For a team that was 1-2 just a couple of weeks ago, their standards are pretty high. Particularly offensively.
They've won in back-to-back weeks and scored 38 points in back-to-back games, but Tom Brady wants more.
"If you look back at the first five games we’re giving away too many scoring opportunities," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show. "That's limiting our points. I thought the other night we should have put 52 out there, at least. Maybe more."
Brady more than held up his end of the bargain against the Colts in Week 5, and the grades reflect that. But he knows that his group will have to clean up the mistakes that led to two interceptions against Indy and have helped keep New England's turnover differential at plus-one thus far, before they take on the high-flying Chiefs.
"When we play a team like Kansas City, we have to take advantage of every scoring opportunity because we know they are," Brady said. "They've proven over five weeks that they can distribute the ball, and they guys they're distributing to are making plays, getting into the end zone. We've got to match that."
Before we take on our preparations for what should be a Sunday night fireworks show, let's get to the grades from the Colts game. . . .
New England Patriots
Not much to nitpick here. The second play of the game was an odd one, where it seemed like Brady had Chris Hogan for an easy first down -- Hogan was uncovered at the line and practically waving for the football -- but decided to hand to James White for no gain. And on his team's first full drive of the second quarter he held onto the ball for eons as the Colts played coverage and took away short stuff, leading to a quick punt. But otherwise, he was tremendous. Even Brady's picks -- which should've been catches by Hogan and Rob Gronkowski -- were good throws. The interception intended for Gronkowski was slightly behind but exactly where Brady wanted to go with the football (and exactly where he should've gone). He kept him out of harm's way, not unlike the 19-yard play-action completion Brady hit on to Gronkowski earlier in the game. An incompletion on a slant to Josh Gordon was thrown low and behind, but only because Gordon overran what looked like the soft spot in the Colts zone. Julian Edelman was easy money for Brady against that coverage (though he dropped a good throw from Brady down the sideline), as was James White. The Patriots schemed things up nicely against the Colts zones, using misdirection, play-action and one fine fake screen to get defenders moving in the wrong direction, and Brady made them pay with his accuracy. Tack on a quarterback sneak touchdown for good measure and this was Brady's top performance of 2018.
RUNNING BACK: A-
There's been a lot of chatter about just how much Edelman's return will impact Gronkowski, but having another talented player on the field creates a domino effect for all of Brady's targets. White has been very good all season, but with Edelman back on the field, things open up even more for him. His touchdown grab came when Brady looked to the side of the formation where Gronkowski and Edelman were situated, forced the defense to flow that way, and then came back to his trusty back. White's 10 receptions were a regular-season high. Sony Michel (pictured) continues to do his best work between the tackles. He had a 16-yard run in the second where he set up his blocks effectively and showed patience. On his next run, he was hit three yards behind the line yet still picked up three. He ran hard and gained 66 of his 98 yards after contact, including a chunk of his 34-yard touchdown when he stiff-armed a defensive back to the underworld. Michel also had a timely blitz pickup, allowing Brady to find Gronkowski for a gain of six. The only reason this grade isn't higher is there are still too many stuffed runs occurring with Michel on the field. He was stopped short of the goal line in the second. He also had two runs to the edge where he couldn't beat Colts defenders. He almost failed to outrun a defensive end on a third-and-one play in the red zone when the defensive end had to flip his hips to turn and chase. That should be a race Michel, especially with a head of steam, wins easily.
Edelman's return was a game-changer for Brady and the Patriots offense. Having a player who understands coverages and where Brady wants him in the short-to-intermediate area paid immediate dividends. As a group Brady's receivers caught 17 of their 21 targets, which is typically a fine number, but an Edelman drop, two botched Gordon routes, and a pick that should've been a reception all help dock this grade significantly. Gordon's scramble-drill score was proof of Brady's trust (pictured: Gordon celebrating his touchdown with Hogan), and perhaps he's in line to see more than the 18 snaps he's played each of the last two weeks. Hogan saw 63 snaps but that number may diminish. There were two instances where it was odd he didn't see the ball: The second play of the game, mentioned above, and on Gordon's touchdown. Play-action sucked up the linebacker on Hogan's side, and Brady's eyes initially were on Gordon, moving the single-high safety to that side of the field. Had he come back to Hogan, he might've had an easy on-schedule score. Brady didn't pull the trigger and instead it was Gordon who caught the 500th TD pass of the QB's career. This wasn't this group's best day blocking. Solid day overall, but plenty of room to improve.
