PATRIOTS 38, COLTS 24 | MORE COVERAGE
■ Tom Brady threw three touchdowns (including his 500th), Julian Edelman made his return to the field, Josh Gordon caught his first touchdown as a Patriot, the defense forced a few turnovers, and New England committed a couple of their own in this win. (Read more)
■ Jim McBride’s game breakdown: A closer look at the finer points of the contest, including Edelman’s impact, milestone moments, Andrew Luck’s heavy load, a joint sack effort, a double score attempt, the lowlights, a lookahead, and more. (Read more)
■ Ben Volin: Sure, a double-digit win is always nice. But the Patriots should be ashamed that they let the Colts hang around for as long as they did. They have a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball before Kansas City comes to town in 10 days. (Read more)
■ Tara Sullivan: There was no doubt, Edelman couldn’t wait to play again, couldn’t wait to prove to himself, and more importantly to his teammates, that he’d come back to the field ready to perform the way he used to. (Read more)
■ Chad Finn: We’ve finally seen the Patriots’ offense in full, a unit that looked waif-thin just two weeks ago now appears to have options to envy. That, and 37 other thoughts on New England’s win. (Read more)
■ Nora Princiotti: Brady and Gordon made history on a broken play. It might have been an ill-advised chuck into double-coverage if intended for a receiver with lesser ball skills. Not for Gordon. “It just kind of goes to sandlot football, scramble drill,” Gordon said. “Go the opposite direction of what you were going.” (Read more)
■ Edelman finished with seven catches for 57 yards. Here is a look at every one of his plays from the game. (Read more)
■ Notebook: Cordarrelle Patterson blocker extraordinaire; Kenjon Barner released; Cyrus Jones inactive; mental check on a short week; the hurting Colts; and more. (Read more)
Everything comes together as Patriots rout Colts, and Tom Brady throws his 500th TD
It’s a connection so familiar, it’s happened 397 times before in the regular season: A Tom Brady-to-Julian Edelman completion.
But a torn ACL and a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs for Edelman prevented the pair from linking up in a meaningful game for more than 600 days.
That was long enough.
Brady and the Patriots’ offense wasted no time getting the speedy and shifty receiver the ball when he took the field Thursday night against the Colts, his first time suiting up in a non-preseason game since Super Bowl LI. On the first offensive play, Brady hit Edelman for a 9-yard gain. Brady went back to Edelman five plays later (13 yards) and then five plays after that (6 yards). The close friends and trusted colleagues teamed up seven times for 57 yards in a turnover-filled 38-24 win over Indianapolis at Gillette Stadium.
“We wanted to get him involved and he made some great plays,” Brady said. “Just good to have him out there. I’m sure we all want it to be perfect every time we go out, but I was really happy to be out there with him. He’s a great player, and obviously, the more great players you have out there, the better we’re going to move the ball and score points. You know, I’ve been playing with Jules for a long time and really happy to have him out there healthy and having fun.”
“It was great,” Edelman said of his return. “There’s some things that obviously we have to work on but it was good to get out there and catch some rocks and go out and make some plays and be with the fellas.”
New England improved to 3-2 while Indianapolis dropped to 1-4.
Although the Patriots held a 24-3 lead at halftime, two third-quarter turnovers kept Colts in the game, with Andrew Luck throwing two touchdowns to make it 24-17 early in the fourth quarter. But a historic 34-yard touchdown pass by Brady to Josh Gordon and a 34-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel, set up by a Jonathan Jones interception, put the game out of reach despite Luck and Eric Ebron connecting for a garbage time, 1-yard touchdown with 1:11 remaining.
“That was a great play Josh made, jumping over the top of two defenders,” Brady said. “That tells you the kind of confidence I have in a really short period of time. He’s earned it and happy to see him make that play. ”
It was the 500th regular season touchdown pass of Brady’s career, and Gordon’s first touchdown as a Patriot. Brady joined Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with 500 career touchdown passes.
“I think all these things like that, milestones and so forth, there are so many people that contribute,” Brady said. “So, I just think of all the people that have really worked hard. A quarterback doesn’t throw them to himself. He needs people to catch them and block and defenses make plays and coaches to coach. These are all great team awards. So, pretty cool.”
