Patriots: Our first look at the Indianapolis Colts

By Mason Sousa, NEFJ Contributor

Bill Belichick’s defensive mantra is something to the extent of take away what the opponent does best.  And what the Colts do best is run the ball with one of the best running backs in the game Jonathan Taylor.  With that being said, Taylor’s play has been a little less than desired so far this season.  The Bert Bell Award winner from last year is averaging 77 yards on the ground, good for 9th best in the league but only 4.3 yards per attempt which is 26th among running backs with at least 50 carries.  His opponent Rhamondre Stevenson has been more efficient averaging 4.9 per carry this season.  To add on to Taylor’s lack of efficiency he has a banged up ankle and has not practiced yet this week and is looking doubtful for the game.  I’m not going to make any guarantees (I learned my lesson after the Bears preview) but if Taylor can’t suit up Sunday, the scales tip wildly in the Patriots favor.

If you remember in the 2021 season, Taylor broke out the big one late against the Patriots last time these two teams faced off. Prior to the game-sealing 67 yard Touchdown run, Taylor had 28 carries for 103 yards and that averages out to 3.7 yards per carry.  A respectable number by the Pats run defense against the league’s best back in 2021.  But that of course got derailed on Taylor’s 29th and final carry that put the game to bed for the Colts.  He is incredibly instrumental to Indianapolis’ offensive success and his potential absence puts a lot on the shoulders of young quarterback Sam Ehlinger making his 2nd career start.

The battle of the 2021 quarterback draft class will be put on display against each other for the 3rd consecutive week.  Fields, Wilson, and now Ehlinger will have a crack at besting Bill Belichick and Mac Jones.  Sam Ehlinger is the guy the rest of the season for the Colts according to head coach Frank Reich.  Ehlinger made his first NFL start last week against the Commanders and completed the longest pass play of the Colts season for 47 yards.  He had some impressive throws and completed 74% of his passes for 201 yards.  He can take off and run as well making him a dual threat QB (something the Patriots have had issues with).  Devin McCourty fresh off of two interceptions last week is expecting Ehlinger to run this Sunday saying “You saw more of the designed runs (last week)… I’d definitely say that’s a possibility, especially in key situations.”  We saw what Justin Fields did on the ground on Monday Night Football.  And I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘it’s a copycat league’ once or twice before.  Ehlinger will have to use his legs effectively if the Colts are going to have a shot ESPECIALLY if Jonathan Taylor is out.

As for the trenches DeForest Buckner is a beast on the d-line and can line up all across it.  Bill Belichick sang his praises earlier in the week “He’s as good as there is. He’s up there with (Aaron Donald), (Cam) Heyward, Chris Jones.”  That is incredibly high praise and a player to be most accounted for on the line of scrimmage.  There’s a chance the entire Patriots offensive line will have a crack at Buckner at least once on Sunday given his versatility.  If David Andrews and now Marcus Cannon (both dealing with concussions) both miss Week 9, Mac Jones is going to need to get rid of the ball instantly before he gets bludgeoned like he did last week at the hands of the Jets.

The Colts defense is led by returning middle linebacker Shaquille (don’t call me Darius) Leonard.  If injuries don’t hold him back Leonard is well on his way to becoming a first ballot Hall of Famer.  Already with 3 All-Pro selections in 4 completed seasons including his rookie year.  To understand how remarkable that is, arguably the greatest defensive player of all time Lawrence Taylor and 49er Patrick Willis are the only two linebackers before Shaquille Leonard to be named as an All-Pro linebacker in their rookie season, (Micah Parsons joined that exclusive company last season).  Leonard can do it all.  Whether it’s exploding in the backfield to stop the run, leading the league in tackles, or dropping back in excellent pass coverage the Colts linebacker is a force to be reckoned with.  Mac Jones who has thrown the third most interceptions in the league needs to always be weary of where Leonard is on the field or it will be a long day for the Patriots.

And in the secondary old friend Stephon Gilmore returns to Gillette Stadium.  The 32-year old is still taking on the opponent’s #1 receiver and has been solid.  Pro Football Focus ranks Gilmore in the top 25% of eligible corners thus far this year.  He was perhaps the only shining star in that absolutely dismal Thursday Night Football game against the Broncos a few weeks ago where he intercepted Russell Wilson in the endzone and made the game winning pass breakup in the other endzone.  Probably the biggest lowlight he’s had halfway through this season however is him getting MOSSED in the Colts most recent game against the Commanders by Terry McLaurin with seconds left which allowed Washington to complete their 10-point 4th Quarter comeback victory.  If Devante Parker can’t take the field with a knee injury, it will be interesting to see if Gilmore stays on the left corner or if he will follow the Patriots best receiver which is clearly Jakobi Meyers.


Devin McCourty continues his hot streak and comes down with another interception extending his lead on most interceptions by an active player in the league.


The Colts are 3rd worst in points per game.

They’ve turned the ball over the 3rd most in the league.

They are tied for last in rushing touchdowns and might be without Johnathan Taylor.

They have allowed the 3rd most sacks as well.

All that being said… the Indianapolis Colts are one of the best “clutch” teams halfway through the 2022 NFL season.  

Sounds asinine right?  

Well according to Pro Football Reference, they are credited with 4 4th Quarter comebacks and 3 game winning drives.  They have 3 wins and a tie so far this year.  So every game the Colts haven’t lost was decided very late in the game.

Their defense keeps them around.  I feel this will be a low scoring close game.  The team that has the ball last will win.  In the end, I think Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, and Steve Belichick dial up a great defensive scheme to shutdown the Colts poor offense and force their inexperienced quarterback into multiple turnovers. FINAL SCORE: PATRIOTS 17 COLTS 13