Patriots-Colts has familiar competitive element


INDIANAPOLIS -- So much for the blowout. This instead feels like one of those old, high-tension, pressure-packed Patriots-Colts games that were the norm when Tom Brady was dueling Peyton Manning.

Only this time, it's Brady versus Andrew Luck. And Luck has been up to the challenge.

The Colts lead 21-20 at the half, and one of the things that stands out from the first 30 minutes is their aggressive approach. They went for it on fourth-and-1 to score their first touchdown and then attempted an onside kick after a pick-six by safety Mike Adams (they nearly recovered).

As for the Patriots, the lack of targets for tight end Rob Gronkowski is notable. Not that it has really hurt the Patriots' offense -- Brady is going to other targets effectively -- but it's been a quiet first half for Gronkowski, which is uncharacteristic.

No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman has been a mixed bag, off to a hot start before playing a central role in one of the most important plays of the half, the pick-six. It was a ball Edelman usually catches, but instead, it was tipped into the air, and the opportunistic Adams was there to haul it in and race 14 yards untouched for the score.

Edelman has two drops tonight, which matches the amount of drops he had in the first four games of the season combined. He has never had three drops in a game.

Could it be a result of his pinky finger?

NBC cameras showed the finger bent awkwardly in the first quarter and then Edelman having it taped on the sideline.

Also, after a week of wondering how the Patriots would approach their offensive tackle position after losing left tackle Nate Solder to a season-ending injury, the decision was essentially made for the team when fill-in Marcus Cannon left the game after the first drive with a toe injury. He hasn't returned. He was back on the sideline in the second quarter, in uniform, but didn't appear ready to come back in the game, from what we viewed through our binoculars. NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya reported the same thing, and we'll see if that changes in the second half.

But with Cannon departing, it's been Sebastian Vollmer at left tackle and Cameron Fleming, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, at right tackle.

Meanwhile, it's been a Dion Lewis game for the Patriots at running back, as he has played 25 snaps, compared to LeGarrette Blount's 11. But Blount has still made a mark with his 38-yard touchdown run at 9:33 of the second quarter.

While the referees have made their presence felt with a few calls that could be questioned, I think they generally evened out for both teams.

The Patriots get the ball to open the second half after winning the opening toss and deferring.