“It’s tremendous,” coach Bill Belichick said of the milestone. “That’s a lot of touchdown passes to a lot of different guys, too. There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady. He does a great job week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out, all of the situations. He does a great job.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski also reached a milestone, albeit smaller: His six catches for 75 yards helped him pass Wes Welker for second-most receiving yards in franchise history.
The Patriots looked sharp in the first half, as Brady opened 9 for 9 for 78 yards on the first possession, a 75-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard Cordarrelle Patterson touchdown catch. Brady went on to finish 34-of-44 passing for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. With as close to a full arsenal of weapons as Brady has had this season, New England added more balance in the passing game, as Brady hit eight different targets, including five receivers. Brady also recorded a 1-yard touchdown on the ground, a QB sneak and the 18th rushing score of his career.
James White, the ever-reliable and versatile running back, had a team high 10 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Michel finished with 98 yards and the touchdown on 18 carries.
The Patriots’ defense, which reasserted itself in Week 4 after two poor performances, forced three turnovers, including two by safeties, a position group that has taken some criticism recently for needing to make more plays. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung delivered. McCourty wrestled the ball away from Jordan Wilkins in the third quarter and Patrick Chung intercepted Luck just before halftime. Chung also teamed up with defensive end Trey Flowers to sack Luck for a 10-yard loss on Indianapolis’s second play.
Luck finished with 365 yards, three touchdowns, and the two interceptions on 38-of-59 passing.
The Colts, whose injury report included 14 players on Wednesday, dressed just 44 players. In addition to the usual seven inactive players, excellent rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) and cornerback Nate Hairston (ankle) did not dress. The injuries only piled up after kickoff: safety Clayton Geathers and linebacker Anthony Walker suffered concussions in the first half and did not return; safety Matthias Farley, who intercepted Brady, did not return due to a hamstring injury; and defensive linemen Denico Autry (hamstring) and Margus Hunt (knee) left the game and were ruled questionable.
Photos from the Patriots’ win
Here are updates from the game as it unfolded:
Patriots 38, Colts 17 (7:08): A Jonathan Jones interception set up a 34-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel on the next play.
Patriots 31, Colts 17 (9:19): Tom Brady threw the 500th regular season touchdown pass of his career to make it a two-score game. Josh Gordon was on the receiving end of the 34-yard throw. It was his first touchdown as a Patriot.
Patriots 24, Colts 17 (12:48): Andrew Luck hit Erik Swoope for a 13-yard touchdown.
Patriots 24, Colts 10 (2:26): The Colts forced another turnover, with Matthias Farley knocking the ball loose from Rob Gronkowski’s arms and Najee Goode coming up with it. It was officially recorded as an interception by Tom Brady.
Patriots 24, Colts 10 (5:00): Devin McCourty wrestled the ball away from Jordan Wilkins after the running back caught a pass from Andrew Luck. Tom Brady and Co. took over at the 50.
Patriots 24, Colts 10 (6:57): Chris Hogan bobbled a catch and Matthias Farley came up with an interception. Two plays prior, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 15-yard gain, moving Gronkowski into second for most receiving yards in franchise history. Stanley Morgan sits in first with 10,352 yards, followed by Gronkowski, and Wes Welker (7,459).
Patriots 24, Colts 10 (:13): Andrew Luck threw a 14-yard touchdown to tight end Eric Ebron. It capped a four-play, 35-yard drive that was set up by a 33-yard punt return from Chester Rogers.
Malcom Brown has a new brace on his left knee and looks like he's done for the night, but it also doesn't look too serious. Don't see John Simon on the sideline— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Patriots 24, Colts 3 (:13): Stephen Gostkowski made a 45-yard field goal to capitalize off of Chung’s interception.
Patriots 21, Colts 3 (:38): Patrick Chung picked off Andrew Luck to stop Indianapolis’s drive.
Patriots 21, Colts 3 (1:34): Tom Brady threw a 6-yard touchdown to James White, Brady’s 499th regular season touchdown pass. It capped an 11-play, 68-yard drive.
