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Tom Brady isn't worried about the shortcomings that the Patriots' offense has displayed so far this season - whether it's turnovers or lack of downfield passing.
His measuring stick for progress is much more simplistic.
"It's really not about those things to me. It's about points," Brady said after New England's 38-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
It was the second straight game the Patriots have scored 38 points. It's also the second consecutive week that it's looked like Brady and the offense are turning a corner following a lackluster 1-2 start to the season that included a paltry 10-point effort in a loss to Detroit.
"Ultimately we gotta score more points," Brady said. "We scored 38, which is great. But we have more in us."
Buoyed by the return of receiver Julian Edelman from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancers, Brady looked like the reigning regular-season MVP for the first time this season.
On a night in which he notched his 500th career regular-season touchdown pass, he spread the ball around to eight receivers and threw for a season-high 341 yards.
He was spot-on from the start, completing his first nine passes on an opening drive that ended with a 1-yard TD pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Brady didn't complete more than two passes on an opening drive in any of the team's first four games.
And after an offseason that featured lots of player departures on the offensive side of the ball, Thursday's victory also highlighted just how many weapons Brady still has at his disposal.
Rookie running Sony Michel came up just two yards shy of his second straight 100-yard game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski broke out of a recent fog with six catches for 75 yards. And recent acquisition Josh Gordon notched his first touchdown - Brady's 500th - showing off his ability as the big-play threat this offense has been missing.
Edelman's return might have simply been an extra cherry on top an already-decadent cake.
"It was great. There's some things that obviously we have to work on. But it was good to get out there and catch some rocks and go out there and make some plays and be with the fellas," Edelman said. "I haven't played football in like, 405 days or something like that. It was good to be out there with the crowd rocking. It was awesome. It was amazing. It's great to be back."
While the Patriots are finding their footing, the Colts have lost three straight and slipped to 1-4.
One of the recurring themes has been self-inflicted mistakes, particularly turnovers. Indianapolis had three more on Thursday.
"We're not going to win consistently until we learn how to get out of our own way," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. "I think when we look at ourselves, we're going to have to learn how not to lose before we want to give ourselves a chance to win. And so, it's frustrating, the stuff out there. We're all frustrated but I don't think anybody's losing the belief."
Injuries Piling Up
Luck did his best to keep Indy in the game, even as injuries continue to pile up around him.
Indianapolis entered the game with receiver T.Y. Hilton headlining a list of five starters that were sidelined. The Colts added four more key players to that list on Thursday.
Linebacker Anthony Walker left in the first quarter with a concussion. Safety Clayton Geathers was initially evaluated for a concussion early in the second quarter, before clearing the protocol. But he remained out with a neck injury. Defensive tackle Margus Hunt (knee) and DT/DE Denico Autry (hamstring) also both had short nights.
Coach Frank Reich said the injuries weren't even discussed entering the game.
"It's the hand that is dealt you," Reich said. "You can't have penalties, turnovers, and drops against a good team, against any team, especially on the road. So, we just got to pick up the pieces and I still have a lot of confidence in our players.
Slinging It Around
Perhaps because of all the injuries, Luck is having to carry a lot more of the offensive load for the Colts.
Over the last two games, he has attempted 121 passes. According to Elias Sports Bureau that's the second-most pass attempts in a two-game span in NFL history and the most ever in a five-day span. Philip Rivers holds the record with 123 pass attempts in Weeks 6 and 7 in 2015.
Colts K Adam Vinatieri missed a 38-yard field goal in first quarter. But it marked his 673rd attempt, passing Gary Anderson for second on the all-time list.
Vinatieri made a 54-yarder in the second quarter on his 674th attempt. He now trails only Morten Andersen's 709 career attempts.
With his victory, Brady has now tied Vinatieri for most wins by player in NFL history (226).
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