FOXBORO -- This season, beating the Colts is no reason to bang the drum.
Indianapolis, without Peyton Manning, is now 0-12; Bill Belichick's team pulling off a 31-24 win at home isn't impressive. Quarterback Dan Orlovsky -- the backup to the backup's backup -- went 18-20 for 250 yards, one interception and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis' 21 points are the most allowed in the final frame of any game by New England's defense.
Hence the tone of the postgame.
Belichick was as curt as you'd hear after a loss. Tom Brady's quotes were less intriguing than Orlovsky's. Neither coach nor quarterback was interested in a discourse.
Like New England's no-huddle, for example. The Patriots looked to be sleepwalking through the first 20 minutes of offense. Brady's first drive was good for a field goal. His second? Zoltan Mesko punted for 51-yards after just three minutes of work.
On the third series, they stopped screwing around.
The Colts got turned around once the Patriots went no-huddle. Brady started hitting Rob Gronkowski; he found Aaron Hernandez; BenJarvus Green-Ellis got short gains, Danny Woodhead short gains. Brady ended up with a 19-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that chewed up 10 minutes and 19 seconds. The difference in the offense -- the efficiency it inspired in New England and the inability of the Colts to keep up -- was tremendous.
If Belichick was pleased, he saved that emotion all for himself.
We use no-huddle every week," Belichick mumbled. "Weve used it every week, and Im sure well keep using it. Theres some advantages to using it, theres some disadvantages to using it. But its part of our offense, so well use it whenever we feel is best.
Thanks for the break-down.
But, really, what is there to say? The Patriots were expected to win and they did -- however ugly. There were some higlights, like Gronkowski nearly setting an NFL record for single-season touchdowns caught by a tight end. His third touchdown of the night, 14th of the season, and record-breaker was ruled a lateral upon review. Instead of his usual spike, Gronkowski hesitated, then held onto the ball. His teammates congratulated him warmly on the sideline as Stephen Gostokowski booted the extra point. The scoring change was announced in the pressbox moments later.
Brady shrugged off the lost milestone.
"That's okay. I'm glad we scored," Brady said. "That was a good play, good blocking. They blocked well for him on that play. That was great."
"It must have been close. I thought it was a forward pass -- I threw it."
It was one of Brady's lengthier soundbites. Was he surly? No. But New England's quarterback had no reason to be thrilled. The Patriots went three-and-out three different times in the fourth quarter shutout. The game came down to an onside kick. While the decision never felt close, even with the Colts charging down the stretch, there are problems surfacing against scrub teams that will loom larger under the harsh lights of the playoffs.
There will be no Victory Monday tomorrow.
And there's no patience to entertain storytime. Peyton Manning? He's not on the clock. Even if he did return this season, there wouldn't be a single meaningful game for him to play in. So if you want to ask him about what it was like to watch this watered-down rivalry tilt from the sidelines, go ahead. Want to ask him about how nice Patriots fans were? How many autographs he signed at Gillette Stadium? Knock yourself out.
You won't get much from Brady.
"Manning's absence doesn't affect me much; I'm an offensive player," he said. "As a defense, they pretty much had the same guys out there that they had last year. They have a great pass rush. I thought we could execute better at times, but I'm glad we won and we have to move on."
It's December; expect nothing less.