That's James White's fourth receiving TD this year, a team high. He has five TDs total.— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Patriots 21, Colts 3 with 1:34 left 2Q
Malcom Brown is going to the locker room— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) October 5, 2018
Malcom Brown is down after the play. Some sort of leg injury. Getting a lot of medical attention on the field— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Injury update: Patriots defensive end John Simon is questionable to return with a shoulder injury.
Josh Gordon just came out of the locker room. John Simon just went into it with team doctors— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Patriots 14, Colts 3 (8:58): After missing his first attempt of the game, Adam Vinatieri made a 54-yard field to trim New England’s lead. It was Vinatieri’s 568th career field goal.
Patriots 14, Colts 0 (12:14): Tom Brady punched it in from 1-yard out for a touchdown. Brady’s third-down rush came after two failed attempts by Sony Michel to break the plane. The touchdown capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive. It was Brady’s 18th career rushing touchdown and first since the 2015 season.
Patriots 7, Colts 0 (1:01): Adam Vinatieri missed a 38-yard field goal, banging it off the left upright. Andrew Luck had driven the Colts 74 yards on 14 plays.
Patriots 7, Colts 0 (6:21): On third and 5, Tom Brady targeted a wide open Julian Edelman deep, but Edelman dropped it and New England had to punt. The Colts took over at their own 6-yard line.
Edelman was thinking about his touchdown and took his eye off the ball— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
That was the same play that Patterson scored a TD on last week. Edelman was wide open, too— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Patriots 7, Colts 0 (8:17): Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung sacked Andrew Luck for a 10-yard loss on the Colts’ second offensive play. Two plays later, Indianapolis punted. Edelman returned it for 15 yards.
That was just Chung's first sack since 2016. He has 4.5 for his career— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Patriots 7, Colts 0 (8:58): Tom Brady hit Cordarrelle Patterson for a 1-yard touchdown. It capped a 12-yard, 75-yard drive. Brady completed all nine of his pass attempts for 78 yards. Julian Edelman had three catches for 28 yards. For his career, Brady now has 498 TD passes in the regular season.
Quick passes. No huddle. First downs. This is the Patriots offense we remember.— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 5, 2018
Patriots 0, Colts 0 (12:23): Edelman made his second catch on second and 6 for 13 yards.
Patriots 0, Colts 0 (15:00): On the first offensive play of the game, Brady completed a 9-yard pass to Edelman. It is Edelman’s first catch since Super Bowl LI.
The Patriots lost the coin toss. The Colts deferred to the second half. New England will receive the opening kickoff.
Pregame scenes and observations
As the Patriots made their way onto the field ahead of kickoff, Julian Edelman sprinted out of the tunnel to the opposite end zone, jumped in the air, and pumped his fist:
A few photos from warmups:
■ Julian Edelman, who is active, went through his extensive warmup routine. (See the full inactives list below.)
Edelman sprints out of the locker room and starts bouncing all over the field. He's going to tire himself out before opening kickoff— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 4, 2018
■ Adam Vinatieri, listed as having a groin injury on Wednesday’s injury report, was letting it rip in warmups:
Adam Vinatieri with plenty of leg from 57 yards into the wind. What groin injury?— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 4, 2018
■ The Patriots and Colts will be wearing their color rush uniforms. New England will don navy blue jerseys and pants.
For the Patriots, receiver Julian Edelman, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and receiver Josh Gordon are officially active.
New England’s inactives: offensive linemen Cole Croston and Ted Karras, cornerbacks Cyrus Jones and Eric Rowe, and defensive linemen Geneo Grisson, Derek Rivers, and Keionta Davis.
Edelman is coming off of a four-game suspension for a positive PED test and an ACL tear he suffered last preseason.
Gronkowski, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, was listed as questionable in Wednesday’s injury report. He left Sunday’s game against the Dolphins because of the injury.
Gordon is active for the second straight game after making his Patriots debut on Sunday against Miami.
Gronk has a few million reasons to play tonight. He gets a $109,375 bonus for every game he plays, and he's chasing $3.3 million in incentives based on play time and production.— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 4, 2018
New Patriots DE John Simon is active tonight against his former team. Rookie CBs J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen are also active over Cyrus Jones— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 4, 2018
John Simon continues to be in the mix at DE with Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise and Adrian Clayborn. He jumped Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis and Geneo Grissom in his first week here and those three are inactive again tonight, as they were vs Miami.— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) October 4, 2018
For the Colts, tight end Jack Doyle, offensive lineman Denzelle Good, receiver T.Y. Hilton, running back Marlon Mack, cornerback Kenny Moore II, defensive tackle Hassan Ridegeway, and cornerback Quincy Wilson are inactive.
■ To make room for Edelman on the 53-man roster, the Patriots released running back Kenjon Barber.
Patriots officially release RB Kenjon Barner to make room for Julian Edelman. Patriots only have two RBs tonight, James White and Sony Michel. Cordarrelle Patterson and James Develin can also take handoffs if necessary— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 4, 2018
■ The Colts promoted linebacker Skai Moore and cornerback Lenzy Pipkins to the 53-man roster, and activated running back Robert Turbin.
Story lines to watch
■ Edelman is playing in his first game since Super Bowl LI, coming off a four-game suspension and an ACL tear. He rejoined the team on Monday. Edelman will be a welcome addition to a receiving corps that struggled through the first four weeks.
■ This will mark the first time since Week 12 of the 2016 season that both Edelman and Gronkowski are on the field together.
■ The injury report for the Colts on Wednesday was . . . long. Among those ruled out: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (chest, hamstring), tight end Jack Doyle (hip), cornerback Kenny Moore II (concussion), defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (calf), cornerback Quincy Wilson (concussion), running back Marlon Mack (hamstring), and offensive lineman Denzelle Good (not injury related).
■ In addition to Gronkowski, the Patriots’ injury report Wednesday included seven other players, all listed as questionable: defensive lineman Adam Butler (knee), receiver Josh Gordon (hamstring), defensive lineman Geneo Grissom (ankle), tight end Jacob Hollister (chest), linebacker Elandon Roberts (calf), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), and defensive tackle Danny Shelton (elbow).
■ Quarterback Tom Brady explained one reason for his confidence in Edelman: Both players know each other’s body language so well from years of playing together, but another big factor is Edelman’s speed getting in and out of his breaks. Because Edelman is more quick than speedy, he gets open early in his routes.
“It’s very comforting for a quarterback to see a guy get open really early in a route,” Brady said earlier this week. “Julian — we ask a lot of him. He plays a lot of different spots. I think he’s capable of moving in and out of different locations, and it’s kind of specialty-type plays. There’s a lot that he does well, and hopefully it’s a smooth transition. Got to prepare this week — it’s going to be a big week of prep and then we’ll go out there and play Thursday night and see where we’re at.”
— Nora Princiotti
■ The Patriots and Colts have not played since 2015, and Indianapolis’s roster, in particular, has changed a lot since then. But, as Colts general manager Chris Ballard would say, the rivalry is back on. It just has some new faces.
Only six Colts who played in that 2015 game — the infamous Deflategate game — are still on the roster. They are quarterback Andrew Luck, tackle Anthony Castonzo, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle, safety Clayton Geathers, and ironman kicker Vinatieri. The Colts also have Ballard in place designing the roster instead of Ryan Grigson, and coach Frank Reich (not Josh McDaniels) replaced Chuck Pagano.
— Nora Princiotti
Colts’ keys to victory
1. Play day: Forget about the built-in excuses of injuries and a short week. It’s game time, and the starters and substitutes have to step up and go the distance.
2. Hackamore: The defensive backs (and this is a banged-up group) have to chuck New England’s receivers at the snap to prevent them from running free.
3. Ground training: Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines have to be quick to the holes to grind out yards and grind down the clock. Shortening this game will be huge.
Patriots’ keys to victory
1. Slot machine: Edelman is champing at the bit after an extra-long layoff. Get him the ball early and put that nervous energy to work right away.
2. Bad luck: Keep the pass rush momentum going by getting after Andrew Luck. He’s more mobile than you think, but he’s probably a little less of a gambler after his recent injury history.
3. Hot game: Sony Michel needs to keep the momentum going after a breakout performance. If he can get past the first line of defense, there should be plenty of room to roam.
— Jim McBride