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Snap Judgments: Patriots crush Andrew Luck and the Colts, 59-24

11.18.12 at 7:28 pm ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is the first tight end in NFL history with three straight 10-TD seasons to start his career. (AP)

FOXBORO — After a sluggish start,the Patriots used a big second quarter to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, pulling away down the stretch for a 59-24 win over Andrew Luck and the Colts Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

In the matchup between marquee quarterbacks, Tom Brady finished 24-for-35 for 331 yards and three touchdowns, while Luck went 27-for-50 for 334 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. It was the fourth straight win for the Patriots, who will next face the Jets on Thanksgiving Night in New Jersey.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rob Gronkowski had plenty of moments where he looked an awful lot like last season. The big tight end had a pair of touchdown catches, and finished the day with seven catches for 137 yards. Included in that were pass plays of 31 and 36 yards, both impressive grabs by the tight end. His two touchdowns made him the first tight end in NFL history to record three straight seasons of 10-plus touchdown catches, and the first receiver ever with 12 multi-touchdown games in his first three years.

•The Patriots were able to continue to force turnovers. Most notably, they had a pair of interceptions they were able to return for touchdowns. First, newcomer Aqib Talib took one back 59 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. (Talib did a masterful job on his way to the end zone, directing blockers as he took it all the way back for a 59-yard touchdown return.) Second, rookie Alfonzo Dennard took one all the way back at the start of the fourth, an 87-yard runback for a touchdown. In addition, the Pats got a strip sack from defensive end Rob Ninkovich in the third quarter that was immediately cashed in when Brady found Gronkowski for a 24-yard scoring strike on the following play. (Rookie Tavon Wilson had a fourth-quarter pick to finish things off.)

•The Patriots were able to minimize the impact of the Colts’ primary offensive option, Reggie Wayne. The veteran receiver, who came into this game at or near the top of most major statistical categories, was pretty much a non-factor throughout the day. New England was able to keep him to a relatively quiet seven catches for 72 yards.

Julian Edelman had a monster afternoon. He had one carry for 47 yards, and added five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he provided a nice special teams boost in the first half when he had a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. There were some impressive cuts on the play by the former college quarterback, who tip-toed along the New England sideline on the way to the end zone and never really had to break tackles on the way to the third return for a touchdown of his career.

WHAT WENT WRONG

•Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones went down with what appeared to be a right ankle injury the first half. The rookie, who came into the game tied with Ninkovich for the team lead in sacks (with six) and leads the team in quarterback hits (nine), did not return to the game. In his place, the Patriots flipped Ninkovich from one defensive end spot to the other, and utilized Jermaine Cunningham at the other defensive end spot. Jones, who is almost certainly on the short list when you talk about  Defensive Rookie of the Year possibilities, is a valuable part of New England’s defense — on a short week, it will be interesting how they utilize him this week.

•We’re nitpicking here, but the New England running backs were unable to run the ball consistently for much of the afternoon. Edelman had a 47-yarder in the second half, while Stevan Ridley had a three-yard rushing touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter (Shane Vereen added a two-yard run later in the fourth), but other than that, it was a quiet day for the running game.

•And while we mentioned Talib’s interception returned for a touchdown, he struggled at times in coverage, including one fourth-quarter play where he yielded a 43-yard touchdown reception to T.Y. Hilton. (That came on the heels of a first-quarter touchdown pass from Luck to Hilton that also appeared to be at the expense of Talib.) Overall, there was more good than bad for Talib — and he should improve as he gets more time in the system.

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