Colts vs. Patriots: Why Patience Is the Key to a New England Victory
How do you avoid falling into a trap game?
Quite simple: don't blow it.
This, in theory, is a game they should win with ease.
The Colts have heard those words in reference to their opponents before, but haven't faced an opponent like the Patriots this season. In fact, they've beaten four teams that combine for an 11-27 record on their four-game winning streak. All four teams are at least two games below .500.
The same could be said about the Patriots, though, who have won three games over teams that combine for a 10-17-1 record at present, with all three teams also at least two games below .500.
Someone's going to finally pick up a win over a quality opponent, and as long as New England observes some patience, it should be the team that does it.
Wait for the Mistakes
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There's no way the Patriots can stop the Colts, right?
Not the way Andrew Luck is playing. Not the way this defense is playing.
It's not that simple, though, and there will be opportunities.
New England should have its opportunities, but it must also capitalize because it can't afford not to. There's a couple of reasons for that.
The Patriots defense features the league's second-worst third-down conversion percentage, allowing opponents to move the sticks 44.6 percent of the time. The Colts, meanwhile, have made a living converting third downs, with a 43.6 percent conversion rate (sixth-best in the NFL).
The Patriots probably aren't going to get many stops on that key down.
Likewise, while the Patriots are improving in their defense of the long ball, they still remain vulnerable on the back end and have allowed 47 pass plays of 20 yards or more.
Luck should have a good day against the Patriots. He has 41 pass plays of that length and is one of the top 10 most accurate deep passers in the NFL, with a 47.3 accuracy percentage on throws 20 yards or more downfield, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Luck has further proven his superiority as a deep passer with the sixth-highest average in air yards per pass attempt, according to Advanced NFL Stats.
It will be important for New England to mitigate the damage that can be done against it in the vertical passing game. It has improved in that regard in recent weeks, and that was on display against the Bills this past week.
Although the Patriots gave up five pass plays of 20 yards or more, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 0-for-4 on passes that traveled 20 or more yards through the air, doing a bulk of his damage on intermediate passes where the receiver created yards after the catch.
Improved play at safety is only part of the equation in stopping big plays; the Patriots must also tackle well, as they proved against the Bills when they missed a total of 15 tackles and gave up a whopping 190 yards after the catch.
Efficiency on Offense
The Patriots' 30 pass plays of 20 yards or more is only the 12th-highest total in the league. That's not how the No. 1 offense in the league does its damage.
As indicated by Football Outsiders' drive stats, what makes them deadliest is their efficiency. They are the top offense in seven of the nine indicators of drive efficiency: yards per drive, points per drive, touchdowns per drive, punts per drive, turnovers per drive, interceptions per drive and drive success rate.
As a baseline for comparison, the mighty 2007 offense led the league in six categories (all of the ones listed above, except interceptions per drive).
The Patriots may level off at some point this year, with games against two top defenses in the 49ers and Texans still ahead on the schedule, but that probably won't happen against a Colts defense that ranks 20th or worse in seven of nine categories of drive efficiency.
As mentioned above, it probably won't be pretty on defense, but if the Patriots stay patient on both sides of the ball, they should come away with the win.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.
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