needed him, Wes Welker had four catches for just 28 yards.

If the Patriots could beat the Colts here at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night, they will not only have the tiebreaker over both Broncos and Colts, they will have one-game edge on the Broncos and a two-game lead on the Colts in the AFC race. The Kansas City Chiefs beat Seattle and now stand 7-3. They would be New England’s biggest concern down the stretch as they beat the Patriots, 41-14, in Kansas City on Sept. 29.

Read More: Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, St. Louis Rams,

How have Patriots done coming out of bye over last decade?

11.16.14 at 1:51 pm ET
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Over the last 10 years, the Patriots hold an 8-2 mark coming out of the bye, but the two losses have come in road games two of the last three years. In a weird scheduling quirk, the Patriots have faced the Bills in their first game coming out of the bye in five of their last 10 years. (Last year was the infamous Clete Blakeman/Luke Kuechly/Monday Night game against the Panthers in Carolina.)

2004: Week 4 — 31-17 win over Buffalo at home
2005: Week 8 — 21-16 win over Buffalo at home
2006: Week 7 — 28-6 win over Buffalo on the road
2007: Week 11 — 56-10 win over Buffalo on the road
2008: Week 5 — 30-21 win over San Francisco on the road
2009: Week 9 — 27-17 win over Miami at home
2010: Week 6 — 23-20 (OT) win over Baltimore at home
2011: Week 8 — 25-17 loss to Pittsburgh on the road
2012: Week 10 — 37-31 win over Buffalo at home
2013: Week 11 — 24-20 loss to Carolina on the road

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