Thursday night’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots was not exactly well-played. It’s something we’ve become accustomed to with teams playing on a short week.
Even then, a whole lot stood out in New England’s 38-24 win over the road team. James White was heavily involved for the Pats, while Chris Hogan might have blown his final opportunity to be an impact player. The same can’t be said for Josh Gordon. Less than a year after being on his sofa serving a suspension, Gordon caught a hallmark touchdown pass from Tom Brady.
It was also pretty much Groundhog Day for the Colts. Andrew Luck didn’t have a rushing attack to speak of. His offensive line struggled big time. And in the end, the Colts dropped their fourth game of the season.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from New England’s Thursday Night Football win over Indianapolis in Week 5.
Winner: James White
All of us who decided to start Sony Michel in our fantasy leagues after last week’s breakout performance were handed a dose of Bill Belichick early on. How New England’s all-time great head coach handles his running backs has been something of legend. That continued in full force against Indianapolis on Thursday.
While Michel put up 98 yards and a score on 18 attempts, White was out here catching 10-of-14 targets for 77 yards with a touchdown. He took over for Michel in important situations, showing his value to the Patriots in the process. And while Michel was a first-round pick back in April, White proved Thursday that he’s not going to be irrelevant moving forward. That’s for sure.
Loser: Colts offensive line
Do the Colts really want to make sure Andrew Luck remains healthy? If the first drive of Thursday’s game against the Patriots was any indication, it’s hard to tell. A simple zone-read to the running back turned into two members of the Patriots’ defense combining for a sack on Luck. A third was right there behind.
It’s that type of play that can lead to another shoulder injury for the franchise quarterback. Given that he missed all of last season to injury, this has to be of concern. All said, Luck was sacked just that one time. Though, he was also hit six times in the loss. Sure being without multiple starting offensive linemen hurts. But that’s where the excuses end.
Winner: Chester Rogers
If there was any bright spot for Indianapolis’ offense on Thursday, it was the emergence of third-year receiver Chester Rogers. Asked to step into the lineup due to T.Y. Hilton’s injury, Rogers caught 8-of-11 passes for 66 yards. He had caught a grand total of 16 passes through the first four games.
Despite seeing themselves fall to a disastrous 1-4 on the season, the Colts might have found themselves that No. 2 option to supplement what Hilton does. Ryan Grant has not proven himself to be that guy. Having performed pretty well over his first two NFL seasons, Rogers never flashed that ability until Thursday. Minus a pretty big dropped pass, he was at the top of his game in this one.
Loser: NFL officiating
Whether it’s officiating or some sort of double standard the NFL has adopted, we’re starting to realize first-hand that defensive players are not as important as those who star at the skill-positions. After four weeks of drama surrounding NFL’s new helmet rule, we saw this come out in full force Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
In attempting to score a touchdown in the second quarter, Patriots running back Sony Michel lowered his head and seemed to target Indianapolis’ safety Clayton Geathers. It was as obvious as they come. The entire NFL world agreed. And in the end, no penalty was called against Michel. What exactly is the league’s plan as it relates to this? How many more defenders do we need to see injured because of a double standard the head honchos in New York City refuse to admit exists?
Winner: Tom Brady
Brady already seems to be hitting mid-season form. After some struggles through the first three games, he’s hitting his stride in a big way. On Thursday against the Colts, that came to fruition almost immediately. Brady completed all nine of his passes on the opening drive, culminating in this score to Cordarrelle Patterson.
All said, the future Hall of Famer had completed 23-of-27 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns en route to helping New England to a 24-3 halftime lead. But that’s not the story here. The greatest of all-time surpassed one major milestone while breaking another NFL record in the process. By virtue of a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Josh Gordon, Brady became just the third quarterback to toss 500-plus touchdowns in his career. That pass also represented a touchdown to his 71st different receiver, which breaks the all-time NFL mark. Whew.
Loser: Colts running backs
In what has been a continual theme throughout the season, the Colts had no real rushing attack to speak of Thursday against New England. Indy headed into Week 5 ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing at 72 yards per game. It was also averaging a weak 3.6 yards per attempt. None of this changed in Week 5.
Rookie Nyheim Hines led the way with just 45 yards on 15 attempts. Jordan Wilkins added a strong 6.5 yards per rush, but only saw six carries on the evening. He also lost a fumble at the most crucial of times (watch here). All said, Indy put up just 21 rush attempts for 84 yards. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck dropped back to pass 60 times. It’s this type of lack of balance on offense that’s been an overriding theme for Indy over the years.
Winner: Josh Gordon
Having been held to only one catch for the first three-plus quarters of Thursday’s game, Josh Gordon came up absolutely huge for his new team. It came on first-and-10 from the Colts 34 with New England’s first half lead having shrunk from 21 points to just seven midway through the final stanza. That’s when Gordon caught Tom Brady’s 500th career touchdown pass (watch here).
Think about this for a second. Gordon went from being suspended indefinitely by the NFL to finding himself cast-off by the lowly Cleveland Browns. Just a short while later, he’s out here catching milestone touchdown passes from GOAT. That’s just amazing stuff right there.
Loser: Chris Hogan
Once a go-to-guy for Brady, it’s now readily apparent that Tom Terrific has lost all confidence in Hogan to do anything of substance. Hogan entered Thursday’s action having caught just 8-of-15 targets through four games. He’s not going to get many more opportunities after what we saw against Indianapolis.
Off Hogan's hands…
And right to @mfarley41!
— NFL (@NFL) October 5, 2018
That’s legitimately a ball going right through Hogan’s hands for what would ultimately be a Colts interception. The good news here is that New England almost immediately got the ball back after Devin McCourty stripped Jordan Wilkins of the football just a few plays later. Even then, Hogan is going to be a lost cause in this offense moving forward. That’s as clear as day.
Winner: Devin McCourty
Living up to his reputation as a big time ball hawk, McCourty came away with two huge second half takeaways in a game that ended in blowout fashion. But if it weren’t for this Pro Bowl defensive back, things might have been different.
With New England up 24-10 in the third quarter, Indianapolis was nearing midfield. That’s when McCourty legit stripped the ball from Colts running back Jordan Wilkins, forcing his first turnover of the game. Then, in the fourth quarter, McCourty picked off an Andrew Luck pass. One play later, and Sony Michel put the game away with a 34-yard touchdown run.