The Patriots’ seven-game winning streak came to an end in a 27-17 loss to the Colts on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Although a myriad of errors led to a losing effort, New England’s inability to control the trenches was as worrisome as the blocked punt, turnovers, and penalties.
According to Pro Football Focus, quarterback Mac Jones was under pressure on 31.9 percent of his drop-backs. Plus, New England’s rushing attempts subtracted 0.34 expected points with a lousy 26% success rate and surrendered 125 rushing yards to Colts running back Jonathan Taylor after contact (4.3 avg.).
Any guesses which five games the #Patriots have allowed a pressure rate of over 30% on Mac Jones?
Yup, those five. In order of highest pressure rate: Week 4, Week 3, Week 1, Week 6, Week 15.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) December 19, 2021
Jones has been under pressure on over 30% of his drop-backs in all five Patriots losses this season. Some of that speaks to game script. For example, the Pats are trailing in those games and are dropping back to pass more, inviting pressure.
Still, the point remains that when New England wins on the line of scrimmage and keeps Mac clean, they usually play from ahead and win.
Indianapolis might be the only AFC foe that can out-physical the Pats, and they proved that on Saturday night.
Here are various advanced stats from the Patriots’ loss to the Colts:
MAC JONES’ PASSING METRICS
Although the Pats’ rookie contributed to the deficit with two turnovers, Jones also made plays in the second half to bring New England back.
Overall, Jones produced a -0.01 expected points added and a completion rate over expected of -4.5, which doesn’t speak favorably to the quarterback performance.
However, Mac found a rhythm in the second half, adding 0.04 expected points in the final two quarters and 0.08 EPA in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, if you remove the two turnovers, Jones’ EPA per play was a superb 0.22 on his other 46 passing plays.
The Colts’ defense made Jones hold the ball for a season-high 3.13 seconds on average with their zone coverage. But Mac moved the coverage and hit schemed throws to reach the red zone four times.
Here, Mac starts by looking left in his drop to get the zone structure to shift over and then comes back to Kendrick Bourne as he settles in the void.
On Hunter Henry’s first touchdown, Jones climbs the pocket to elude the rush and buy time for Henry to work open, hitting his tight end for six.
The Pats offense, quarterback included, was horrendous for two-and-half quarters. Yet, they kept grinding and were within one score late.
PASS PROTECTION STATS
As we mentioned, Jones was under pressure on 31.9% of his drop-back, his highest rate since Week 6.
There are a few variables worth pointing out, such as Mac’s long time to throw and a high volume of drop-backs while trailing that invited pressure.
Still, an offense featuring a pocket passer will be inconsistent when the pressure rate climbs over 30 percent, and there are consistent problems.
Mainly, Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn allowed a team-high four QB pressures with a sack and a false start penalty as his up-and-down season continues.
Wynn tries a jump set against the Colts’ top pass-rusher DeForest Buckner on the sack and gives up the inside. Compounding the poor technique was that running back Brandon Bolden looks to chip Buckner on the way out, yet Wynn still oversets to the outside and gets beat inside.
The rest of the offensive line was respectable, and right tackle Trent Brown was good again, allowing only a hurry.
But as we wrote in ten things following the game, the Pats have some soul-searching to do with Wynn.
DEFENSIVE PRESSURES & RUN STOPS
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz only dropped back to pass 14 times, so the pressure rate wasn’t anything to write home about this week.
Wentz was under pressure on 28.6% of his drop-backs and had three turnover-worthy plays in an awful performance.
As bad as Wentz was, it didn’t matter because Indy gained enough yards on the ground to win.
One of the few times the Patriots got to pin their ears back, they run their “odd magic” pressure with a three-man stunt on the interior to collapse the pocket around Wentz for a sack (credited to Deatrich Wise).
New England’s pass rush didn’t get many opportunities, but Wentz was on the verge of turnovers all game long (more on that later).
Until the back-breaker by Taylor, the Patriots held the Colts’ running back in check with 28 carries for 103 yards (3.7 avg.) and a long of 12 yards.
Leading the way was Lawerence Guy (four stops), who was consistently occupying and even defeating double teams at the point of attack.
Rookie Christian Barmore (three stops) and nose tackle Davon Godchaux (two stops) also contributed, but one big play erased all those efforts.
On Taylor’s 67-yard touchdown, the Colts RB somehow squeaks between two of the Pats’ best defenders in Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty in the hole with an explosive cut. Ultimately, those two in the hole with Taylor dead to rights is a scenario you’d take. Unfortunately, Taylor is an exceptional talent who made a play.
Nothing was good enough in a losing effort, but the run defense held its own until the dam broke.
The Colts didn’t throw the ball enough to accumulate much coverage data like the pass rush metrics.
However, the NFL box score counted more pass breakups for the Patriots (six) than completions for Wentz (five) as New England was all over Indy’s passing game.
On Wentz’s interception, he tries to hit a crossing Zach Pascal as Jamie Collins falls underneath the route on a zone drop. Collins shows excellent range and athleticism to tip the pass in the air, and the ball falls into Devin McCourty’s lap.
Pats cornerback J.C. Jackson had three PBUs with a near-interception that turned Michael Pittman into a defensive back to avoid the turnover.
Along with the pass breakups, the Pats also limited Indy’s run-pass options by forcing Wentz to throw.
Here, Kyle Van Noy crashes down to Taylor, forcing Wentz to pass the ball against man coverage, and Kyle Dugger is all over Jack Doyle in the flat.
On the one hand, the Patriots didn’t force Wentz to throw more because of the game script.
But Bill Belichick’s game plan to limit the run out of big nickel and eliminate Indy’s passing game nearly worked.