At 41 years old, no one would have been surprised if Tom Brady looked sluggish playing a game on just three days rest, but that's not what happened on Thursday. Instead, Brady basically put together a three-hour informercial for the TB12 method.
Whatever is powering Brady is working, because the Patriots quarterback was the best player on the field as New England rolled to a 38-24 home win over the Colts on "Thursday Night Football." Brady was nearly perfect in the game, going 34 of 44 for 341 yards and three touchdowns. (He also threw two interceptions, but we're not going to count those against him, and we'll tell you why later.)
Not even short rest could slow Brady down as he came out firing against the Colts. On New England's opening possession Brady went 9 of 9 for 78 yards. Fittingly, Brady used his first pass of the game to welcome back Julian Edelman from his four-game suspension. In his first appearance of the season, Edelman opened things up by catching a nine-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage.
First play of the game.— NFL (@NFL) October 5, 2018
Brady completes to Edelman! #INDvsNE
📺: @nflnetwork + @NFLonFOX
📱+💻: https://t.co/DJUityQHC9 pic.twitter.com/57R3zi7L3k
Edelman then proceeded to finish the game with a total of seven catches for 57 yards.
"We wanted to get him involved and he made some great plays," Brady said of Edelman after the game. "It was just good to have him out there."
Brady looked comfortable all night, and the presence of Edelman likely had a lot do with that. It probably also helped that Brady had Rob Gronkowski on the field with Edleman for the first time since November 2016. That's right, before Thursday, it had been nearly two years since Brady had his two favorite targets on the field at the same time.
Oh, and he also had Josh Gordon. Although Gordon was quiet for most of the game, the former Browns receiver exploded in the fourth quarter and helped Brady make NFL history. Gordon only caught two passes, but one of those came on a 34-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter that ended up being the 500th touchdown pass of Brady's career. Gordon also became the 71st player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, which broke Vinny Testaverde's record of throwing a touchdown pass to 70 players.
Tom Brady owns yet ANOTHER NFL RECORD, throwing a TD to 71 different players in his career.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 5, 2018
From receivers to tight ends to linemen and linebackers… here’s ALL of them: pic.twitter.com/tyADENSaP2
It's not clear if Gordon knew how big the touchdown was from a historical perspective, but he definitely nailed the celebration: He went with a giant Gronk spike to celebrate Brady's milestone.
Tom Brady just threw his 500th TD pass to @JOSH_GORDONXII 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/7tlvX4syxu— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
Although you can't see it in the replay, Brady hustled 34 yards down field to give Gordon a giant hug after the touchdown, and that basically sums up how Brady was playing all night: He was hyped up and he was out for blood.
Not only did Brady shred the Colts defense with his arm, but he also called his own number on a quarterback sneak in the second quarter. Brady's getting so old that the Patriots don't let him dive into the end zone often, but they did in his game, which allowed him to score his first rushing touchdown since 2015.
Tom Brady inches closer to 1,000 career rushing yards 👀 pic.twitter.com/seaNtjPPQx— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
Although Brady totaled four touchdowns in the game, he also did a good job of sharing the wealth (which will probably make Fantasy owners happy). Not only did Brady hit eight different receivers on Thursday, but each of his three touchdown passes went to a different player (Gordon, James White, Cordarrelle Patterson).
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was probably thrilled to see New England's offensive explosion. The man who spurned the Colts back in February called a nearly perfect game. Not only did Brady get all his weapons involved, but we also saw Sony Michel take another step toward becoming a star. The rookie running back rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown, which means he's now rushed for 210 yards over the past five days.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the Patriots offense looked off, but now that Brady has all his weapons back, this team looks like the Patriots of old, which is bad news for the rest of the AFC, because the Patriots of old have a tendency to make it to the Super Bowl every year.
Brady's bad luck
As we mentioned above, Brady was perfect in the game, but his receiver's weren't. The Patriots quarterback threw two interceptions that you'll almost never see. One of the interceptions was so confusing that the official scorer switched it from an interception to a fumble back to an interception.
So how did that happen? Let's look at it below.
GOODE play by the #Colts defense! #INDvsNE— NFL (@NFL) October 5, 2018
📺: @nflnetwork + @NFLonFOX
📱+💻: https://t.co/DJUityQHC9 pic.twitter.com/yLsyTKStve
As you can see, Gronk catches the pass, then appears to make a football move, before taking a big hit and having the ball knocked out. Although there was some serious debate about whether the play should be ruled a pick or a lost fumble by Gronk, the NFL decided to punish Brady's Fantasy owners.
Brady's other pick was almost as weird. Once again, in the third quarter, he threw a perfect pass, and once again, his receiver couldn't hold on to it. This time, it was Chris Hogan who caused the interception.
.@mfarley41 just swooped 💨 pic.twitter.com/dHo3cxSphW— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
The two picks came on consecutive drives.
If both passes had been caught, Brady probably would have finished the night with a stat line something closer to 36 of 44 for 365 yards with zero interceptions.
Andrew Luck has no luck against the Patriots
If there's one team Andrew Luck probably never wants to see again in his career, it's the Patriots. Going into Thursday's game, Luck had an 0-5 record against them all-time, with those losses coming by an average of 24.6 points. That's an ugly average, and things only got uglier in this game.
The ugliness started on the second play of the game when Luck got smashed.
