New England Patriots Proving They Can Adapt to Any Situation

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IOctober 19, 2015

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) yells while surrounded by teammates in the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

For the first 30 minutes on Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, it looked like the New England Patriots had finally met their match. Then, for the next 30 minutes, the Patriots proved why they are in a class of their own in the AFC.

The Patriots went into the locker room trailing 21-20, the first time they haven't led by double digits at halftime this season. Then, they emerged from the locker room a different team on their way to a 34-27 win. 

They've already won on the strength of Tom Brady's arm this year, and they did it again on Sunday when the future Hall of Fame quarterback completed 23 of his 37 passes for 312 yards, three touchdowns and one flukey interception.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

They've also won on the strength of their defensive line this year, as they did on Sunday when the Patriots front sacked Colts quarterback Andrew Luck three times in the second half to keep their offense off track. 

They've also had contributions from the running game (25 carries for 106 rushing yards and a touchdown)  and from the coaching staff in the form of in-game adjustments (21 first-half points on defense, six second-half points). 

But in Indianapolis, the Patriots got contributions from everyone. 

They even got contributions from players who were hardly even heard from. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's been rampaging through the entire NFL, caught just three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night. Gronkowski made his presence felt even without making much of an impact on the stat sheet, though, by opening up soft spots in the Colts defense for Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. 

The Patriots' two slot receivers finished with six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown and seven receptions for 105 yards, respectively.

But those are all adjustments the Patriots can make. One adjustment they can't plan is for injuries, yet they seem to be handling them very well.

"We've got a few guys banged up, we had some people step in and do a real good job for us, take some extended snaps at various positions," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said after the game. "So that was good, too. It's always good to have so many guys step up and contribute when we really needed them."

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower was out for this week's game, and his absence was felt each time Luck completed a short underneath pass to a tight end or a wide receiver on a crossing pattern over the middle. 

With no Nate Solder at left tackle, and with an injury to Marcus Cannon shortly after the beginning of the game, the Patriots had to continue to shuffle pieces on the offensive line. Sebastian Vollmer moved over to the left side, and Cameron Fleming came in at the right tackle spot.

Never mind how lucky the Patriots were to have moved Fleming to the active roster just days before this game due to the lack of depth. They also are fortunate to have a tackle in Vollmer who is versatile enough to play either the left or the right side.

Believe it or not, the Patriots had that contingency plan already in place before the game.

"That's kind of the way we practiced it, for that contingency," Belichick said. "So unfortunately, that's the way it came up and we had to go it. I thought Cam stepped in there and played very competitively, Sebastian over on the left side. Tackle is a critical position. We've had four guys play it pretty well for us so far this year. That's not a position we want to keep losing guys at, but we've had guys step in and play well."

They're already on their fourth offensive tackle, but Brady might be successful even if they were on their sixth. He has helped the Patriots adjust to the losses on the offensive line with his quick release and his ability to move around the pocket to buy extra time.

Of course, that's another way the Patriots have adjusted. Without wide receiver Brandon LaFell, the Patriots have had no true deep threat on the outside. LaFell is eligible to return next week against the New York Jets, and while he might be a little rusty, his physical presence could help open things up even further for the passing game.

Center Bryan Stork is eligible to return in a few weeks, as well. The young center was a stabilizing presence on the inside of the offensive line last year, and the Patriots have been without their young center all season long up to this point.

Those are changes for the better, but for better or worse, the Patriots have made the right adjustments to keep them among the ranks of the undefeated.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained via team news release.