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Monday, November 3, 2008

Mental mistakes by players and coaches cost Patriots a win

With the Indianapolis Colts fighting for their playoff lives (in Week 9), the New England Patriots let them off the hook and let Indy walk away with an 18-15 win last night at Lucas Oil Field.

Down by three (18-15) and driving late in the fourth quarter, the Pats (5-3) made a costly mistake. Tight end David Thomas committed a stupid personal foul penalty which moved his team back 15 yards (and out of field goal range). After failing to make any headway on third down, New England made a curious move by going for it on fourth-and-16. The Colts (4-4) blitzed, hit quarterback Matt Cassel (25 of 34, 204 yards; 20 yards rushing), who threw up a duck that was intercepted.

The Patriots got the ball back with 20 seconds left but with no timeouts and deep in their own territory, the win was virtually impossible. The fact that the Pats didn't have any timeouts remaining was another fatal error. In the third quarter, Bill Belichick had challenged that the Colts had 12 men on defense. It failed and the Pats lost a key timeout.

While we're on the subject of plays that would have changed the game in New England's favor, receiver Jabar Gaffney was wide open and would have had a sure touchdown in the third quarter but he dropped the ball.

It was that kind of night for New England. This is the type of game that we've grown accustomed to seeing them win over the last seven years but not anymore. Not with so many injuries to our running backs (LaMont Jordan and Sammy Morris were both out again) and our secondary.

Peyton Manning (21 of 29, 254 yards, 2 touchdowns) wasn't as great as his numbers would make you believe. Maybe, I'm just jealous because I know anybody could tear apart the Patriots' cornerbacks.

Anthony Gonzalez (4 catches, 55 yards) began the scoring with a 12-yard TD catch in the first quarter.

Two Stephen Gostowski field goals (29 yards and 35 yards) in the second quarter cut the Colts' lead to 7-6. Clearly, the Patriots wanted to play keepaway from the Colts offense. This made for a fast-moving game, that was dominated by long drives for both sides.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (15 carries, 57 yards; 1 catch, 8 yards) scored from six yards out, to put New England up 12-7 in the third. Kevin Faulk (10 carries for 60 yards; 5 catches, 38 yards) tried to run the two-point conversion in but he was stuffed right before crossing the goalline.

Gonzalez caught the other TD pass from Manning, this one from nine yards away to put Indy up 13-12. The Colts went for two and were successful as Reggie Wayne (5 catches, 65 yards) caught the ball between two defenders and held on despite a big hit by Pats cornerback/safety Brandon Meriweather.

Gostowski added another 25-yard kick to tie it at 15 early in the fourth but the Pats could have had more. They had fourth-and-short inside the Colts 10-yard line when Cassel snuck for the first down. Unfortunately, Belichick had called timeout before the play started.

In a game so influenced by kickers, good ol' Adam Vinatieri somehow hit a kick from 52-yards to give the Colts the lead for good. Mr. Clutch has never been known for his big leg but it figures that he would step as usual.

Randy Moss had six catches for 65 yards and Wes Welker had seven catches for 37 yards.

The Patriots will have to turn the page quickly as they have three supremely important AFC East games coming up in a row. If New England could have pulled out a win last night, they would have held a one-game lead on the Bills (5-3) and Jets (5-3). As it stands now, the Patriots, Jets and Bills are in a three-way tie. The Bills come to Gillette Stadium next Sunday afternoon (in a game I will be attending) and then the Jets come to town on the following Thursday night.

The division is much improved as even the Dolphins (4-4) are playing consistent ball. It would have been beautiful to put Peyton and the Colts out of the playoffs last night but failure to execute killed the Patriots.

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