FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Alfonzo Dennard watched himself on the video board as he raced 87 yards with an interception for a touchdown. He wanted to see if the star rookie who threw the pass might catch him.
The way the New England Patriots were playing — with their usual strong offense, big plays on defense and a touchdown on a punt return — there was no way Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts could overtake them.
The Patriots, the NFL’s highest-scoring team, equaled their single-game scoring record for points with a 59-24 win on Sunday.
“The coaches want us to play aggressive,” said Dennard, whose touchdown made it 45-17. “So that’s what I was doing out there.”
“They’re good enough,” Luck said. “They don’t need those gifts, but to their credit, they created those and we didn’t.”
They may need them more after tight end Rob Gronkowski left the field with what the Patriots said was an arm injury with about four minutes left in the game. Comcast SportsNet New England reported X-rays showed Gronkowski had a broken arm. Neither the team nor Comcast SportsNet specified which arm was hurt.
Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes Sunday, giving him seven touchdown receptions in his last four games and 10 for the season. He finished the game with seven catches for 137 yards, The Patriots‘ other valuable tight end Aaron Hernandez missed his third straight game and sixth overall after spraining his right ankle.
The Patriots‘ much-maligned pass defense finally made major contributions as newcomer Aqib Talib returned another interception for a touchdown, covering 59 yards. And Rob Ninkovich’s fifth forced fumble of the season — knocking the ball out of Luck’s hand — set up Gronkowski’s second scoring grab on the next play.
“We knew we couldn’t come here and turn the football over and have a chance to win,” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. “We’ve got a lot of rookies out there so every week is a learning experience. It was a bad learning experience.”
The Patriots (7-3) won their fourth straight game and extended their lead in the AFC East to three games over the other three teams. The Colts (6-4) had their four-game winning streak stopped by the NFL’s best offense and one of its worst defenses.
Now New England must hurry to prepare for its Thanksgiving night meeting with the Jets (4-6). New York ended a three-game slide with a 27-13 win over the St. Louis Rams.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere (near) where we need to be at this point,” Brady said.
For the Patriots, Sunday’s win was their most complete in a season in which they’ve averaged 35.8 points per game and lost their three games by a combined margin of four points.
The 59 points equals the team mark set in a 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 18, 2009.