FOXBORO -- How much stock do you put into New England's 59-24 win over the Colts? Are the Patriots truly gearing up in this four-game winning streak? Or was this one of those, when-they're-good-they're-really-good-but-they-could-be-bad-next-week Sundays?
For now, at least, we'll focus on the 'they're good' part. And when the Patriots give you reason to start with the defense, you start with the defense.
Here's what the players had to say.
Linebackerdefensive end Rob Ninkovich on if he enjoys the reputation he's developing as a defensive playmaker:
RN: Yeah, I mean Im not going to not take it. Obviously its everything that is helping the team out. Having our defense get a lot of turnovers is one of the best things we do. Obviously there are some things that you dont want to give upyardage and stuff like that. But when you can lead the league in turnovers that speaks a lot for what we do on defense."
Yeah, yeah, yeah -- the Patriots continue to lead the league in giveaway-takeaway ratio. But Ninkovich is having one hell of a year all his own.
>His third quarter forced fumble marked his fifth of the year, which is impressive considering he had only one in his six previous season. The play was a strip-sack of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and so also added to his sack stats (six) for 2012. Ninkovich is only half a quarterback takedown away from the career-high 6.5 he set last season. You can bet he'll reach that number, if not push beyond it.
Somebody give this guy a nickname.
Defensive back Alfonzo Dennard on if he was watching himself on the Jumbotron during his touchdown return:
AD: Yeah I was laughs. I was, though. Because I know Andrew Luck, hes a pretty fast quarterback, so I had to look at the Jumbotron to see if he was behind me.
The rookie was given a gift.
The pick came on Luck's very first snap of the fourth quarter. Receiver Reggie Wayne was the intended receiver on the out-pattern, but the QB waited to long to throw and Dennard had already looped around to intercept by the time the ball was released. Luck gave chase and nearly got a hand on the streaking cornerback. No dice; Dennard hit the sideline, put on a burst of speed, and made it in for a touchdown.
Speaking of fast quarterbacks, Tom Brady
Luck on whether or not he introduced himself or talked to Brady before the game:
AL: "No, we didnt have a chance. Schedules, whatever."
An unfortunate circumstance.
Luck, in the days leading up to the game, said he has vivid memories of watching the Patriots-Colts, Brady-Manning rivalry when he was growing up. You'd think meeting a quarterback he admired as a kid would be a big moment in his career.
On going against Brady:
AL: "It sucked tonight because we lost by however much. I dont know. Ive never been big into who the other quarterback is or who the other wide receiver is."
And then you grow up, right? The 23-year old Luck may have admired Brady at one time, but he knew exactly where he stood on Sunday -- on the opposite side of a battlefield. Not a bad thing at all.
Luck was competitive. He completed 27 of 50 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Sunday marked the fifth time in his short career he's gone over 300 yards.
As for that other quarterback.
Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell on how easy Brady makes it for the offensive line:
RW: I wouldnt want anybody else. The biggest thing that Tom does is that he puts us in a position to keep him safe. Toms just as important in the protection as the offensive linemen.
It all works in concert. See below.
Bill Belichick on how the offensive line did protecting Tom Brady:
BB: "Better in protection probably overall than in the running game but we had a couple long runs on some outside plays. But really they did a good job stopping the run. I thought our line did a pretty good job protecting but again that really ties in with the receivers. If guys are open, the quarterback doesnt have to hold the ball, he can get rid of it and Tom Brady does a good job of that. That was something we really emphasized with the receivers this week, was that if they played a lot of man coverage, which they did, that wed have to get open quickly so we didnt have to stand back there and hold the ball and wait all day for them to get open. They did that so it was good; good complementary football all the way around."
You hear the Patriots talk all the time about how any guy needs to be ready to step up on any given day. There was call for that against the Colts. Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly were unavailable Sunday because of injuries, which left Donald Thomas and Nick McDonald to step in and play spot duty.
Both performed well enough that the offensive line held its ground: Indianapolis managed just two quarterback hits and not a single sack. Brady had an excellent night statistically, completing 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
It's also worth noting New England averaged a tremendous 9.5 yards per pass play.
Interim Colts coach Bruce Arians on if this the kind of game he tells his players to just burn from their memories:
BA: "No, you better remember it. You better damn remember it. Because you hope to be back here and you dont want to forget it. You dont throw things away in this business, you learn from them. We will watch this tape real hard tomorrow. We wont burn it and go to the next one. We will watch it and learn from it. Each guy individually and us collectively as a coaching staff and a group. And we will get better for it."
This is a fantastic answer by Arians. Indianapolis was 0-10 at this point last season. This year, behind a rookie quarterback, the Colts could make the playoffs. It's great to hear they're not settling for improvement.
Receiver Wes Welker on what the turnaround is like with a short week coming up:
WW: We will enjoy this for a few hours and then get ready for New York tomorrow and make sure were on top of everything. This is like a Wednesday night right now, so weve got to make sure we are getting ready for Thursday.
From Sunday to Wednesday in a matter of minutes.
It's nearly Thanksgiving.
This will be the first short week for New England and the team faces a divisional rival on the other side of it. No matter how terrible the Jets have looked at times, they won't likely roll over at home.
If they do, then they are who we think they are. It's almost been tougher to figure out who, exactly, the Patriots are. But this is when we find out.