Pats, Colts a growing concern

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:40 AM ET

It’s far too early to write off the New England Patriots and their perennial championship tag-team partners from Indianapolis.

But it is not too early to start wondering about them.

It is not too early to think that perhaps the rest of the NFL is catching up. The initial hint came last January when they handed out the Super Bowl and there wasn’t a single guy named Manning involved. There is growing suspicion that the Colts are no longer the unbeatable juggernaut of a season past, while the Patriots this pre-season have looked more like patsies.

Thursday was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for both teams, the games in which they would unleash the hounds and show their usual pre-eminence. Instead, they were undressed. The naked truth is they, well ... sucked.

The Packers ran up the scoreboard numbers like a pinball machine in a 59-24 defrocking of the once-mighty Colts.

The Patriots took 27 minutes before getting even a first down and lost 36-35 to the Rams. In NFL terms, losing to St. Louis is like getting beat up by your little sister. Only one of New England’s possessions lasted more than five plays.

From Pats to patsies. How the might have fallen. Tom Brady completed 18 of 22 passes but, other than that, this was a Patriots team that looked like a shadow of its former greatness.

This may be pre-season but when the Rams, winners of just six games in three seasons, roll up a 462-288 margin in offensive yards, there’s every reason to panic.

“They were able to move the ball at will,” safety James Sanders told reporters. “It was demoralizing.”

If misery loves company, at least the Patriots have Indianapolis. The Colts have been horrid, allowing 130 points in three pre-season games. That’s 43.3 a game, a deficit even Peyton Manning and his offence at its best (and it has been far from that) would find a challenge to overcome. After scoring 17 points, the Colts’ next five drives generated just 77 yards while Manning lost a fumble and threw an interception.

Despite using most of their first stringers, the Dolts still allowed the most points in their pre-season history while the Packers tacked up their highest total since a 75-0 blowout of the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Crush . . . in 1938.

If that didn’t hurt enough, the Colts also lost five players to injuries: Linebacker Gary Brackett injured his right hand, running back Joseph Addai and cornerback Jacob Lacey have concussions, offensive tackle Tony Ugoh banged up a toe, and defensive tackle Antonio Johnson tweaked a groin.

But for both the Patriots and Colts, it really hurt the most somewhere else because, pre-season or not, this was an all-around butt-kicking. And, if they don’t find some of that old time magic soon, it promises to be just the first of a season-full.

Quick hits

Bills linebacker Reggie Torbor missed practice with an undisclosed injury but coach Chan Gailey said he hopes to have him back by the season opener ... The Vikings are still waiting for Percy Harvin to clear one more medical test, but the best-case scenario for the receiver’s return is likely the season opener in New Orleans ... Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan are in a duel for the punter’s spot with the Packers. Masthay hit a big 53-yarder against the Colts but there hasn’t been a lot to choose between the two ... Raiders’ Darren McFadden, who has missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, is expected to start Saturday’s third exhibition game ahead of Michael Bush and still has an outside chance of winning the starting running back’s job ... Rams’ Donnie Avery has ligament damage in his knee and could miss the season ... Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan (groin) says he’ll play in the season opener against the Raiders ... Steelers coach Mike Tomlin hinted Friday that he may not name a starting quarterback before Week 1 to make it more difficult for the Falcons to prepare. Dennis Dixon, with his athleticism, and Byron Leftwich, with his experience, are very different players. Both quarterbacks may play extensively in the opener.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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