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 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Matt Cassel keeps making progress. The Patriots quarterback might have made more if coach Bill Belichick hadn't called a timeout.
While Cassel was sneaking from the Indianapolis 7-yard line for an apparent first down, Belichick was signaling for a timeout as he ran frantically to get an official's attention. He got the timeout, the run didn't count and Belichick decided to go for a field goal in the fourth quarter of New England's 18-15 loss Sunday night.
``We didn't get a very good look at the spot,'' he said. ``At first, we thought it was fourth-and-inches, then all along it was fourth and about a yard. So once we saw what the distance was, it just seemed better to get the points.''
It was an unusual miscalculation by one of the NFL's best coaches that contributed to the loss that cost the Patriots (5-3) sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
left in the game. Then, 3 1/2 minutes later, Adam Vinatieri kicked the go-ahead field goal. And when the Colts got the ball again with 3:54 left, the Patriots couldn't stop the clock.
Had the Patriots gone for a first down and made it behind an offensive line that had been solid all game, they would have been in excellent position to take the lead with a touchdown. Had they tried and failed, the Colts still would have been backed up against their goal line.
But the New England secondary was missing key injured players who could have given the Patriots a better chance to stop the Colts, who ended up reaching the Patriots 34 before Vinatieri's kick.
Cassel played very well, completing 25 of 34 passes for 204 yards and directing four drives of more than 6 minutes. But moving the ball becomes tougher inside the 20 because the offense has less room to work with.
``An area where there is not much field space, it is harder to throw down there than it is out in the field. But it is still something you have to do. It is harder to run down there, too, because everyone is closer to the line and there is less space to defend,'' Belichick said Monday.
``I am confident in Matt throwing the ball. I am confident in us running it. I am confident in us stopping them, but we just have to do a better job of it, that's all.''
for Cassel to run for the first down.
``I thought it was too long for a quarterback sneak,'' he said.
The Patriots gained 140 yards on 32 carries and didn't lose ground on any of them. The offensive line didn't allow a sack.
``We just ran the play and snapped the ball at that point,'' Cassel said. ``Then I got up and saw the coach called a timeout.''
The loss left the Patriots tied for the division lead with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, their next two opponents, both at Gillette Stadium. With half a season of experience since Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the opener, Cassel should be ready.
``I think Matt has continued to improve every week since Week 1,'' Belichick said. ``It doesn't surprise me. He works hard. He is a very attentive, smart kid who has talent, and every opportunity he gets a chance to practice, take reps and play, I think he improves. He's worked hard on it and I think that has shown up in his performance on a consistent basis.''
But his longest completion Sunday covered 20 yards and he rarely threw longer, even though Randy Moss was running patterns against a defense without three sidelined cornerbacks. Moss caught six passes, all in the second half, for 65 yards.
``I thought both teams really played well,'' Belichick said. ``There weren't a lot of negative plays, turnovers or things like that. It just came down to a lot of little things in the end. They had just a little more than we did.''

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