INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts came up short in overtime on Sunday to the Houston Texans after storming back from 18 points down in the third quarter.
We've heard a lot lately about a player's postgame shower being symbolic for washing a game off of them so they can move on to the next. Now, with just 96 hours between their last game and their next one, they have no choice but to quickly shift their attention as they take on the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football.
Bear with me as I eventually take you to the current state of the Patriots.
If Sunday was any indication, then the Patriots have the league right where they want them.
Last year, they lost their opening game, started the season 2-2 and gave up 32 points per game in the process. After so many years of dominance, the talking heads started to ask, "Is this it for the Patriots?"
Nope. They would go on an 11-1 run the rest of the regular season and make it to Super Bowl LII.
In 2014, they also started 2-2 and heard the same rumblings. They answered by being famously "on to Cincinnati," going 10-2 in the rest of the regular season and defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
It's almost like you shouldn't try to bury somebody when all they've got is a cold.
Well, the Patriots got off to a 1-2 start this season and, you guessed it, people questioned if they've still got it.
New England responded last Sunday by defeating an impressive, previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins team, 38-7.
Quarterback Tom Brady made some mistakes, throwing two interceptions, but did what he needed to get the Patriots the win as he tossed for 274 yards and three touchdowns.
The real star of the show was rookie running back Sony Michel. The first-round pick toted the ball 25 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. The NFL also got its first looks at Josh Gordon as a Patriots receiver. He was only targeted twice in a limited role, but he is expected to be more involved as the season progresses.
The Patriots defense rattled Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who had been solid to this point in the season. He was held to just 100 yards passing and an interception, was sacked twice, hit a total of seven times and lost a fumble. Tannehill's ESPN QBR was 3.5.
It was a smothering display by New England, but Miami had a lot of self-inflicted wounds, as their two turnovers and 10 penalties made it hard to stick around. Overall, the Patriots led in time of possession, 36:22-23:38.
This week on the national stage, both teams could be without some star power. Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton left Sunday's game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, after having already previously suffered a chest injury. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski also left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Both were listed as non-participants on Monday's injury report (which, for the Colts, was an estimation of participation in a real practice; they held a walkthrough).
Regardless, these are two teams with top-level quarterbacks who must lean on the "next man up" mantra. Ironically, both teams may be getting a boost in this department with their stars ailing.
Colts running back Robert Turbin and Patriots receiver Julian Edelman are now both eligible to return from four-game suspensions to start the season. Turbin spoke to the media on Monday and said he'd be ready to go if needed; the team must make a roster move to bring the veteran running back back to the 53-man roster
Both teams could be getting their players back at the right time. The Colts have been the top team on third downs so far this year, but they have struggled to find consistency in the run game. They currently rank 29th in rushing at 72.0 yards per game, and Turbin is arguably their best third-down player and a sometimes incredibly-efficient running back.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are tied for 17th on third downs. Brady could use his partner in crime to help find a rhythm, as his current yards per attempt of 6.8 is his lowest mark since 2002 — his second full year starting in the NFL.
For the first time in what seems like 10 years in this rivalry, the Colts will have fierce pass rush to present to Brady. The Colts currently rank second in the NFL in sacks with 17, and Pro Football Focus ranks the Patriots as the No. 25 team in pass blocking with a 66.8 grade.
If the Colts can harass Brady consistently, they may be able to break their seven-game losing streak to New England.
2018 KEY STATS
- Tied for 2nd-fewest penalties (19)
- Tied for 6th in rushing attempts per game (28.5)
- 23rd in total offense (337.2 YPG)
- 5th in passing YPA (6.8)
- 23rd in third down defense (44%)
- 27th in run defense (121.5 YPG)
- 28th in sacks (6)
A look back at the Colts 2015 game against the Patriots.