There was no over-the-top celebration. No real outward shows of emotion, or talk about revenge from Deflategate. In some respects, it almost felt like they had lost instead of improving to 5-0 and further solidifying their standing as the team to beat in the AFC.
This is often the way the Patriots roll, chasing the elusive perfect performance and seldom allowing a feeling of satisfaction.
“We still have to find a way to play better,” coach Bill Belichick said in his opening remarks after the victory.
Perhaps another reason for such a subdued vibe was a result of seeing special teams captain Matthew Slater -- a spiritual leader who often leads the team’s chant in the locker room after victories -- carted through the tunnel after reportedly injuring his right knee in the fourth quarter.
That’s not to say Belichick didn’t salute players for a job well done, as he talked about how they made enough plays on offense, defense and special teams. “Certainly a lot of plays on special teams,” he said, in reference to the turning point of the game late in the third quarter when the Patriots successfully denied the Colts on a badly botched fake punt.
Belichick also noted how some emergency replacements, such as right tackle Cameron Fleming, came through “when we really needed them.”
But the general mood was low-key.
“I thought our execution was off at times,” said quarterback Tom Brady, who finished 23-of-37 for 312 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, and was clearly disappointed in the offense’s inability to close things out in the fourth quarter with three straight three-and-outs to keep the Colts in the game.
“I’m glad we won, it’s always good to win on the road, but we have a quick turnaround this week [with] a division game. It will be fun.”
That AFC East game, against the 4-1 New York Jets, will be highlighted by cornerback Darrelle Revis' return to Gillette Stadium for the first time since he departed in free agency. It’s another rivalry game and in New York on Sunday, the first question Revis was asked after the Jets’ victory over Washington was about returning to face the Patriots.
“Last year was last year. We had a great time and we ended up winning,” Revis told reporters. “This year is no different than when I was [with the Jets] in previous years.”
In other words, “The Border War” rages on and he once again bleeds Jets colors. During Revis' one-year stint behind enemy lines in 2014, one thing he sometimes talked about was the Patriots' hard-driving approach, which was fully on display late Sunday night.
Brady, for example, was lamenting missed opportunities such as a 5-of-12 success rate on third down. He also didn't elaborate when asked by ESPN staffers if he took two footballs from the game as a keepsake, saying only he didn't keep them for himself.
“I thought we all could have done a better job,” said Brady, who threw his first interception of the season, a play in which receiver Julian Edelman tipped the ball into the air and safety Mike Adams returned it 14 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. “I thought we left a lot of yards at certain points out there. … We could have executed a lot better in a lot of phases -- run, pass, everything, so that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Edelman, whose awkwardly bent pinky finger was shown in a close-up by NBC during the game, was hard on himself in saying he felt he let Brady down.
His remarks reflected the overall mood as the team departed Indianapolis late Sunday night.
“We left a lot of things out there. There are a lot of things we could do a lot better,” said Edelman, whose two dropped passes matched his total from the season’s first four games. “This is a good win and all, but it’s over and we’re looking forward to playing again.”
So the subdued victors are already turning the page. That was fast.
And entirely not surprising.