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Five Takeaways From the Patriots' 42-20 Win Over the Colts


Coming off the bye week, the Patriots faced their biggest road test of the season. They passed. With flying colors.

Despite an unusually sloppy first half from Tom Brady, the Pats crushed the host Indianapolis Colts at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and cruised to a 42-20 win, taking firm control of the AFC in the process. Here's a look at the five most important takeaways from their sixth consecutive win.

1. Jonas Gray had the game of his life Ė Itís been a little more than a month since Jonas Gray was just another anonymous NFL practice squadder. But on Sunday night, he exploded onto on of the biggest stages in the sport. Gray obliterated the Coltsí defense with a bruising effort that resulted in a whopping, 199-yard performance at a clip of 5.3 yards per attempt and four touchdown runs, making him the first player in 93 years to do that when entering a game with no touchdowns previously.

The Colts ranked 25th in the league against the run coming and the Pats took serious advantage, finishing with 244 yards on the ground as a team, the second time this year theyíve crossed the 200-yard threshold. Gray ran like a seasoned veteran, showing patience, waiting for his blockers, cutting sharply at the precise time all night and knowing exactly when to put his head down and plow forward. His four TDs (a regular season franchise record) were as many as every other team in the league combined on Sunday and his yardage total made the Pats 40-1 in the Bill Belichick era when the Pats have a 100-yard gainer.

He was helped immensely by the offensive line, which dominated the line of scrimmage from the Patsí first possession of the game, especially on the interior. Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell owned the Colts' defensive tackles. Rob Gronkowski once again showed that heís not only the best receiving tight end in the game, heís the best blocking tight end, too, and even rookie Cameron Fleming - who played over 30 snaps as an extra blocker - contributed in a big way. Gray was the big winner in this one though. He deserves all the glory.

2. Versatility on offense the sign of a great team Ė Tom Brady didnít play well at all in the first half, throwing two terrible interceptions and missing several throws. But the Pats still led 14-10 at the half, and except for at the waning minutes of the second quarter, the outcome never really felt in doubt. The reason for this warm, fuzzy feeling was the success of the running game noted above, and the comfort in knowing that when things arenít going well in one important area, the team can still find a way to make things work in another. Grayís incredible performance was backed up by a couple of big runs and short receptions by Shane Vereen, as well as a timely end around from Julian Edelman that went for 25 yards. Brady found himself in the second half and piloted the ship in for a very comfortable landing. But the fact that the Pats were able to find a way to execute and produce when he was not at his best was a massively important development for the Patsí offense going forward.

3. The defense made the Colts one-dimensional Ė Now, letís discuss the Coltsí running game, as diametrically opposed to that of the Pats as is humanly possible. The Colts ran 17 times for 19 yards and quarterback Andrew Luck was their leading rusher with 15 of those yards on three attempts.

Their running backs Ė Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw - combined to gain four yards on 14 attempts. Thatís absolutely unreal, and itís as big a reason for the win as any. Credit Vince Wilfork, Alan Branch, Chris Jones and linebackers Dontía Hightower and Jamie Collins (who NBCís Cris Collinsworth called, ďas athletic as any linebacker in the open field in the entire leagueĒ) for the dominant performance. As dynamic as Luck is and as high-octane as the Coltsí passing offense can be, when any offense is completely dependent on only one dimension and canít even remotely threaten to use another, thatís usually a recipe for failure. It most certainly was just that for the Colts in this game.

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4. Brady bounces back Ė In the second half, after playing as though he was still thinking about tossing his kids in the pool during the bye week, Brady caught fire and went 9-for-11 for 173 yards and two TDs in the second frame. He whipped a couple of lasers to Brandon LaFell, including one of the prettiest back shoulder fades youíll ever see, got a 39-yard catch and run out of Vereen on the Patsí opening drive of the half, and added that second touchdown thanks to Gronk going RoboGronk in the fourth quarter. Brady was particularly impressive on third down, leading the Pats to a 75 percent conversion rate (9-for-12) against a Coltsí defense that came in allowing just 20 percent of third downs to be converted. He would finish the game averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt with a passer rating of 85, not on the level of his past handful of games but more than enough to steer the Pats to TDs on their first four second half possessions and their sixth straight win.

5. Gronk Ė There really isnít much more to say. Gronk was mostly utilized as an extra blocker and a decoy for the first three quarters, catching just three passes for 45 yards until about halfway through the fourth. Then he transformed. ROBOGRONK.

There really is no one else in the league or in league history quite like Rob Gronkowski. Even when it takes him until the later stages of the fourth quarter to, he still impacts the game in ways that can take the Patriots all the way to a fourth Lombardi trophy.

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