EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

January 24, 2007

By the end, Patriots were running on empty

I've been taking notes the last few days since returning from the Hartford of mid-America, Indianapolis.



From what I'm hearing, there were a few plays that probably turned the game in the Indianapolis Colts' favor.



1) The offensive interference on Troy Brown, who shoved a Colts defensive back, nullifying a first down by Ben Watson at the Colts' 19. The play negated a possible touchdown for an insurmountable 28-3 lead, or at worst a field goal for a 24-3 advantage. The penalty was followed by an illegal formation penalty and then a sack, forcing the Patriots to punt.



2) The interference call on Ellis Hobbs (more on this later), who was covering Reggie Wayne in the end zone. Instead of being incomplete and third-and-7 from the Pats' 19, the ball was placed on the 1-yard line. The Colts immediately scored on a pass to Dan Klecko, tying the score at 21-21 after the two-point conversion.



3) The fact that Tom Brady saw wide receiver Reche Caldwell too late while he was all alone on the right AND Caldwell dropped what could have been an easy touchdown pass. Instead, the Patriots got only a field goal to go ahead, 31-28.



4) The third-and-4 pass Brady threw to Brown on the Pats' second-to-last possession, which was knocked away by Colts safety Bob Sanders. A completion there and the Patriots would have been able to run out the clock.



You could add in as potential game-turners the injuries before the game - like to Rodney Harrison - the guys who suffered from the flu late last week and those injuries during the game to Richard Seymour and Rosevelt Colvin.



If any of the above went in the Patriots' favor, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana would be next on New England's hit list in the record books.



But they didn't, so the Steel Curtain and those guys are safe, for now.



But wasn't the bigger issue - the one nobody is talking about - that the Patriots couldn't run the ball?



For most of this season, especially in San Diego, the Patriots were able to abandon their game plan, which often included rushing the football more than they passed it. That's because of Brady. He could handle it. So could his offensive linemen, who really were the underrated aspect of this team (they earned A's for their protection of Brady the entire season).



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