INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

  • Kickoff: 1 p.m.
  • Broadcast: CBS4.
  • Spread: Patriots by 5½.

History lesson, Part I

As much hype as there has been around Colts vs. Patriots, is it a rivalry if one team dominates the other? Since the relocation to Indy, the Colts are 15-40 against England. The Colts won last year’s meeting 27-17 on the strength of Jonathan Taylor’s 67-yard TD with 2 minutes remaining, which snapped their eight-game losing streak in the series.

The Patriots have won eight of the last nine and 15 of 21.

History lesson, Part II

The road has not been kind to the Colts. They’re 5-24 in Foxborough since 1984, and have lost six straight, including 45-7 in the 2014 AFC Championship game and 43-22 in a ’13 divisional clash. Indy’s last win in Foxborough: 2006 (27-20).

History lesson, Part III

Sam Ehlinger is looking to join exclusive company. Since ’84, only four Colts’ QBs have led their team to a win in Foxborough: Peyton Manning (2005-06). Jim Harbaugh (’95), Jack Trudeau (’92) and Jeff George (’90).

Next step for Ehlinger

Despite his costly fumble, the Colts didn’t lose to Washington because of Sam Ehlinger. The 2021 6th-round draft pick held up his end of things in his first career start (17-of-23, 201 yards). He was able to avoid pressure on several occasions with movement in the pocket, and the game plan had him getting on the edges with his mobility.

The next step? Do it again, but do it better. Ehlinger should recognize things quicker and be more confident and decisive. The speed of the game should slow down a tad.

“You learn from those things,’’ Frank Reich said. “So, putting the ball in certain windows or other plays that we have, that he’s now got some under his belt in a game. I just think it continues to kind of improve his decision making.’’

The obvious challenge is taking Step 2 against Bill Belichick, who has a reputation of making things difficult for young QBs. Whatever Ehlinger expects from the Patriots’ defense, he’ll probably be surprised numerous times.

Reich was semi-defiant.

“We’re not ready to go in there and wave the white flag,’’ he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity and we know Belichick’s the best ever, especially going against young quarterbacks.

“They’re going to have a certain way that they’re going to do things and we go in with a plan, but always against a Belichick team, you have to be ready to adapt as you go.’’

Backup plan

Taylor and the run game were the difference in the week 15 win over the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indy piled up 226 yards with Taylor accounting for 170 and the deciding 67-yard TD through the heart of Belichick’s defense. Carson Wentz completed five passes for 57 yards.

If the Colts are to win consecutive games in the series for the first time since 2008-09, they’ll have to rely on depth at the position. Taylor is out with a lingering ankle injury while Nyheim Hines is in Buffalo. That means the load once again largely falls on Deon Jackson and Phillip Lindsay.

Jackson was solid in two active games at Denver and against Jacksonville (25 rushes, 104 yards, one TD), and don’t be surprised if Ehlinger keeps him busy in the in the passing game. He’s caught all 14 of his targets this season, and had 10 catches for 79 yards against the Jaguars.

The Colts have yet to get their run game going – 29th in yards per game and per attempt – but the Patriots have been vulnerable in that area. They’re allowing 126 yards per game (22nd) and 4.8 per attempt (23rd).

That run defense, though, is in the midst of a strange season. It has limited four opponents to 91 yards or fewer. And it has been gashed by Chicago (243 yards), Green Bay (199) and Baltimore (188).

Ball security 

As we’ve said ad nauseam, more games are lost than won. Win the turnover battle and you’ve got a real good chance of winning the game. The Colts are 0-4-1 when they’ve lost the turnover battle, 3-0 when they’ve been even or on the plus side.

See, simple.

Sunday should be interesting. Each team has suffered 16 turnovers, tied with New Orleans for the most in the league. The Colts’ seven lost fumbles are tied for the league lead while the 10 interceptions of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe also are tied for the most.

The clear difference: The Colts’ 16 turnovers have led to 56 points; opponents have capitalized with just 25 points on the Patriots’ giveaways.

Another difference: Indy is a minus-8 in turnover differential because its defense has just six takeaways (a seventh was a muffed punt by Kansas City). The Patriots are even as their defense has is tied for the league lead with 16 takeaways. Seven different players have at least one interception. Cornerbacks Jack Jones and Jalen Mills and safety Devin McCourty have two each.

New England’s takeaway antics are boosted by a pass rush that has generated 23 sacks and 39 quarterback hits. Outside Matthew Judon is the pressure catalyst with 8.5 sacks (tied for the league lead) and 15 QB hits while end Deatrich Wise Jr. adds 5 sacks.

Look for the Patriots to test the Colts’ left tackle. Veteran Dennis Kelly has started the last two games but didn’t practice this week because of ankle/calf injuries and will be a game-time decision. It’s possible Indy turns once again to rookie Bernhard Raimann, who was unable to secure the position with poor performances at Denver and against Jacksonville.

And the winner is

Patriots 24, Colts 16. In a normal season, this game is eminently winnable. But there’s been nothing normal about the first eight weeks of the season for Indy. The team’s commitment to Matt Ryan lasted seven games, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady was fired, Hines is a Bill and the NFL’s highest-paid offensive line remains a mess. Shaq Leonard should be more effective the more he plays and the defense should get a boost from the return of Kwity Paye.

But until the Colts quit beating themselves and the offense gets its act together, this season will continue to spiral in the wrong direction.

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You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.