“This was just a football game against the Colts,” says Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “That’s all it was.” And he was absolutely right. For what was hyped as â€œSuper Bowl 41.5â€ the pre-game buildup to the meeting between these two unbeaten clubs far outstripped the action that eventually took place on the field. Nevertheless it was a decent game, even if the Colts did play below their potential. And what this game showed if nothing else, is that the Patriots are not unbeatable by a long shot; that consistent and intense pressure applied by the defensive line combined with a mistake free offense is no less a recipe for success against New England than it is against any other football team. What it also showed however is that the Patriots today are a much different team from just one year ago, and that the difference is very simply the fact that the acquisition of a receiving corps, the foundation of which is wide receiver Randy Moss, has completed their arsenal of offensive tools.
Part of the Colts failure offensively was their inability to finish their drives and score touchdowns early, and although New England’s 6th ranked defense against the run was certainly a contributing factor in that it wasn’t the whole explanation. It seemed to be only a matter of the Patriots defense wanting to stop the Colts at the goal line more than the Colts wanted to get in. Indianapolis running back Joseph Addai had a great day with 112 yards rushing and 114 yards receiving, but most of those rushing yards came on a 73 yard scamper through the Patriots secondary that featured a whole lot of missed tackles.
The Colts seemed to favor using running back Kenton Keith in short yardage situations, but whether they handed the football to Addai or Keith in goal line situations the Patriots stiffened and forced Indy to kick field goals for their first two scores. If the Colts had managed to get into the end zone on even one of their first two possessions which drove inside the New England 10 yard line they would have scored enough points to keep the Patriots from winning in regulation time.
But the real downfall of the Colts offense occurred later in the game. This offense who had four drives in the first half, none of them less than 50 yards and three of them for scores (they would have all been scores but for a missed field goal) managed to score on only one of six drives in the second half â€“ and that scoring drive was on a short field handed to Manning by the Colts defense, starting at the Patriots 32 yard line off an interception by Indianapolis linebacker Gary Brackett. Other than that one scoring possession, the longest drive by Indianapolis in the second half was 22 yards â€“ and that one ended with a fumble by Manning just before the two minute warning, when a Colts touchdown was all that could save them.
In the final analysis it was not so much a case of the Patriots winning as it was of the Colts losing. In short, Indianapolis ran out of steam on both sides of the football. Down the stretch the Indianapolis defense who had held New England to just a touchdown and a field goal through three and a half quarters gave up two touchdowns in just six minutes. Midway through the 4th quarter Randy Moss went on a deep pattern up the middle, leapt into the air and brought down a 55 yard bomb from Patriots QB Tom Brady at the Colts 3 yard line.
Until that 55 yard completion to Moss, Brady had only thrown 2 deep balls all game; one was intercepted and one fell incomplete. That first deep completion from Brady to Moss seems to have broken a log jam of unwarranted insecurity in Brady’s mind. From that point it was a short trip to Brady’s touchdown pass to WR Wes Welker and on their next possession his second long completion of the day to Donte Stallworth which set up the touchdown pass that won the game for New England.