INDIANAPOLIS - Patriots owner Robert Kraft may have to call for a special session of the realignment committee to reconsider Indianapolis moving out of the AFC East next season.
The Patriots don’t want the Colts going anywhere.
In their last meeting as divisional opponents, the Patriots yesterday pulverized the Colts, 38-17, before a stunned RCA Dome crowd of 56,022.
Any thoughts of the Colts getting revenge were squashed in the first 30 minutes, when the Patriots blocked two field goal attempts and their offense exploded for a 28-6 lead. Wide receiver David Patten put forth an incredible performance by running for a touchdown, catching two, and passing for one. All but the second TD reception came before halftime.
Suddenly a team that was having trouble climbing out of the AFC East cellar is 3-3 and right in the mix.
The Patriots, who beat the Colts, 44-13, three weeks ago at Foxboro Stadium, outscored Indianapolis, 82-30, in their final series as division rivals. (The Colts will be part of the new AFC South next season.)
New England also posted its first road win of the season; entering the game, the Patriots had lost 14 of their last 16 away games.
“It was just so much fun out there,” said the Patriots’ Tom Brady, who enjoyed a quarterback rating of 148.3, the second-highest of the game (Patten had a 158.3 for his 60-yard TD pass to Troy Brown). Brady completed 16 of 20 passes for 202 yards with three scores and has thrown 131 passes without being intercepted.
“Just to be able to try different plays and see them working like that makes it interesting,” he said. “Our special teams made a couple of big plays and our defense was awesome. It was a game I hope the fans enjoyed as much as the players.”
Coach Bill Belichick spent much time during the week having his team practice special teams play. He released punter Lee Johnson, who had botched a key play last week, and warned the members of the unit it was time to make plays.
On the Colts’ first drive, Brandon Mitchell got a hand up and blocked Mike Vanderjagt’s 46-yard field goal attempt. Rookie Leonard Myers picked up the loose ball and ran it 35 yards to the Colts’ 29.
“Those were huge plays,” Belichick said of the special teams achievements.
One play later, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis called his first razzle-dazzle play. Brady handed the ball to Antowain Smith, who was going left, and he handed to Patten, who ran it back around right end for 29 yards for New England’s first touchdown.
Vanderjagt answered with a 42-yard field goal with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter, but in the second the Patriots made history.
Starting at their 9, Brady tossed a perfect ball to Patten, who slipped past David Macklin on a post pattern. Patten hauled it in and used his speed to finish the 91-yard touchdown. It was the longest play from scrimmage in Patriots history.
“It was one of those days when everything was clicking,” said Patten, who produced 226 yards - four catches for 117 yards, the throw for 60, the run for 29 yards, and a kickoff return for 20 yards. “Every time I touched the ball, I was able to make something happen. That’s what I pride myself on. I think I’m able to do that every time I go on the field, and today I made it happen.”
On the Colts’ next possession, Peyton Manning, who threw for 335 yards but was pressured throughout the first half, was sacked by Bobby Hamilton for a 9-yard loss as part of a three-and-out series. It was one of four sacks by the New England defense.
Weis’s second razzle-dazzle play was up next.
Brady passed laterally to Patten on the left side, who heaved the ball downfield to Brown. Again Macklin was the cover man, and Brown beat him and ran in for the score, completing the 60-yarder.
During the week, the play had been run the opposite way, with Brown throwing to Patten, “but I lobbied all week for the chance to throw it, and I got a chance to,” said Patten. “Troy did a great job beating his man.”
“It was a beautiful throw,” said Brady. “David practiced it once during the week. I remember when the play was called and saying, `Oh geez, a double pass, Charlie’s going crazy again.’ “
“If you feel you have a chance to put a fork in somebody, go for the jugular,” said Weis.
Brown, who again led the Patriots with eight catches for 120 yards, said the play-calling “livened things up a bit.” The Patriots played without Terry Glenn, who was scratched with a hamstring injury. “I think we just caught them off-guard,” said Brown. “It’s really fun, particularly when you make it.”
The Patriots then took advantage of a big Ted Johnson hit, which forced an Edgerrin James fumble that was recovered by Tedy Bruschi at the Colts 24 with 3:53 remaining in the half. Fullback Marc Edwards gained 10 yards, and two plays later Brady took to the air.
On third and 8, he threw for 9 yards to Brown to the 3, and two plays later flared one to Jermaine Wiggins into the end zone from 2 yards out, giving the Patriots a 28-3 lead.
Belichick knew even that bulge wasn’t safe against the Colts, who despite losing by three touchdowns, amassed 484 total yards.
“I was never confident against an offense like Indianapolis’s, even with a 21-point lead with eight minutes to go,” said Belichick.
The Colts, who had settled for a 42-yard Vanderjagt field goal with 11 seconds left in the half, took advantage of the Patriots’ weekly third-quarter letdown with a 68-yard drive on their first possession of the quarter. Manning hit paydirt with a 2-yard fade to Marvin Harrison, which was followed by a 2-point conversion toss to tight end Ken Dilger, making it a two-touchdown game.
The Patriots came right back with Adam Vinatieri’s 43-yard field goal with 4:34 remaining in the third, but the Colts marched from their 30 to the Patriots 6 on their next possession and got a 24-yard field goal from Vanderjagt to make it 31-17.
But the Patriots sealed it for good.
A late third-quarter drive produced a fourth-quarter touchdown, Brady finding Patten on a 6-yard catch. The drive was aided by a 38-yard interference penalty on Macklin.
New England kept Manning and the Colts’ offense off the field for the bulk of the fourth quarter, putting together an 18-play drive that ate 10:11 off the clock.
Nobody said it after the game, because there’s too much respect for the Colts and their coach, Jim Mora. But the Patriots sure are going to miss them.