INDIANAPOLIS –A truism to which Indianapolis can cling following a disappointing 59-24 loss at New England can only help going forward.
That truism is the reality that no matter how decisive a game's outcome is, the result only counts once in a team's won-loss record.
Indianapolis entered a key AFC battle at New England on a four-game winning streak and cited all week the need to play smartly against a Patriots team holding the same 6-3 record and with wins in five of their last six games.
Largely on the basis of four turnovers, three of which New England converted into touchdowns, Indianapolis fell to 6-4 in Foxborough.
Quarterback Andrew Luck had two of his three interceptions returned for touchdowns, while New England converted a Colts fumble into a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski.
New England also scored on a 68-yard punt return by Julian Edelman, and that special teams play tied the game after the Colts scored on two game-opening drives.
The first scoring interception return provided the Patriots with a 21-14 cushion, and they never lost the lead the rest of the day. The touchdown following the Colts fumble pushed New England ahead by 21 points, and the second interception return followed moments later as the Patriots assumed a 45-17 lead. Edelman added another 49-yard punt return and a 47-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"That was it," said interim head coach Bruce Arians to Colts Radio. "The punt returns and poor tackling on the returns and then the turnovers, we shot ourselves with 21 points. Any time you give this team 21 points, you can't expect to win."
The last loss prior to the four-game winning streak was a 35-9 setback at the New York Jets on October 14. After that performance, the club's second straight double-digit road loss, the Colts rebounded with their longest winning streak since 2010.
In the streak were road wins at Tennessee and Jacksonville, and Indianapolis entered Sunday's game as one of six AFC teams with at least six victories.
The Colts knew the Patriots' ability to create turnovers. New England's 23 takeaways topped the conference and it plus-16 ratio in the category was the league's best.
The Colts proceeded to give the ball up four times, matching the total they had in the Jets' loss. Additionally, Indianapolis suffered five giveaways in the opener at Chicago and for the season, 16 of the club's 19 giveaways have come in the five road outings.
Playing in a venue where New England had won 83 percent of the time in the regular season since 2002, the Colts had an uphill chance after the Patriots scored 17 second-quarter points. New England followed with 14 unanswered points in the third quarter in sending Indianapolis to its fourth loss.
"Obviously, that wasn't the outcome we were looking for when we came up here," said Arians. "We knew we couldn't come here and turn the football over and have a chance to win. I thought our guys played extremely hard and gave us a lot of good effort, except some areas that we've got to shore up. We will fight our tails off so we can come back here in January."
Luck completed 27-of-50 passes for 334 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He set the NFL rookie mark with a fifth 300-plus game. Brady was solid the entire way, hitting 24-of-35 passes for 331 yards, with three touchdowns.
Brady teamed with Gronkowski (seven receptions, 137 yards) on four- and 24-yard touchdowns, while Wes Welker (7-80) and Edelman (5-58, one touchdown) were frequent targets who damaged Indianapolis with elusive running after the catch.
T.Y. Hilton had six receptions for 100 yards, including 14- and 43-yard touchdowns. It was his third 100-plus outing, tying Andre Rison's (1989) rookie record for the most in one season.
Indianapolis has faced this adversity before, specifically after the first road loss to an AFC East opponent five games ago. While the players will flush out what they can from the loss, Arians made it a point to tell players to remember the game and the feeling.
"Why would you? Whenever you get taken behind the woodshed it's kind of hard to forget," said wide receiver Reggie Wayne. "Hopefully, we take care of business and make sure we come back in this stadium."