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Drive of the Game

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Colts-Patriots Drive Of The Game: Defense Leads Another Comeback Effort

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INDIANAPOLIS — The boxscore will show a Tom Brady pass across the middle intercepted by Najee Goode late in the third quarter of Thursday night’s game against the New England Patriots.

But let’s take a closer look at the Indianapolis Colts’ Week 5 Drive of the Game, presented by Hays + Sons:

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Things were looking dire for the Indianapolis Colts heading into halftime of Thursday night’s game against the Patriots.

With 17 seconds left in the second quarter, Stephen Gostkowski knocked in a 45-yard field goal, and New England went into the break with a 24-3 lead.

Perhaps some wouldn’t have blamed the Colts for throwing in the towel at that very point. The team entered Thursday’s game already down to just 44 healthy players on its roster — 43 if you don’t account for left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who is still battling a nagging hamstring injury and was merely active for the game as an emergency option (and because all seven inactive spots were already accounted for by other injured players).

But the hits kept on coming for the Colts when Thursday’s game at Gillette Stadium kicked off. Linebacker Anthony Walker went out with a concussion. Safety Clayton Geathers went out with a neck injury and a concussion. Defensive end/tackle Denico Autry went out with a hamstring injury — as did safety Matthias Farley, later in the second half.

By our count, that’s 39 able-bodied players available by game’s end — and that’s not counting numerous other players who have had to play through some serious nicks and bruises. That translates to 15 percent of the 46-man gameday roster being unavailable, including starters at running back, tight end, wide receiver, left tackle, right tackle, defensive tackle, two linebackers and two cornerback — forty-five percent of the Colts’ combined starting lineups on both sides of the ball.

Oh, and let’s not forget to add on top of that: you’re playing against the defending AFC champions, and one of the greatest quarterbacks and head coaches of all-time, in their house.

Patriots are running away with this thing in the second half, right?

Wrong.

Despite all the injuries, all the miscues — all the factors going against the Colts — the team just kept fighting.

And a break here, a big play there, and all of a sudden, it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter.

The Colts have Andrew Luck to thank for a good portion of the comeback effort; for a second time in five days, he was absolutely on fire in the second half.

But on Thursday, the Indy defense is also to be commended for putting the clamps down on Brady and giving the ball back to its offense.

After the Patriots recovered a lost fumble by rookie running back Jordan Wilkins, who was fighting for extra yards after catching a pass from Luck near midfield, New England took over at the 50 up comfortably, 24-10, with five minutes left in the third quarter.

And, like Brady and the Patriots tend to do, they started to move the ball from there.

But on 2nd and 20 from the Indianapolis 25-yard line, New England made a rare mistake. Brady tried to fit a pass into a tight window to his tight end Rob Gronkowski, and Farley — who had picked Brady off earlier in the game — got his hands on the ball. Goode, filling in for the injured Walker, was able to pluck it out of the air from there for his first-career interception.

Goode had a 16-yard return to the Indianapolis 20-yard line, and Luck went to work, leading the Colts on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that took just 2:12 off the clock and culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Erik Swoope that cut the Patriots’ lead to seven, 24-17, with 12:52 left in the game.

Some costly mistakes doomed the Colts from there, and the Patriots took advantage, winning 38-24. But Indy continues to fight, no matter what the circumstances.

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