In the Red Zone

The New England Patriots are looking to move on from nearly blowing a commanding victory over the winless Indianapolis Colts.  Head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t pleased with the effort and there was no “Victory Monday” day off for the team that usually occurs after the team wins.

So with one week to get the bad taste of a win, ironic I know, out of their mouths the Patriots can look forward to a road trip to the Nations Capital, Landover MD?, to face the Washington-adjacent Redskins.  Well that is where they play at a facility named after a company (FedEx Field) trying to put a federal government entity (Postal Service) out of business.

While reigning MVP Tom Brady continues to shine some of the others around him, namely the running backs and offensive line, need to step up their games a bit.  While we know Brady can and will shred a defense through the air, New England will at some point have to run the ball just to add balance and keep the opponent guessing.  They may also need to run the ball to put a game away.  Something they couldn’t do Sunday.

When they needed the run game to help close out Indianapolis it was non-existent and they failed to get a first down and left Indy too much time to mount a comeback.  This can not happen in the playoffs against better teams or it will be a short post season ride again.

The defense also needs to once again re-adjust.  They continually get shredded with crossing routes over the middle and between the numbers.  I’m tired of watching linebackers trying to cover a wide receiver in the open field or a safety being out of position.  If it’s getting to me Belichick must be smashing stuff.

I look forward to seeing a more consistent effort on Sunday in Maryland.  The defense that played the second quarter against the Colts was fantastic allowing only 1 yard of offense and no first downs.  Then as suddenly as it appeared, it vaporized.  I know this group has it in them to be good, not great, but good.  If the defense is good and the running game is good, this team could go to Indianapolis in February.

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Head coach Bill Belichick had his weekly day after the game media meeting about the week ahead.

Belichick is now 12-8 vs. the Colts in his career.  He is 10-6 against them as the head coach in New England and that includes a 2-1 post season record.

His 186 career wins are good for 9th all-time. Former LA Rams, Washington and Seattle head coach Chuck Knox is 8th with 193.

After the game, Belichick was not happy giving short, terse answers it was as if they lost game.

There is a roster spot open on the practice squad Belichick is expected to fill it shortly.

New England is a NFL best 63-15 in games played on or after Thanksgiving since 2001.

They are 26-12 vs. the Colts at home, 5-2 at Gillette Stadium.

New England is 38-5 in December games since 2001.  That’s the best in the NFL in that time period.

The Patriots are 19-1 at Gillette Stadium in December; overall they are 72-15 at the Razor.

LB Dane Fletcher missed his 6th consecutive game with a thumb injury, LB Brandon Spikes (MCL) and S Patrick Chung (foot) both missed their 4th game in a row.  C Dan Connolly (groin) missed his 2nd game in a row, T Sebastian Vollmer (foot) did not dress it was the 6th game this year he has missed with an injury.  QB Ryan Mallett was a healthy scratch for the 10th time this season and RB Shane Vereen was a healthy scratch as well for the 5th time this season.

This is what Tom Brady had to say about the ugly win on WEEI AM/FM on Monday morning.

Brady’s 120th career win pushed him ahead of Johnny Unitas for 6th all-time.  Fran Tarkenton is 5th with 124.

Brady’s 2 TD passes give him 30 TD passes on the year and 291 TD passes in his career ranks him 6th all-time with Warren Moon.  He passed Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas who is now 8th in the second quarter.  John Elway is 5th with 300.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 94 consecutive games including playoffs, 77 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

WR Deion Branch’s got his 500th career reception during the game.

TE Rob Gronkowski tied the NFL record for TD catches by a tight end in a season with 13 Sunday.  He was originally thought to have eclipsed the record but his 3rd TD was reclassified as a run when the league said Brady’s throw was a lateral and not a forward pass.

Gronk was the Sox & Dawgs Offensive Player of the Game.

C Nick McDonald who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday was the starting center.  He was the Patriots 4th starting center this season.  His family was at the game too, he got tickets a month ago and had planned on sitting in the stands and watching the game with them.

WR Matthew Slater was moved to safety and in his first NFL game on defense he had 7 tackles (6 solo) and 1 forced fumble.  DE Vince Wilfork had 10 tackles (5 solo), 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and 1 QB hit and they were the Sox & Dawgs Defensive Players of the Game.

The Patriots started 3 newbies on defense Sunday with Slater and newcomer Nate Jones both at safety and Connecticut native Niko Koutouvides at linebacker.

The Jacksonville Jaguars claimed WR Taylor Price who got released on Saturday on off of waivers.

If the season ended now the AFC Playoff teams by seed would be:

  1. Patriots
  2. Ravens
  3. Texans
  4. Broncos
  5. Steelers
  6. Bengals

The top 2 seeds get a bye week and the top seed earns home field advantage through out.

Here’s the breakdown of the defensive snaps and the offensive snaps by Mike Reiss.

Indianapolis K Adam Vinatieri was actually booed in Gillette Stadium.  This makes me sick.  People you need some perspective, the man is a Hall of Famer and he earned it by playing for the Patriots and making some of the GREATEST PRESSURE KICKS in NFL history.  That was pretty petty.

Albert Breer’s story about the special relationship between Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Colts C Jeff Saturday.

Pro Bowl voting is open feel free to cast your votes for deserving players.

New England plays the Washington Redskins on Sunday at 1 p.m. at FedEx Field in Landover MD.  Look for the Sox & Dawgs “In The Red Zone Game Preview” available on Friday.

Follow Steve on Twitter @djstevem