TIGHT END: B
This group's best work was done in the blocking game. (As always, we include James Develin here.) Develin and Gronkowski (pictured) combined for punishing blocks on a third-and-one picked up by Michel in the early going. Gronkowski also had a perfect "wham" block early in the second on Michel's 14-yard scamper. Gronkowski's kick-out block on Michel's touchdown run was also a thing of beauty. His drop-turned-pick and false start bring this grade down, but his ankle looked fine and he finished with 75 yards on six grabs. Things will get even better for him as a receiver if he gets healthier and if Gordon and Edelman start to take this offense to new heights.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A-
The Colts came into the game with the second-highest sack total in football, and they did so without blitzing (they blitzed only 14 percent of the time coming into the game). But Dante Scarnecchia's unit kept them off the board Thursday. Was it perfect? Nope. Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon all allowed stuffed runs. Cannon and David Andrews were flagged twice each. Thuney allowed a pair of hits and Trent Brown allowed one. Still, there was more good than bad here. Athleticism on the interior helped create two positive screen plays, and Michel's touchdown run was a clinic. Brown and Thuney combined to dominate two players on the offensive left, while Mason pulled to eliminate a third. Good day against an underrated front.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
First, the good. Edelman (pictured) gave the punt-return group some life with a 15-yard return early. Michel had a nice kick return for 26 yards that bumped this grade. Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 45-yarder and all of his extra points, and Ryan Allen had a first-quarter punt fair-caught at the Indy 6. The blemishes? JC Jackson picked up yet another penalty to wipe out a return that saw Edelman force three missed tackles. Nate Ebner missed a tackle on the Colts' 33-yard punt return in the third that helped set up a touchdown. And Gostkowski failed to place a pooch deep in Indy territory after the Colts were penalized on a second-quarter kick. He blasted it into the end zone -- the second time this season he hasn't been able to drop one near the goal line -- and Jason McCourty was aligned incorrectly. That string of errors had to have the Patriots sideline boiling after Colts tried to hand them better field position with a gaffe of their own.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
Adrian Clayborn had an up-and-down first month of the regular season, but the Patriots benefitted from an "up" performance from their pass-rushing end. He finished the game with a team-high five hurries, he drew a penalty, and he tallied a hit that forced Andrew Luck into an interception by Patrick Chung. Clayborn's partner on the hit was tackle Adam Butler (the "T" of their "T-E" stunt), who had a strong game against the pass as well, sniffing out a screen to force an incompletion, batting down a pass, and creating two hurries of his own. The Patriots lost Malcom Brown to injury after just 21 snaps (pictured), but Danny Shelton stepped up with strong game against the run. Deatrich Wise had a hit and a hurry, but was blocked a little too easily at times in the passing game, as was Lawrence Guy. Trey Flowers continues to be solid, slicing into the Colts line to split a sack with Chung. He had an offsides penalty but also had three pressures and he, like Brown, broke up a screen play.
Can we include Chung in this group? We won't, but we'll explain why that's even a consideration in a minute. Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy (pictured) were both very strong against Indy's anemic running game. Van Noy in particular seems to be comfortable crashing down the line of scrimmage to make plays as a stand-up backside defender. He had four positive plays in the run game and notched three pressures. Hightower had a run-stuff of his own and a quarterback hit, and he also communicated to Chung just before Chung's sack, seemingly indicating to him the gap to fill with Flowers stunting to the inside. Every week Hightower shows his value as a traffic cop in the middle. Elandon Roberts played 41 snaps, including 28 in coverage, allowing four catches for 35 yards. On one third-and-five in the first quarter, his drop took him beyond the sticks and Luck hit the vacated area for a first down. Hard to know if that was Roberts or Hightower, who was chasing in coverage, but either way was a slight blow to this grade on what was overall a good day.
Upon re-watching this one, some of the coverage breakdowns weren't as bad as they initially seemed. A few were tip-your-cap moments as Luck squeezed good throws into tight windows. Devin McCourty might like to have Eric Ebron's touchdown back, since Ebron's route wasn't all that crisp, but Erik Swoope's was a great throw and catch. McCourty was right there and made a good attempt to break it up. He also had a nice breakup on Nyheim Hines on third down to force a punt, and he made one of the best individual plays of the season to simply rip the football from Jordan Wilkins for a turnover. Stephon Gilmore lost Chester Rogers on one snap (which Rogers finished off with a drop), but otherwise he had three breakups and a near pick for another strong performance. Jason McCourty was also solid, despite being tested early and often in the red zone by Luck. His one deflection turned into an easy pick for Jonathan Jones. If there was one defensive back who was beaten not necessarily because of eye-opening throws but miscues in coverage, it was Jones. Rogers in particular seemed to have little issue creating separation there. Chung (pictured), meanwhile, showed why he's so valuable. He had a sack as a pass-rusher. He had a pick in coverage. And he mixed it up in the run game at the second level like he was a linebacker. The Patriots ran a number of what looked like 3-4 (or 3-3) looks with Chung as one of the 'backers, where he -- as usual -- took on players much larger. He had one run stuff from the middle of the field, using his quickness to avoid blocks, and later in the game he stood up a lineman with 95 pounds on him, helping create traffic that limited Hines to a three-yard gain.