Gresh's Grades: Patriots keep on rolling
GRESH'S GRADES: PATRIOTS KEEP ON ROLLING
By Andy Gresh
Special to CSNNE.com
This was a good physical performance after a huge win over Denver and a week off. The offensive line grabbed control from the jump and never let go. Defensively, the Patriots did a superb job; while they gave up yards, they didn't give up points. When your worst starters were the quarterback and a starting cornerback, and you still win by three touchdowns, you know you've put in a good day's work. The dreaded six-game gauntlet has produced no challenges . . . so far. Good win, but there's still a lot to do.
The quarterback didn't play great, but the seven guys in front of him did. The offensive line did an outstanding job at the point of attack and really leaned on the quicker, smaller Colts defensive line. I thought the ball was spread around nicely in the passing game, minus the dumb mistakes from the quarterback. The coaches finally acquiesced to the running game and pounded it in the second half, and Jonas Gray was up to the task. The production is at a peak right now.
Good, not great. The first interception from was just an inaccurate throw downfield on a questionable play call. They were running the ball effectively, and I didn't see the need to get greedy there. The second interception was Tom Brady seeing someone open (which he was), but the execution -- throwing off the back foot -- was just poor. Throwing the ball at all was a dumb decision. But what I loved is how Brady came out to start the third quarter and settled everything down with a great goal-line throw to Tim Wright. Brady gets a mulligan, but this wasn't his sharpest performance.
RUNNING BACKS: A+
All three backs played a role in this game, with Jonas Gray stealing the show. They displayed a bruising running style that worked in a game against a defense that has no ability to deal with physicality at the point of attack. Gray has an innate ability to run with power while picking his lane to run through and does a great job protecting the ball. Shane Vereen chipped in with some nice work in the passing game and he has become a valuable protector in that phase. James Develin continues to do great work in the running game and is consistent, which is worth its weight in gold.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B+
Julian Edelman had another drop but overall did a good job getting just enough separation to wrangle in five passes. I thought he would get more opportunities, but I don't think the coaches could have imagined how productive the run game would be and I have to think that took opportunities away from No. 11. It's obvious that Brady trusts Brandon LaFell, as he's the first guy I can remember to whom TB12 will throw the backside fade consistently. Danny Amendola ran some nice rub routes and had a few catches, but will only produce when Edelman is out of the lineup.
TIGHT ENDS: A
The Colts tried to take Rob Gronkowski away, to no avail. His individual effort on his touchdown exemplifies how he trusts his body and has another gear once he gets a little salty. I didn't mind his 15-yard penalty because it was aggressively finishing a block and it lit the fuse for his individual effort. When he feels good he plays good, so I'll live with the mistake. Wright is effective in the red area, and if that's all he does, then he's a weapon because he'll be guarded with a third or fourth option from most defenses, and that's a battle he should win.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A+
What a fantastic performance from this group. Brady was clean for the majority of the night, with a few exceptions. Cam Fleming came in as the sixth OL and did a nice job of helping the tackles and tight ends control the edge. It created some great lanes to run through. I also thought this was Ryan Wendell's best game of the year. The Colts are a big twist-and-slant team, which means offensive lineman have to play with their heads up and wall people off. He was perfect in handling that. Bryan Stork is playing at a high level for a rookie. Throw in some Develin and they moved people as well as they have all season.
They held a team that stinks running the ball to 19 yards on 17 carries, and 15 of those yards were from Andrew Luck scrambles. They gave up a touchdown on the short field quick change off the awful TB12 interception late in the second quarter, and they did give up some chunk plays for the first time all year, but those 20-plus yard plays accounted for the majority of Andrew Luck's passing yards. The running backs didn't hurt the Pats in the passing game. Overall a nice job of giving up yards but not a lot of points.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
Real nice effort from this group. They controlled the run game by holding the point of attack consistently, and overall did a nice job of keeping Luck in the pocket and not giving him lanes to run. The pressure wasn't great, but on longer down-and-distances they applied enough to make Luck pay attention while in the pocket. I like the development of Dominique Easley, as he had a QB hit. His versatility is evident, and they'll need more from him as they get ready to play two big road games against Green Bay and San Diego.
Best game of the year for this grouping. Dont'a Hightower has been 1,000 percent better in the Jerod Mayo role than he was last year, playing with confidence and control of the front seven. Jaime Collins forced a fumble with a great hit on Ahmad Bradshaw and played much better in space. I like Collins in man to man, and his recognition is getting better in zone coverage. These two controlled the Colts RBs in the passing game. Jonathan Casillas got some work in and will provide nice depth, but isn't close to being an every-down player. Akeem Ayers had his least productive game since coming over via trade. His role as a pass rusher is important over the next three weeks.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B+
This grade is lower because Brandon Browner had some issue. Coby Fleener beat him off the line twice in man coverage and that resulted in chunk plays. He also got beat in some zone coverage. His ability to redirect is average at best. He needs to make a proper pre-snap read and must trust his technique while playing with peak emotion. Darrelle Revis was fantastic regardless of who he was matched up against. He has also subjugated his ego and has embraced playing zone. Revis, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington all had either an interception or a pass defended. Browner brought an 'A' grade down, but this group is money.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
This was a game where the special teams really wasn't a huge factor because a) the offense ran the ball so well, controlling the clock and giving them good field position, and b) the score got lopsided. Stephen Gostkowski was great on kickoffs, as he is in domes. The return game was just fine and I thought Ryan Allen did a nice job in the punt game. When I can't write anything negative, that's a good thing because these units did their job.
'IT AIN'T BROKE'
1) The running game. As long as the coaches believe in it.
2) Red Zone production. TDs, not FGs.
3) Gronk. Light the wick and he will explode. Right, Sergio Brown?
'BUT IT NEEDS FIXING'
1) Turnovers from the QB. Don't be greedy and don't make sloppy throws.
2) Limit the chunk plays. They were good all year until the last two weeks.
3) Control emotion. Sunday it didn't hurt, but let's not let it become a habit because it will come back to bite you.
Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for 10 years has worked pre and post game analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.” Follow him on twitter @greshandzo.