Brady excelled at accelerator
Offense purred along during the no-huddle
FOXBOROUGH - Let’s try to put it in relative terms for the visiting Colts: Watching Tom Brady operate the Patriots’ no-huddle offense in yesterday’s 31-24 victory at Gillette Stadium had to be like watching the start of the Indianapolis 500.
Gentlemen, start your engines, indeed.
After the Colts went 67 yards in 19 plays over 10 minutes 19 seconds for an Adam Vinatieri 31-yard field goal that tied it, 3-3, Brady revved up the Patriots’ offense by going to a no-huddle scheme that put the Colts’ banged-up defense on its heels.
“They changed it up a little bit,’’ said Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney. “They went to some no-huddle stuff, which they are one of the best, if not, the best team at doing it.’’
And with Brady at the controls of the no-huddle, that’s when the Patriots and their quarterback seem to be at their best.
“That’s the most important piece on the field, your quarterback,’’ said Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch.
“He put us in all the right positions; get us in the right sets, the right formations. The guys have the easy part, they’re just making plays.’’
Brady broke the game open when he mashed the gas, guiding the Patriots to 28 straight points in the second and third quarters, including 14 in the last three minutes of the first half for a 17-3 lead.
“Offensive football is all 11 guys being on the same page,’’ said Brady, who completed 29 of 38 passes for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns, 11 and 21 yards to Rob Gronkowski. The latter capped a seven-play, 77-yard drive in which Brady completed seven consecutive passes to give the Patriots a 24-3 lead on their first possession of the second half.
All on no-huddle plays.
“The middle part of the game was awesome,’’ said Brady, who with 291 career TD passes moved into a tie with Warren Moon for sixth place on the NFL’s all-time list. It gave him 30 TD throws on the season, making him the sixth quarterback in NFL history with at least three 30-TD seasons.
Brady found Gronkowski on what appeared to be a 2-yard swing pass that would have given him the NFL record for TD catches by a tight end (14) in a season.
However, the throw later was ruled a lateral, and scored as a 2-yard rushing TD for Gronkowski.
“Oh, it was?’’ Brady said. “That’s OK, I’m glad we scored. That was a good play, good blocking. They blocked well for him on that play. That was great.’’
The Colts, meanwhile, seemed defenseless in the face of Brady’s surgical execution in the no-huddle.
It didn’t help matters, either, when middle linebacker Pat Angerer, the league’s leading tackler, went down with a right knee injury in the first quarter.
It was followed by a forearm injury to nickel back Terrence Johnson and an elbow injury to cornerback Jerraud Powers on the play before BenJarvus Green-Ellis punched it in from the 1 to give the Patriots a 17-3 lead.
“We got some injuries,’’ Freeney said. “Our starting middle linebacker went down, our starting nickel went down, and our starting corner went down, so now we’re outmatched and they’re running no-huddle. Hats off to them.’’
It was, for all intents and purposes, like shooting fish in a barrel for Brady, who at one point completed 10 passes in a row for 108 yards.
For the sold-out crowd of 68,756, it was a thing of beauty.
“Yeah, but you don’t want to be on other side of that,’’ warned Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. “Obviously, [Brady] knows all the right things to do and makes all the right throws. He’s very good at pressing the issue, getting the ball going and getting it down the field and checking the plays when they need to be checked and making the right plays at all the right times.
“He’s the captain of everything and he just makes everything move.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.