If the Patriots get back on track and make a deep playoff run, the narrative will be that Saturday’s loss to the Colts refocused New England after a young team experienced success faster than expected.
If they struggle down the stretch and either don’t make the playoffs or don’t last long once they do, this game will be treated like the Colts exposed the Patriots’ flaws and created a blueprint for how to beat them.
Either of those would be oversimplifying what happened, Saturday.
All of the hype that presented the Patriots as the AFC Super Bowl favorite in recent weeks was fun and filled a lot of talk radio and ESPN debate airtime. But it was pretty obviously premature.
The seven-game winning streak was impressive. But it was reflective of a team climbing, not one ready to summit the mountain yet. New England might yet be a contender in a wide-open AFC, but this game was a reminder that they have steps to take.
At the same time, it would be a mistake to over scrutinize their failures Saturday and dismiss their recent success as fraudulent.
“It’s about being at your best when your best is needed and we weren’t tonight. I don’t believe that was us. I hope that’s not us. We’ve shown we can be much better than we were tonight,” Matthew Slater said. “As you begin to have success, there’s a tendency to read your own press clippings. Not to say that we did that, but human nature is to say ‘hey we’ve got this figured out.’ ... I hope we respond the right way moving forward.”
It’s not a wake-up call the Patriots need, but a lesson. They’re not the plucky underdog anymore. Teams are hunting them again.
The Colts treated Saturday like a playoff game, a must-win contest. They wanted to win because of their history with New England as well as their playoff position. Buffalo is going to do the same next week. The Patriots need to be ready.
The concerns from Saturday are obvious. New England is at its most effective when taking away the opposing team’s strength. That didn’t happen.
The Colts played the game exactly the way they wanted to. Jonathan Taylor has been the best running back in the NFL this year. Not only did the Patriots fail to contain him, but his 170 yards were well over his 103.7 yards per game average coming in. Even before his hammer-dropping 69-yard touchdown run to clinch the win, he was over 100 yards.
The Colts are effective when they’re dominated in the first quarter. The Patriots didn’t negate that either, falling behind 14-0.
Indy wins by forcing turnovers. Mac Jones threw two interceptions and New England got away with two fumbles. It was a step backward for the rookie, who’d largely been mistake-adverse for the last two months.
But even with those flaws, combined with eight penalties and dropped passes and interceptions, the Patriots nearly erased a 20-0 deficit against a playoff-caliber team on the road.
New England is long past moral victories and they should be angry — and Bill Belichick was definitely mad answering 10 different questions with some variation of ‘we didn’t do anything well enough to win.’
But there were still some positives to build off of.
Obviously scoring against a team with a big lead isn’t as hard as scoring in a tight game, but Jones was in a position he hasn’t been in, in a while and he made some big throws. He still has to prove he can lead a comeback in a big game and he had some promising reps in this game, an experience he’ll draw on later.
Overall, the Patriots defense looked pretty good. Taylor’s 69-yard jailbreak at the end and the Colts’ special teams touchdown skew the numbers, but they stopped Indy on eight of 10 third downs and had Carson Wentz off his game all day.
It would be hard for future opponents to watch this game and try to replicate what the Colts did. Other than Tennessee if Derrick Henry gets healthy, most teams don’t have a running back like Taylor and nobody comes close to dominating turnover-margin like the Colts do.
Next Sunday, Buffalo can’t do what the Colts did, but their motivation will be similar and the Patriots will have to match it better than they did Saturday.
“We’ll be all right. We just have to regroup and we the team we’ve shown we can be and not let one loss hurt us and ruin our season,” Devin McCourty said. “I’ve been in seasons where we’ve had some tough losses at the end of the season. It’s all about how you react.”
Source : https://www.norwichbulletin.com/story/sports/2021/12/19/patriots-need-loss-lesson/8960119002/1075