Grogan said, "Having John and Leon gone hurt us a lot. The guys who filled in for them did all right, but we're a very close-knit team and when two of our own are unhappy, we're all unhappy."
With all of that behind them, however, and with the rest of their schedule being much easier than Baltimore's or Miami's, the Patriots have a right to be a jolly group now. Especially after the way Grogan's offense complemented the defense against the Colts, outgaining Baltimore an astonishing 370 yards to 86.
The Patriots scored the second time they owned the football in the first quarter, marching 73 yards in 14 plays that consumed a whopping seven minutes. In the long run, this interminable trip let the Colts know that the line of scrimmage was going to be New England's throughout the day. Grogan got his running attack established with Sam Cunningham and Don Calhoun, who rushed for 63 and 74 yards respectively. And then when he had Baltimore run-conscious, Grogan drew back and hit Francis, his tight end. First for 21 yards, then again for seven yards. Calhoun scored the touchdown from two yards away. The half ended 7-0 because a first-down fumble by Cunningham at Baltimore's 36 ruined what had every appearance of being another scoring drive. Stingley had made two fine catches of Grogan passes, the yardage was going by monotonously, and everything was clicking.
Cunningham's fumble was only a temporary setback. When New England came out for the second half, it simply took the ball and went 80 yards for its second touchdown, using up almost six minutes of the clock. For a while the Patriots crept along on the ground, but then up popped Francis to prove again that he is more than a professional wrestler. He squirmed loose out in the left flat, took a pass from Grogan and went into his broken-field-running routine. Francis displayed so many cute moves as he avoided one, then two, and finally a third Colt tackier while turning a four-yard pass into a 31-yard touchdown play, it made you wonder if Fairbanks is using him in the right position.
The Colts finally managed to get on the board in the third quarter, Toni Linhart kicking a 36-yard field goal to make the score 14-3. But later in that quarter—in fact, the very next time they got the ball—the Patriots marched 74 yards to the Baltimore one. On fourth down they settled for the field goal by John Smith that made the score 17-3 and removed any doubt about the outcome.
In contrast to the day Bert Jones did not enjoy, Steve Grogan could look back on 11 completions in 16 attempts for 214 yards and his 10th touchdown pass of the season. Grogan also outran Jones, if you care to be cruel about it, gaining 32 yards to Bert's desperate 26.
But quite obviously, the most important runs of the day were those made by the chaps who forced Jones to sprint backwards. Barnes gained 10 yards for New England on his sack. Bishop gained 14 yards on his. Sugar Bear Hamilton gained 13 yards on his. Lunsford was credited for six yards on his. And McGee got 10 yards on his.
So if New England is now the team it expected to be all along, and if the Patriots get to the playoffs, those 53 yards may wind up being the most cherished numbers of the whole season.
After the game, Jones said, "It was a heavy loss for us, but we're still in the driver's seat."
The Patriots would say he got the seat part right.