Old habits: Pats D allows some deep balls vs. Colts

Old habits: Pats D allows some deep balls vs. Colts
January 12, 2014, 7:00 am
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FOXBORO – There were six pass plays of 20 yards or more. There were four longer than 30, two longer than 40.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completely ignored the Patriots pass rush as it swirled around him and took his shots downfield Saturday night. And he hit plenty of them.

Luck threw touchdowns of 38 and 35 yards. He also had third quarter completions of 40 and 46 yards. The Patriots picked Luck off four times, but there were haymakers thrown – and landed – on the Patriots secondary that haven’t landed in some time.

“You gotta have amnesia back there,” said safety Steve Gregory about the deep balls the Patriots were beaten on. “You’re playing a good football team in the playoffs against a good quarterback and receivers with speed, a quarterback that can put it on a dime with a strong arm. Just keep plugging away, don’t get discouraged. If he hits a play, just keep going.”

Before the final regular season game, Bill Belichick was asked about the Patriots improvement on downfield throws.

“We’ve certainly put a lot of time and work into it. It could definitely be better but it hasn’t been anywhere close to the issue it was last year. So, thank God,” said Belichick, adding, “Hopefully we can continue to play fairly well back there because it’s just so important. When it all happens in one play – there’s nothing else you can do. There’s no chance of stopping in the red area. It takes a lot of other people out of the game too.”

That was the case Saturday when Luck got Indy back into the game in a hurry with a perfectly placed throw down the sideline to LaVon Brazill in the first quarter that brought Indy within a touchdown at 14-7. His 35-yard throw to Brazill over Devin McCourty again made it a one-score game at 29-22 and capped a three-play drive answering a Patriots touchdown and two-point conversion.

“He dropped some good balls in there,” said Gregory. “But throughout the course of the game we had an opportunity to make some plays and we did, the interceptions were big. We just wanted to limit the things that he could do and make it hard on him. Be in good tight coverage. If he’s gonna beat you, he has to make a perfect throw and he made some today.”

Luck – who threw seven picks in two postseason games – took his chances. He kind of had to, given the way the Patriots were bottling up the Colts’ rushing attack. The price he paid were the picks.

“You can’t put a price on turnovers,” said Gregory. “You gotta be aggressive. You realize he’s gonna make some plays and when he does, you gotta give it to him. As long as we’re in tight coverage keep trying to be aggressive, keep trying to make plays on the ball.”

Going forward, the Patriots will see either an offense with better weapons (Denver) or one with a better rushing attack (San Diego). In either case, the deep defense has to be a little better than it was on Saturday night.