- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 59-24 win over the Colts:
What it means. The Patriots tie the franchise record for points to improve to 7-3 and maintain a solid cushion atop the AFC East, while keeping pace with the top teams in the conference overall. They started slowly before exploding. The Colts drop to 6-4. The last time the Patriots scored 59 points in a game was October 2009 against the Titans.
Talib pays early dividends with INT return. Cornerback Aqib Talib's 59-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter was one for the highlight reel. The interception itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary -- Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck had a bad overthrow as rushing defensive lineman Vince Wilfork seemed to affect his mechanics -- but Talib’s zig-zagging runback was sensational. Talib started at left cornerback and played most of the game, the Patriots occasionally giving him a conditioning-based breather. While Talib had some hiccups in coverage -- he was beaten for a long touchdown by T.Y. Hilton in the fourth quarter and hardly could be viewed as a shutdown corner in the game -- it was an overall successful debut because of the interception return.
Edelman brings spark. Julian Edelman was elevated up the Patriots’ receiver depth chart after the Saturday release of Deion Branch, and he was one of the Patriots’ top players in the game. His 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter was a momentum-swinging, crowd-igniting play as the Patriots had trailed 14-7 at the time. It was Edelman’s third career punt return for a touchdown (in four seasons) and as part of his end zone celebration, he cast a line as a fisherman and reeled it in. Creative. He later had another big punt return, and at receiver, he finished with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, while adding one blazing run for 47 yards.
Ankle injury for top pick Jones. Impressive defensive end Chandler Jones, a mainstay who entering the game had been on for 90.9 percent of the team’s snaps, left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return. At first, Jones had his right foot retaped on the sideline and attempted to walk it off. But he then went back to the locker room for X-rays. He returned to the sideline in the second quarter, in uniform, but wasn’t with his teammates for the second half. This will be a big injury situation to monitor.
Gronkowski puts up big numbers. The Colts had no answer for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who currently leads fan balloting for the AFC Pro Bowl. Gronkowski finished with seven receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns, marking the ninth time in his three-year career that he’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Gronkowski went to the locker room late in the fourth quarter, so he might have been dealing with some type of injury, which will be something to monitor.
Defense thrives again off turnovers. The Patriots’ defense stayed true to its identity -- giving up yards, starting slowly, but living off turnovers. The Patriots entered the day as the NFL’s best team in turnover differential and had two interception returns for a touchdown (Talib’s 59-yarder and Alfonzo Dennard’s 87-yarder), and defensive end Rob Ninkovich added a second-half strip sack and fumble recovery (his fifth forced fumble of the season, which ties a Patriots record). Rookie safety Tavon Wilson added a late interception.
Boos for Vinatieri. It’s been seven years since kicker Adam Vinatieri left the Patriots for the Colts, but New England fans -- who were the beneficiary of Vinatieri’s clutch kicks en route to three Super Bowl championships -- haven’t forgotten. They booed every time Vinatieri’s name was mentioned by the public address announcer.
What’s next. The Patriots have a quick turnaround with a Thanksgiving night game at the Jets (NBC, 8:20 ET). The Colts return home to Indianapolis to host the Bills on Sunday.