By: Denny Hackett
It was all about the offense on Thursday night when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots took down the Indianapolis Colts.
Brady added to his already illustrious legacy by joining Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw 500 career touchdown passes. Brady may not be the only quarterback to join the 500 club this week, as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees could also reach that mark on Monday night. On the same touchdown pass that put Brady up to 500, it was also Josh Gordon’s first touchdown since being acquired by Cleveland. This pass is significant because it was the 71st receiver Brady has thrown to, a new all-time record.
The offense looked excellent again, with Brady in particular looking sharp. He finished the night with 341 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The interceptions however, were not Brady’s fault as both came on passes that should have been caught by receivers. The biggest thing that stood out about Brady was his presence. All night long he was getting the ball out quick and finding his receivers in tight windows, including the touchdown pass to Gordon where he had all day in the pocket before squeezing the ball to Gordon in double coverage. For the second week in a row rookie running back Sony Michel had an excellent game on the ground, including a 34-yard touchdown. He finished with 98 rushing yards on the day.
Thursday’s game also saw the return of Brady’s favorite target, Julian Edelman. After over a year off, he finally got back on the field but the rust showed. He finished with seven catches for 57 yards and returned two punts. However, the Patriots leading receiver on the night was once again running back James White who caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Despite being limited with an ankle injury, Gronkowski looked like his old self and finished with six catches for 75 yards.
The emergence of Sony Michel over the last two games has had a tremendous impact on the Patriots offense. It has been a long time since the Patriots have had a running back playing with the consistency that he has shown over the past two weeks, and the offense has looked great because of it. James White has been exceptional this year through the air and forms a great duo with Michel. It’s also clear that Belichick and the Patriots trust these two, because aside from fullback James Devlin, they are the only running backs on the roster.
The Patriots receiving core has also made incredible strides, dismantling the idea that it was one of the biggest concerns of the offseason. Edelman was a bit rusty, but he should improve as the season progresses. Josh Gordon has also been a welcome addition to the team and should also continue to improve as he adjusts to the playbook. The biggest thing with Gordon is that it appears that Brady trusts him in third down situations. Bigger name receivers have come to New England in the past and have not been able to gel with Brady. That does not appear to be the case with Gordon who is improving every week.
Despite allowing the Colts to put up 24 points, the Patriots defense played well. On the day they forced three turnovers including two interceptions of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Safety Devin McCourty also recovered a fumble. The defense was only able to sack Luck once but kept the pressure on him all game. The team finished with six QB hits on the night. The defense also played exceptionally well when the game was still close going into the fourth quarter, and locked down the Colts to give the offense the opportunity to put the game away.
The Patriots two-game winning streak will be put to the test next week when they take on their toughest challenge of the season so far. They’ll face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.