With the Colts’ 5th consecutive win of the season, it’s time to acknowledge the “Horseshoe Heroes” of Week 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals. These are players that went above and beyond their positional requirements and delivered an exceptional performance, in another winning performance to boot:
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) reacts to scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Cincinnati 27-0. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: As a football fan, it’s been a privilege to watch the Colts’ 8-year veteran running back out there this season. Bradshaw runs with a mean streak and is never one to shy away from contact. He plays the game with so much fire and emotion that you think each carry might be his last. He may not be the starter in title, but he’s the team’s best running back and has been all season.
Yesterday was no exception. Bradshaw had 10 carries for 52 yards (5.2 ypc) and a rushing TD. If you excuse his 1st quarter fumble, he was perfect on the day. Not to be outdone, Bradshaw also had 3 receptions for 36 yards and a TD through the air. He already has 6 receiving touchdowns on the season. In his previous 7 seasons, he had 3 total career receiving touchdowns. He’s doubled his career output this season, which is a pretty impressive feat so far to say the least.
The advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus (PFF) give Bradshaw his fair due too, as he’s currently rated as the 2nd best running back in the entire NFL through 7 weeks at a +7.7 overall grade.
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (83) after scoring a touchdown is congratulated by wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
TE Dwayne Allen: In a league where tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Julius Thomas take the majority of the headlines, Allen may be underrated, but he’s certainly not undervalued by this Indianapolis Colts’ offense.
At a listed 265 pounds, Allen is a big body out there, but he doesn’t just block, he can catch and run too. Simply put, Allen does it all for this Colts’ offense. He’s one of the most complete tight ends in the National Football League. Out of all the new additions this year to the team, having Allen back in the Colts’ lineup, may be one of the biggest difference-makers of them all. He missed nearly all of 2013 with a hip injury, but if yesterday is any indication, he looks fully recovered.
Allen made a highlight-reel catch with 9:58 left in the 3rd quarter that was a thing of beauty. It wasn’t just purely the acrobatic catch itself, as it was what Allen did afterward. He blew past defenders for 32 yards along the sideline and scored a touchdown, putting the Colts ahead 17-0. It’s not often that you see a “265 bruiser” burn past defenders.
PFF’s advanced statistics also shed a positive light on Allen, who’s currently rated as the 6th best overall tight end through 7 weeks, with a +6.7 overall grade.
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts free safety Sergio Brown (38) and cornerback Vontae Davis (21) defend a pass intended for Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) during the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts defeated the Bengals 27-0. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Colts Defense: This may very well be a cop-out, but how can you individually credit any Colts’ defenders yesterday, when it was such a great team effort? Every member of the defense deserves a game ball. The Bengals, who were rated #5 in total offense entering the day, were shut-out with 0 points. It was the franchise’s 1st shut-out since 2008. Not only that, but the Bengals were held to 135 total offensive yards.
To start the game, the Bengals had 8 straight 3-and-outs without a first down. With 0:59 seconds left in the first half, the Bengals received their 1st first down of the game because of a defensive penalty. The Colts’ defense dominated this football game through its entirety, and defenders were absolutely swarming to the football. The Bengals couldn’t get anything established for the entire afternoon, as evident from being 1-13 on 3rd down conversions (7.7%), an incredibly low percentage.
Bengals’ Quarterback Andy Dalton entered the day being sacked a league-low 2 times in the previous 5 games, he left it being sacked 3 times by the Colts.
All in a day’s work for the Colts’ defense.
OLB Erik Walden: Walden was effective out there with 2 tackles and 2 QB hits in just 1 half of play, but it’s the only 1 half of play that’s the underlying issue. With the defense already missing Robert Mathis for the season, they can’t afford to lose Walden too at outside linebacker. His defensive penalty gave the Bengals their 1st first down of the afternoon. Not only this, but the defense was forced to play rookie OLB Jonathan Newsome in his place for most of the second half in Walden’s absence.
The disqualification with 0:59 seconds left in the first half seemed excessive for contacting an official. Yes, I understand fully well that it’s the letter of the law, if you contact an official, you’re gone…case closed. However, it didn’t take much. Walden was jostling with Bengals’ tight end Jermaine Gresham after the whistle, when field judge Gary Arthur tried to step in and break it up. Walden seemed preoccupied with Gresham and kind of waived Arthur off, inadvertently grazing him on the shoulder. Instant ejection, just like that.
Walden is a 7-year veteran, who’s been around long enough in this league to cut out the extracurricular activities between the whistle. Gresham’s Bengals were clearly struggling, and he was obviously frustrated and looking to start things with members of the Colts’ defense to vent. Walden successfully let Gresham bait him, and he’s the one that paid the consequences for it yesterday. He has to be smarter than that simply put, especially on a defense that is already thin at outside linebacker.
Ball Security: Despite defensively dominating the Bengals in the first half, the Colts were only up 10-0 at halftime. A big reason why is because of the two first half fumbles by both of their running backs in Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw.
On 1st and 15 on the Bengals 18-yard line with 6:34 left in the 1st quarter, Bradshaw had the ball ripped from him by Carlos Dunlap, after trying to extend the play. His counterpart, Trent Richardson shortly followed, when on 2nd and 4 on the Bengals 33-yard line and 8:21 left in the 2nd quarter, Richardson mishandled a snap from Andrew Luck. While Luck was credited with the fumble, it looked like it was Richardson who had it placed in his chest and simply failed to secure it on the hand-off.
It didn’t cost the Colts in the outcome on Sunday, but it very well could in another game down the road. The Colts’ defense simply played too well to only be handed a 10-0 lead at the end of the first half. Other opposing teams may take full advantage of those turnovers in the future.
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) gets pressured by Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden (93) during the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports