INDIANAPOLIS – For all the talk leading up to Colts/Patriots about how the two teams would defend each other's weapons in the air, it was the running games which ultimately decided this one.
New England's efficiency in Colts (6-4) territory didn't allow for the home team to get within one possession for nearly the entire evening.
Here's a notebook look at the Colts falling 42-20 to the New England Patriots:
Patriots Control Line Of Scrimmage
From the opening Patriots (8-2) drive on Sunday night, it was clear that a heavy ground attack was coming the Colts way.
New England's 77 rushing yards on their first drive paved the way for an impressive performance that the Colts hadn't seen at all in 2014.
Coming into Sunday, the Colts were ninth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (98.1 YPG).
The Patriots chewed up 244 rushing yards on 45 carries.
"We knew we had to run it and stop it, and we did neither," Chuck Pagano said following Sunday night's loss.
"We had 14 yards rushing at half and they had (141). I think they finished with (244) on the ground. Any time that happens, you're going to get beat like we got beat today."
It was a coming out party for Patriots running back Jonas Gray.
The Notre Dame product went undrafted in 2012 due to an ACL injury suffered late in his senior season.
After Patriots running back Stevan Ridley went on injured reserve earlier this season, Gray was called up from the practice squad.
With a potent rushing attack, the Patriots controlled the time of possession and converted 9-of-12 third-down attempts.
In the locker room after the loss, Colts defenders accepted the brunt of the responsibility knowing that a performance like Sunday won't get this team to their ultimate goal.
"We all knew Denver lost," safety Mike Adams said of the wide-open AFC going into Sunday night. "We all saw that so in the back of our head, I can't speak for everybody else, but I knew we needed this. We needed it bad, but we're not out. We're not down and out. We're just going to keep grinding and get back to work."
Colts Can't Get Past One-Score Game
Coming out of the bye week, Chuck Pagano said the Colts needed to improve in the red zone on both sides of the ball.
In the NFL, many times what separates the elite from the rest of the league is what happens inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
That was once again the case on Sunday night as New England was a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone.
The early 7-3 lead for the Patriots proved to be the difference in the visitor's holding the lead throughout.
Every time the Colts cut the lead back to a one-score game (the two teams traded scores through the first three quarters and a half), the Patriots answered.
Andrew Luck pointed to his second quarter interception in Patriots territory as an example of the missed opportunities the Colts had on Sunday night.
"That'll be a theme that we will take from this game," Luck said of the chances. "You've got to score touchdowns in the red zone. When those early opportunities are there, you can't waste them."
With a ground game only producing 19 rushing yards on 17 carries, the Colts were left to their passing game to move the football.
While Luck did throw for his eighth straight 300-yard game, the contrast in balance compared to the Patriots proved to be the difference.
"They forced us to be one dimensional," Luck said after the game. "We just couldn't keep it close enough to have a fighting chance at the end. They certainly pulled away from us. They beat us fair and square tonight. They were the better team tonight."
Ahmad Bradshaw, Dwayne Allen Headed For MRIs
The early news of next week will be focused on the injuries of Ahmad Bradshaw and Dwayne Allen.
For Allen, it's an ankle injury that the third-year tight end suffered late in the first half before being carted off the sideline into the locker room.
Bradshaw exited the contest early in the second half and had a boot and crutches in the locker room following the game.
Chuck Pagano had this to say about the injuries to a pair of key offensive contributors, who both missed nearly the entire 2013 season due to injuries.
"Dwayne Allen went out with a mild ankle, did not return. He'll be evaluated, get an MRI and we'll know more in the days to come. Ahmad Bradshaw went out with a lower leg and he'll be evaluated as well, get an MRI," Pagano said.AFC South Lead Down To One Game
When Denver lost earlier on Sunday, the potential for home field advantage went up another notch for the Colts and Patriots.
A win for the Colts would have put them in a four-way tie atop the AFC.
However as the fourth quarter reached the final stages on Sunday night, it was the AFC South race that looked a whole lot tighter.
The Texans (5-5) won at Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.
With the Colts (6-4) loss to the Patriots, Indianapolis' lead in the AFC South is down to just one game with six weeks remaining.
The Colts do have the tiebreaker over the Texans and will try to push their divisional record to 4-0 on the year when the Jaguars come to Lucas Oil Stadium next Sunday afternoon.
After the Jaguars game, the Colts final two AFC South matchups will come in Week 15 vs. the Texans and then in the regular season finale at Tennessee.
"We've got to move on," Chuck Pagano said after the loss.
"We've got to get past this one in a hurry, get ready for Jacksonville."