FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When the New England Patriots arrived on the field for the start of Thursday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver Julian Edelman broke out into a full sprint and raced from one end zone to the other. He jumped into the air, spun, and pumped his right fist in excitement as Gillette Stadium erupted.
That spark carried on to the field as Edelman’s return from a torn ACL, which cost him the entire 2017 season, and then a four-game NFL suspension to open this year. It helped ignite the Patriots’ offense.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 5, 2018
For three quarters, at least, it was a glimpse of how lethal the Patriots’ attack can be.
No, the Patriots didn’t finish off the Colts with the decisiveness they would have liked in a 38-24 victory, a result that was closer than it should have been if not for sloppy ball-security in the third quarter. But some flashes of brilliance in the first half and fourth quarter highlight the fireworks that could be coming in one of the most exciting games of the NFL season when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town Oct. 14.
The return of Edelman, who played 50 of 71 offensive snaps (including penalties), was a big part of it because it allowed the Patriots to play at a faster pace in a plan that featured a majority of three-receiver packages.
The Patriots didn’t have the personnel through the first quarter of the season to turn to three-receiver packages with an up-tempo approach. But with Edelman joining Chris Hogan (64 snaps) and Phillip Dorsett (43), that was the primary combination against the Colts, with newcomer Josh Gordon (20) and gadget option Cordarrelle Patterson (8) sprinkled into the mix.
That the first pass of the game went to Edelman, for nine yards, wasn’t a coincidence.
“That was great. We wanted to get him involved,” quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged. “Just good to have him out there. We all want it to be perfect every time we go out, but I was really happy to be out there with him. He’s a great player, and obviously, the more great players you have out there, the better we’re going to move the ball and score points.”
The way the Patriots moved it at times in the first half, and then in the fourth quarter, was how they will need to play against Kansas City. If they duplicate their poor third quarter, in which they had two interceptions because of poor ball-security from receivers, they might not be able to recover against a more talented team.
“We scored 38, which is great, but we have more in us this week,” Brady said, adding that the team has a 93 percent chance of winning when it doesn’t turn the ball over. “Last week, we scored 38 and I think we had more in us. So we’ve got a lot of room to grow, and we need to make improvements in a short period of time. We play a great team in Kansas City coming up, a huge game.”
As for Edelman, his fiery entrance was a result of letting out emotion from not having played a regular-season game in 405 days. Not that he was counting.
“That’s something that gets me fired up and you get to share it with the people that come out and support you, get them riled up,” he said. “I remember when I tore my ACL, during the rehab, you’re sitting there and can’t wait to run out of that tunnel. So it was great to get to be able to play with the fellas, awesome to get the team win. Obviously, we could do a lot better, but any time you go ahead and beat a team in the conference, it’s always great, especially the Colts. We’ll leave it at that.”
And now, with a still-evolving offense that looked potent at times, they set their sights on the Chiefs.