FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady reached 500 touchdown passes for his unparalleled career and the New England Patriots put together their second straight win after a mediocre start to the season, beating Indianapolis 38-24 on Thursday night.
Brady’s 500th went to Josh Gordon, recently acquired from Cleveland, where he basically was unavailable through NFL suspensions for all but five games over the past three seasons. But, as he often does, Brady spread the wealth, hitting running back James White 10 times for 77 yards, and greeting the return of buddy Julian Edelman by completing seven for 57 yards to him.
Brady also tied Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, a former teammate, for most NFL victories with 226.
As everyone in Gillette Stadium except, apparently, the Colts knew, Brady started off with a pass to Edelman, who was wide open for 9 yards. That drew the first of many loud cheers for the 10th-year veteran receiver in his first game since the 2017 preseason, when he tore up a knee. Edelman was suspended for the first four games this year for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.
That was the first of three receptions for 28 yards for Edelman on the opening 75-yard touchdown drive Brady capped with a 1-yard toss to Cordarrelle Patterson .
From there, even though the Colts (1-4) had a drive deep into New England (3-2) territory, usually reliable Adam Vinatieri missed a 38-yard field goal.
Nothing was going right for Indianapolis, particularly after Brady led a 72-yard march to his sneak from the 1. Then he took the Patriots 68 yards near the end of the half and hit workhorse White for a 6-yard score to lead 21-3.
Under pressure, Andrew Luck threw a poor pass that Patrick Chung intercepted at midfield, and Stephen Gostkowski made a 45-yard field goal for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Luck did extend his string of games with a touchdown pass by hitting Eric Ebron on a 14-yarder in the third quarter. Showing a strong arm all night — remember, Luck missed all of 2017 with shoulder issues — he has a TD throw in 28 successive games, tops of any current quarterback.
After Matthias Farley’s interception of a pass bobbled by Chris Hogan, Indy could do nothing. Rookie Jordan Wilkins had the ball stripped from his hands by Devin McCourty four players later.
But a second pick of Brady that was not his fault — Rob Gronkowski had the ball stolen and Najee Goode wound up with it — helped the Colts get back into it for a short time.
Looking like vintage Luck, he brought his team 80 yards, including a pair of big third-down throws to Ebron, and Eric Swoope caught a 13-yard scoring pass to make it 24-17.
That’s when everyone saw vintage Brady as he hit the half-century mark for TD throws by connecting with newcomer Gordon for 34 yards, the 71st player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, an NFL mark.
Vinatieri, whose leg helped New England win three Super Bowls, hit the left upright with his 673rd career field goal attempt, the second most in NFL history. He already holds the mark for most field goals made and is closing in on Hall of Famer Morten Andersen’s points record, but was victimized by a high snap on the first-quarter miss.
Showing his true skills, Vinatieri later nailed a 54-yarder with plenty to spare.
The Colts were severely depleted, missing five starters, including their best receiver. T.Y. Hilton was out with chest and hamstring injuries. Tight end Jack Doyle (hip), running back Marlon Mack (hamstring), tackle Denzelle Good (personal matter) and cornerback Kenny Moore II (concussion) also were sidelined. They lost five more players during the game.
Not much was made of the “Deflategate” saga, even though this was Indy’s first trip to Gillette Stadium since getting routed in the 2014 AFC title game. That loss led to an NFL investigation of alleged underinflated footballs, and eventually to a four-game suspension for Brady, which he sat out in 2016.
Colts: at New York Jets on Oct. 14.
Patriots: host Kansas City on Oct. 14.