Jonas Gray has franchise-record 4 rush TDs as Patriots blow out Colts
INDIANAPOLIS — New England keeps finding new ways to beat Indianapolis.
On Sunday night, it was Jonas Gray.
The third-string running back rushed for a career-high 199 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a 42-20 victory over the Colts.
Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the second half of New England’s sixth consecutive victory, the last to Rob Gronkowski with 6:46 left. He was 19-of-30 for 257 yards with two interceptions as the Patriots earned their fifth consecutive win in the series.
“It’s kind of funny because on Saturday I walked into the building and Mr. [Robert] Kraft pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going to have a big game this week, so be ready,'” said Gray, who played college football three hours away from Lucas Oil Stadium at Notre Dame. “Just hearing that from the owner and hearing that from the head coach, hearing that from the leader of the team, definitely gives you a positive outlook and definitely gives you the mindset to go out and do your best.”
Gray began the day with 32 carries, 131 yards and no touchdowns in his first three NFL games this season.
He wound up with as many rushing TDs as the rest of the league combined Sunday — shocking numbers from a player coach Bill Belichick acknowledged was on the verge of being cut in training camp.
Gray’s performance overshadowed a somewhat shaky first half from Brady, who was picked off twice, including deep in his own territory with 1:16 left in the second quarter.
“Whatever it takes,” Brady said. “There’s games that you go into and we’re not sure how well we’re going to run it. But when it’s going well, you just want to keep giving it to them. We try to stay balanced. But if they’re not going to respect the running game, then you have to keep giving it to them.”
The result could have major playoff implications for the Colts (6-4), who have now lost head-to-head matchups with Denver and AFC-best New England (8-2).
Andrew Luck was 23-of-39 for 303 yards and two TDs, running Colts’ franchise record for consecutive 300-yard games to eight. He needs one more to match Drew Brees’ NFL record.
Unlike Luck’s previous two losses in the series, when he accounted for eight turnovers by himself, he minimized the mistakes Sunday. The third-year quarterback threw one interception — costing the Colts a scoring chance when Darrelle Revis deflected a pass that was picked off by Devin McCourty.
It still wasn’t enough.
Belichick followed the same tack he used in last season’s 21-point playoff victory over Indy — overpowering the Colts with the run. New England rushed for 244 yards, compared to 19 yards on 17 carries for the Colts.
“Very disappointed, not acceptable by any means,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “I felt like we played better than we did, but any time you give up the rushing yards we gave up and can’t get off the field and they go 5 for 5 in the red area again, give them credit. They beat us soundly.”
Primarily because Brady stuck to the plan.
He drove the Patriots 89 yards on their first possession, and Gray finished the drive with a 4-yard TD run. Brady and New England went 68 yards after Luck’s interception for a 2-yard run by Gray that made it 14-3.
After Brady’s second interception, Luck hooked up with Hakeem Nicks on a 10-yard TD pass to cut the halftime deficit to 14-10.
But it was all Brady and Gray after that. Gray added two more short TD runs in the second half, Brady threw TD passes to Tim Wright and Gronkowski, and the Colts never seriously challenged again.
“I’ll probably go home tonight, I’ll probably just lay in bed and look up at the ceiling and be just astonished at what’s going on,” Gray said. “I’m just writing a great story, man. It’s exciting.”
Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri reached two milestones against his former team — scoring eight points for his 17th 100-point season, breaking a tie with Jason Elam for the most in NFL history, and becoming the fourth member of the 2,100-point club. He finished the game with 2,106 points.
Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the game and expressed condolences to the family of Peter Kassig, who was beheaded by ISIS earlier in the day. Kassig’s parents live in Indianapolis. … Brady improved to 12-4 against the Colts. … Belichick tied Curly Lambeau for the second-most consecutive non-losing seasons (14). Only Tom Landry (20) has more. … Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) and Indy running back Ahmad Bradshaw (lower left leg) both left the game with injuries. … Colts offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo caught his first career TD pass.
*Photo courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images