This was the Colts second offensive play of the game. I'm not sure Andrew Luck is going to survive #Patriots #Colts #INDvsNE pic.twitter.com/dniFEckvnR— John Breech (@johnbreech) October 5, 2018
Of course, getting smashed wasn't Luck's biggest problem, because that ended up being the only time in the game that he got sacked.
Luck's biggest problem is that the Colts just didn't have the firepower to keep up with New England. With no T.Y. Hilton, Luck went into the game with Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers and Eric Ebron as his top targets and did the best he could to pull off an upset, which looked like it might happen for an instant.
After trailing 24-3 at halftime, the Colts roared back in the second half to cut the lead to 24-17. First, Luck cut into the lead with a third-quarter touchdown pass to Eric Ebron. The Colts quarterback then silenced the crowd at Gillette when he trimmed the lead again with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Erik Swoope.
.@eswoope21 just made this a ballgame 👀 pic.twitter.com/quoYkjL3lf— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
Although Swoope was good, he wasn't Luck's favorite Eric in the game. That honor belonged to Eric Ebron, who finished with nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Luck, who threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns, really only made one big mistake against the Patriots, and that came on an interception late in the second quarter.
.@PatrickChung23 got a little luck 😤 pic.twitter.com/lmevOqwn2W— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
The pick by Patrick Chung came with just 38 seconds left in the half and allowed the Patriots to sneak in a field goal just before halftime. It also led to possibly the greatest interception celebration of all-time.
FINISH HIM 😤😤😤 @PatrickChung23 pic.twitter.com/D91mTlkaDL— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
As for Luck, if the Colts got any good news out of this loss, it's that Luck's right shoulder basically now seems invincible. If there was any concern that he might re-injure it this year, those concerns were probably been thrown out the window after this game. For one, Luck went into Thursday's game after throwing 62 passes in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Texans on Sunday. The 62 pass attempts are the most that any quarterback has thrown in a game all season. Luck then followed that up by throwing 59 passes against the Patriots.
Through five weeks, Luck is on pace to throw 784 passes this season, which would smash the NFL record of 727 set by Matthew Stafford in 2012.
Vinatieri returns to New England
It seems almost impossible, but Adam Vinatieri has now played for the Colts longer than he played for the Patriots. Although the 45-year-old spent 10 seasons in New England, he's now way past that number as the 2018 season marks his 13th year with the Colts.
For the most part, Vinatieri is automatic when it comes to making a field goal, except when he's playing his old team. Since leaving New England, Gillette Stadium has basically turned into a black hole for the 45-year-old. Including the playoffs, Vinatieri has missed at least one field in three of his past four games played at Gillette, including Thursday's game. During the first quarter, Vinatieri uncharacteristically missed a 38-yard field goal off the left upright.
Of course, this is Vinatieri we're talking about, so you know he rebounded. The old man went out in the second quarter and booted a 54-yard field goal that probably would have been good from 60 yards.
.@adamvinatieri with the 54 yard pinpoint 😱 pic.twitter.com/kWkAbUq4Jx— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 5, 2018
During his return trip to New England, not only did Vinatieri score six points, but he also got in some one-on-one time with Tom Brady.
Tom Brady + Adam Vinatieri. pic.twitter.com/9OgAG8rDpN— Boston.com Patriots News (@BDCPatriots) October 5, 2018
Brady's probably thanking him for the Super Bowl rings Vinatieri won him.
The Colts might have to put their team on injured reserve
The Colts probably won't blame their loss to New England on the amount of injuries they had going into Thursday's game, but no one would blame them if they did. The Colts were so banged up for the game that they couldn't even fill their 46-man game day roster. Due to injuries, the Colts were only able to dress 44 players on Thursday.
To give you an idea how ugly things were, the Colts went into the game without their top receiver (T.Y. Hilton), top tight end (Jack Doyle) and top running back (Marlon Mack). With those three out, the meant Andrew Luck's top targets on the field were Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers and Eric Ebron. Not exactly Rob Gronkowski, James White and Julian Edelman.
Those were just the skill players though. The Colts were also missing CB Quincy Wilson, DT Hassan Ridgeway and CB Kenny Moore II. In a rarity, linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Nate Hairston were listed as active for the game even though they didn't dress. That was the only way the Colts could fill their 46-man roster.
To make matters worse, the Colts also lost multiple players to injury during the game, including starting linebacker Anthony Walker, who was ruled out after suffering a concussion in the first quarter. Safety Clayton Geathers (neck/concussion) and defensive tackle Denico Autry (hamstring) also left the game in the first half, leaving the Colts with just 41 players in uniform.
The Colts also played without starting offensive lineman Denzelle Good. However, Good wasn't injured. The right tackle went home to be with family after his brother was shot and killed in South Carolina on Tuesday.
Delay of game
If you tuned in at 8:20 p.m. ET for the beginning of this game, you may have noticed that the first offensive series didn't quite start on the time, and that's because the chain gang was having a few issues in New England. As they went down to prepare for the Patriots' opening possession, the group somehow got their chains stuck together. It wasn't a pretty sight.
First play of game delayed about 90 seconds due to tangled chains. That has to be a first #Patriots #Colts #INDvsNE pic.twitter.com/08bMJHpqPJ— John Breech (@johnbreech) October 5, 2018
Untangling a tiny chain is basically like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube. The good news is that someone on the sideline is really good at untangling chains because the delay only lasted for about two minutes. The delay clearly had no effect on Tom Brady, who went 9 of 9 for 78 yards and a touchdown on the Patriots' opening possession.
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