After an early season scare, the Patriots are back on track. They followed up their Week Four domination of division foe Miami by running the Indianapolis Colts out of the building. The Colts couldn’t get anything going in the first half and the Patriots were cruising to victory, leading 24-3 at the half. QB Tom Brady, who would become the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 touchdowns, tossed a pair in the first half scores to WR Cordarrelle Patterson and RB James White. Brady would even rush for a touchdown on a QB sneak.
After the break, the Colts predictably relied on the pass to try to get back into the game. A pair of Brady interceptions, both coming on tipped balls, helped the Colts' cause. QB Andrew Luck hit each of his tight ends for second-half touchdowns, first finding TE Eric Ebron for a 14-yarder and then TE Erik Swoope from 13 yards away. The Swoope touchdown cut the Colts’ deficit to just seven points, a score of 24-17. That wouldn’t last long.
Brady would lead a quick 75-yard drive with the final 34 yards coming on a deep bomb from Brady to his newest teammate, WR Josh Gordon. It was only Gordon’s second catch of the night but it was his first touchdown with New England and Brady’s 500th career passing touchdown, joining Peyton Manning and Brett Favre as the only players to reach that mark. Saints QB Drew Brees should join the group soon, as well. On the next drive, Luck was intercepted and the Patriots then put together a one-play drive which was a 34-yard touchdown rush from rookie RB Sony Michel. The Colts added a meaningless touchdown to Ebron, his second of the game, with under two minutes remaining to reach the final score of 38-24.
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The Colts were without three of their key offensive personnel, including WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring), RB Marlon Mack (hamstring) and TE Jack Doyle, who has now missed three games with a hip injury. Luck would focus on Ebron as his primary target. The former Lion responded with his first career 100-yard game as well as his first career multiple touchdown game. The 15 targets for Ebron was also a career-best number.
Last week, Luck set a new career-high with 62 pass attempts. Against the Patriots on Thursday, he nearly matched that mark, throwing 59 times for 365 yards and three touchdowns, along with a pair of interceptions. The “Luck noodle arm” narrative is certainly being put to the test and he seems to be getting stronger each week. With an almost non-existent running game, Luck will continue to see a high volume of pass attempts each game.
Rookie RB Nyheim Hines continues to be the lone bright spot from this backfield. He rushed for 45 yards along with seven receptions for another 45 yards. WRs Chester Rogers (8/66) and Ryan Grant (6/58) chipped in with respectable performances with Hilton out of the lineup.
As previously discussed, Brady was dominant early in the game and then did what he needed to hold off the Colts. He finished with 341 passing yards and three touchdowns, while rookie RB Michel totaled 110 yards and a touchdown. That’s his second consecutive productive game as the Pats try to force him into the workhorse back role.
Each of the New England pass-catchers has an interesting storyline to follow. RB James White continued to be the top target for Brady, catching 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Even with the arrival of Gordon and the return of WR Julian Edelman (more on that soon), White remains the top option. There was some doubt about whether TE Rob Gronkowski would even be able to play on a hobbled ankle. He did play and enjoyed his best game since the season-opener, catching six balls for 75 yards, though he was somewhat responsible for one of Brady’s interceptions that bounced out of his hands. Edelman did return to the field after his four-game suspension for PED use. He caught seven passes for 57 yards, while Gordon finished with a 2/50/1 line on four targets. Finally, WR Chris Hogan remains a disappointment for fantasy players. He caught three passes for 34 yards and is headed towards another weekly finish outside the top 75 receivers. It might be time to cut bait with Hogan in seasonal leagues.
The Packers might be in trouble this week. WRs Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion) were already iffy for the team’s Week Five game and now top WR Davante Adams’ status is in doubt after he suffered a calf injury during practice. If all three veterans are forced to sit, they’d likely be replaced by the trio of receivers the team drafted in the spring, namely J’Mon Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (hamstring) missed another practice yesterday and HC Mike Zimmer called his questionable for the Week Five game against Philadelphia. Cook returned to the field in Week Four but was on a “pitch count” and may have suffered a setback. If he can’t go, veteran RB Latavius Murray would draw the start.
The Saints signed former third-round pick CB Josh Robinson . ... Broncos HC Vance Joseph claimed he wants to see rookie RB Royce Freeman more touches. Freeman is averaging 11 carries per game. ... Veteran WR Rishard Matthews, who requested and was given his release from the Tennessee Titans recently, has hired agent Drew Rosenhaus. There are many teams that could use a player like Matthews. ... The Patriots released RB Kenjon Barner in order to make room for WR Julian Edelman.
Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (knee) is expected to make his return to the field this week after missing the past three games. Freeman said he feels “explosive”. ... Bengals veteran RB Giovani Bernard (knee) missed another practice and is now looking like a long-shot to play in Week Five. Bernard’s teammate RB Joe Mixon (knee) is expected to return to the field after missing multiple games. He got in a full practice. ... Bengals WR John Ross (groin) missed practice. ... In some surprising news, Panthers TE Greg Olsen (foot) participated in individual drills at practice and is trending towards playing much sooner than originally expected. ... Redskins WR Josh Doctson (heel) did not practice after injuring his foot earlier in the week during practice. ... Ravens RB Alex Collins missed practice on Thursday but a beat writer later explained that this was only precautionary and Collins should be good to go for Week Five. ... Chargers WR Travis Benjamin is expected to miss up to three weeks after aggravating his foot injury last week. Benjamin has been dealing with the injury all season. ... A large number of players managed a limited practice on Thursday. Among them were: WR Antonio Callaway (knee), WR Jarvis Landry (knee), WR DeVante Parker (quad), WR Will Fuller (hamstring), RB LeGarrette Blount (illness), WR Quincy Enunwa (hip), WR Julio Jones (ankle), TE Hayden Hurst (foot), WR Cole Beasley (ankle), WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle), RB Lamar Miller (chest), WR Keke Coutee (hamstring), RB Alvin Kamara (knee) and WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring).