The NFL's international series drew to a close on Sunday morning with one of the worst games you'll see anywhere all season.
The New England Patriots lost to the Indianapolis Colts 10-6, in a game that was winnable for either team if they hadn't continued to make after mistake after mistake after mistake. Ugly throws. Bad defense. Impotent offense. It was all on display, but most shocking was the Patriots' level of play. QB Mac Jones got sacked five times, then threw a back-breaking goal-line interception that got him benched for the final two minutes of the game. The Colts won, but only because the Patriots handed it to them on a silver platter.
The Pats came out strong on their first drive, keeping the action mostly on the ground. Ezekiel Elliot made his presence known, bursting through crowds of Colts on several carries and showing flashes of his old self. They drove it all the way down to the red zone, but the Colts defense held them to just a field goal.
Gardner Minshew was ready to go, too. The Colts QB kept the pace up, making a fantastic throw while under serious pressure. Then Jonathan Taylor pretty much took over, bullying his way down the field and essentially scoring a touchdown on his own (with an assist from Michael Pittman Jr.).
But after both teams scored on their opening drives (which would end up being some of the best football played all day), the rest of the first half was uneventful. A crowd rendition of "Sweet Caroline" screwed up the snap count for the Colts at one point, but really nothing could distract from how the Patriots were playing. Their offensive line was like Swiss cheese, with Jones getting sacked four times before the end of the second quarter.
New England's defense stepped up in the second half. Indy got the ball to start the third quarter, but a pass meant for Pittman got tipped in midair and Patriots CB Myles Bryant zipped in from nowhere to snatch the ball. It was one of the most beautiful plays of the entire day.
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2023
It was all for nothing, though. The Patriots not only failed to turn that takeaway into a touchdown, but kicker Chad Ryland missed his first field goal attempt from inside the 40-yard line all year. After three quarters of football, the score was still 7-3 and kickers on both teams had missed field goals.
Almost every exciting opportunity fizzled out. Just before the end of the third, Jones had a 15-yard scramble that shot a little adrenaline into the game. That drive, which had started on the Pats' own 6-yard line, made its way down the field to the Colts' 6-yard line, thanks largely to the run game. But they couldn't convert it to a touchdown and instead settled for a field goal, narrowing the score to 7-6.
Another fizzle-out: a Colts drive that included plays of 41 and 14 yards halted just shy of New England's 30-yard line and ended as a field goal, pushing the score to 10-6.
Then came the play of the day — for everyone except Patriots fans, that is. With around four minutes left in the game, the Pats had (again) driven the ball into the red zone. They were just a single toss from scoring their first touchdown of the day. Jones hadn't thrown an interception all day. So you know what's coming next.
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2023
Jones threw an absolutely horrific interception at the goal line. He looked broken on the sideline, and when the Colts' drive fizzled (of course), he remained on the bench while Bailey Zappe came in to replace him. And Zappe, who had about 1:45 to drive the Patriots down the field and score a potential winning touchdown without any timeouts, couldn't make it happen. He threw an awful interception of his own on a fake spike, sealing the game for the Colts.
After the game, Belichick explained his decision to bench Jones for Zappe. He doesn't yet know who will be the starting QB when the Patriots take the field again.
Is Mac still the QB next week?
“We’ll worry about next week next week.”
Why put in Zappe?
“Yeah I just thought it was time for a change.” pic.twitter.com/EuS5eVDGY3
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 12, 2023
Indy now goes into their bye week at .500, a miracle considering they've been playing with their backup QB. The Patriots go into their bye with a 2-8 record and endless questions about what's next.