Patriots-Colts takeaways: Run defense a real concern for Pats after loss


The New England Patriots' seven-game win streak has come to an end.

The Colts jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and held on for a 27-17 win in Saturday night's Week 15 game at Lucas Oil Stadium. It's the Patriots' first loss on the road this season.

The Patriots made a decent comeback attempt in the second half and cut the Colts lead to 20-17 with 2:21 remaining. But New England didn't deserve to win this game with all of its uncharacteristic mistakes, including several costly penalties, poor special teams and two turnovers.

WATCH: Kyle Dugger, Michael Pittman ejected from Patriots-Colts game

The Patriots will return home to Gillette Stadium for a pivotal AFC East matchup against the Buffalo Bills in Week 16.

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Here are four takeaways from Patriots-Colts.

1) Getting No. 1 seed will be tough

The Patriots would've been the No. 1 seed in the AFC if they beat the Colts. But after losing in Indy, the Patriots are now the No. 3 seed, although they would move up to No. 2 if the Tennessee Titans lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

FiveThirtyEight's predictive model gives the Patriots just a 18 percent chance of earning the No. 1 seed as a result of their loss to the Colts. Those odds would've been 61 percent with a win over the Colts.


The Patriots no longer control their own destiny in the race for the top seed. They'll need losses from both the Titans and Chiefs to move back up to the No. 1 spot.

The Pats still lead the AFC East division, though, and they'll host the second-place Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium in Week 16. If the Bills beat the Panthers on Sunday, that showdown in Foxboro next week will be for first place in the division.

2) Self-inflicted wounds prove fatal

The Patriots put themselves in an early hole with their worst 30 minutes of the entire season to begin the game. 

The Colts came into Week 15 with a league-best plus-13 turnover differential, including a league-high 29 takeaways. The Patriots helped the Colts improve both of those stats with sloppy first-half play.

After the Colts scored a touchdown to go up 7-0 in the first quarter, they stopped the Patriots offense and doubled their lead with a punt block and recovery in the end zone. 

Poor special teams cost the Patriots three more points in the third quarter when Brandon King jumped offside before Colts kicker Michael Badgley missed a 46-yard field goal attempt. The penalty moved Indy five yards closer and Badgley nailed the 41-yarder to put Indy up 20-0.

Other self-inflicted wounds included a false start by tight end Jonnu Smith on a 2nd-and-1 inside the red zone near the end of the second quarter. A couple plays later, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones threw his first red zone interception of the season. 

Jones threw another interception on New England's first dive of the second half.

New England again marched into the red zone early in the fourth quarter with a chance to get within 20-14, but another false start penalty by Michael Onwenu, this time on a 3rd-and-goal from the Colts' 2-yard line, backed up the offense and the Pats settled for a field goal to make it 20-10 with 8:57 remaining.

Overall, the Patriots committed eight penalties -- three above their season average -- for a total of 50 yards.

The Patriots did a great job throughout their seven-game win streak of limiting these kinds of mistakes and protecting the football -- both of which were genuine concerns early in the season when the team was 2-4. 

The Pats are not a good enough team to lose the turnover battle, commit a bunch of penalties and still beat quality opponents. These issues need to be cleaned up before a motivated Bills team comes to Gillette Stadium next Sunday in a crucial AFC East matchup.

3) Run defense is a concern

The Patriots have allowed some teams to rack up a lot of yards on the ground -- including the Titans in Week 12 -- but it didn't hurt Bill Belichick's defense because the Pats kept teams out of the end zone with great red zone defense.

That wasn't the case Saturday night as Jonathan Taylor dominated the Patriots defense to add to his league-leading rushing yard total. He tallied 170 yards on 29 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the Colts' win. He's now scored a touchdown in 11 consecutive games.


The Colts as a team ran for 226 yards on 39 carries (5.9 per rush). 

The Patriots entered Saturday ranked 18th in rushing yards allowed per game, while also giving up the fourth-most yards per carry (4.4) in the league.

New England's defense overall has been very good for most of the season, coming into Week 15 ranked No. 3 in total yards allowed per game and No. 1 in points allowed per game. The run defense has been below average on several occasions, and it's a genuine concern for this team as the playoffs approach.

4) Mac Jones finished strong after horrid start

Mac Jones hasn't often looked like a rookie this season, but he sure did for the first 35 minutes of Saturday's game. In addition to his two interceptions, including a costly one in the red zone just before halftime, Jones looked a little jumpy and indecisive on many plays. The impressive poise and composure in the pocket we've seen from him all season just wasn't there to start.

Jones deserves credit for overcoming that awful start and finishing strong, even though it wasn't enough to complete a comeback. The rookie QB made several excellent throws in the second half, including a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Hunter Henry to pull New England within 20-17 with just over two minutes remaining.

Jones finished 26 of 45 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It wasn't a great performance, but the resiliency he showed in the second half to give the Patriots a chance for a positive result was certainly encouraging.