The NFL’s Week 10 Sunday slate dawned with the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots squaring off in Frankfurt, Germany, in the fifth and final installment of the league’s 2023 International Series docket.
And while it was hardly a shock that the Colts won, a 10-6 triumph at Deutsche Bank Park that put yet another torpedo into the Patriots’ apparently lost season was still a rather jarring watch. And it seems like there could be significant fallout for both clubs as they head back across the Atlantic Ocean and into their Week 11 byes.
Sunday morning’s winners and losers, Deutschland style:
They leveled their record at 5-5, moving into ninth place overall in the AFC – for now – and one game behind the trifecta of 5-3 AFC North teams that currently occupy the conference’s three wild-card spots. Indianapolis may not, uh, have the horses to reach the playoffs, but a 2023 season that’s largely been devoid of rookie QB Anthony Richardson has already been a rousing success for first-year head coach Shane Steichen.
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Indy’s All-Pro running back had a season-high 24 touches (for 75 yards) in his sixth appearance of a campaign that began with an ankle still healing from surgery and his bank account smarting from a below-market contract. Both issues now resolved, Taylor looks ready for a heavy workload moving forward on a day when he scored the game’s only touchdown on a patient 1-yard run.
Patriots’ draft position
They’re now projected to pick third overall in 2024, which could mean a shot at a quarterback more worthy of Tom Brady’s vacated throne. More on this later, but hey – if the glass is 95% empty, there’s another way to look at it, yeah?
The Colts’ third-year defensive end notched three of Indianapolis’ five sacks, establishing a new career high while doubling his 2023 total entering the game.
New England’s run game
RBs Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott spearheaded an effort that produced 167 yards on the ground, the Patriots’ highest total of the season.
Indianapolis’ Rigoberto Sanchez and New England’s Bryce Baringer combined for nine boots, each bombing one for at least 69 yards – Baringer drilling a 79-yarder.
The only other time he’s been 2-8 with New England was his inaugural season in 2000, which is also the only time BB’s Patriots have finished last in the AFC East – a spot they firmly hold now. They failed to score an offensive TD for the third time this season and went 0-for-4 in the red zone. And Sunday’s loss certainly won’t alleviate the once-unthinkable questions about Belichick’s job security – especially following a game that owner Robert Kraft said he “very much” wanted to win on NFL Network prior to kickoff. Welp.
The Patriots quarterback’s final throw of a forgetful day, with little more than four minutes remaining and New England trailing by four points, was picked off. Belichick then benched Jones in favor of Bailey Zappe for the Patriots’ final possession – which ended with Zappe being intercepted. Belichick didn’t say who would start when Week 12’s game against the New York Giants rolls around, but it appears that Jones’ future is in increasingly serious jeopardy – especially given New England must decide next spring whether to activate his fifth-year option.
New England’s offensive coordinator was caught on camera airing out Jones on the bench – a scene reminiscent of when O’Brien and Brady infamously argued on the sideline in 2011. Yet Brady was a slightly better quarterback … we’d say? O’Brien was brought back to fix the Patriots’ attack and reverse Jones’ regression since his 2021 Pro Bowl season as a rookie. Not working. And we know Josh McDaniels is on speed dial.
While I can tell you from experience that Germans love to watch punts and field goals – both in steady supply Sunday – shame such a fervent foreign football fan base (alliteration!) was subject to the lowest-scoring international game in NFL history. But never a lost day when you can perpetuate a new national tradition by singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” en masse.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.