Week 12: Horseshoe Heroes


With the Indianapolis Colts’ 7th win of the season, it’s time to acknowledge the “Horseshoe Heroes” of Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. These are players that went above and beyond their positional requirements and delivered an exceptional performance, in a winning performance to boot:

T.Y. HiltonIt was a big day for the 25-year old wide receiver, and not just because it was Colts’ gameday. T.Y. Hilton and his wife Shantrell welcomed a baby girl early yesterday morning. Hilton promised a touchdown for his newborn daugther and delivered with a 73-yard long strike of a touchdown pass from QB Andrew Luck, celebrating in style by cradling the football like he was “rocking a baby”. On the afternoon, Hilton finished with 4 receptions for 122 receiving yards and a touchdown. It was another great game for a young wide receiver that has truly had a breakout season.

Nov 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) runs back an interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Vontae DavisIt’s still perplexing to me as to why opposing quarterbacks continue to throw at him, especially when looking at the rest of the Colts’ patchwork secondary. Davis has played like a shutdown cornerback all season and yesterday was no exception. Davis’ biggest play of the afternoon came when with 12:11 left in the first quarter, he intercepted Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles and took the ball 42 yards on the return. However, he also deflected a Bortles pass away later in the end zone on a would-be touchdown.

Those were his only targets of the afternoon, so Bortles was 0 for 2 for 0 yards, 1 interception, and a quarterback rating of 0.0 (ProFootballFocus). When will opposing quarterbacks learn their lesson…

D’Qwell Jackson: Jackson’s leadership qualities have never been called into question on this Colts’ defense; however, his play in recent weeks has. Jackson has struggled all season in coverage, but even his tackling had fallen off in the past couple of weeks. Jackson had perhaps his best performance as a Colt on Sunday, with 13 tackles (5 solo), 1 sack, and an almost interception, on a 4th and goal Bortles’ throw that was eventually overturned. Jackson didn’t just put up empty stats though, as even ProFootballFocus gave him a +3.8 overall grade, his highest grade of the season, including a strong+4.5 mark in run defense.

Nov 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Dan Herron (36) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Dan “Boom” Herron: With Bradshaw out for the season, Herron was thrown right into the Colts’ running back mix, even starting the game with Trent Richardson battling an illness all week. The 2nd-year running back showed great burst, rushing 12 times for 65 rushing yards (5.4 ypc). His 2nd quarter fumble in the red zone was unfortunate and has to get cleaned up, but Herron was clearly the more explosive of the Colts’ two running backs on Sunday afternoon. By running hard with explosion, Herron can hopefully continue to bring some of the attributes that Bradshaw once did for the Colts’ running game.

LaRon Landry: Landry has drawn the ire of Colts’ fans all season and rightfully so. However, Sunday was baby steps in the right direction for the Colts’ muscular safety. Landry was used on 19 of the defense’s 55 defensive plays (34.5%) and had 5 tackles (3 solo), 1.5 sacks, and 2 QB hits. Like Jackson, the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus also graded Landry out favorably with a +1.5 overall grade. Landry is still a liability in coverage, but if used situationally against the run and in blitz packages, he can prove to be quite effective as indicated by his strong performance yesterday.

Nov 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Josh Cribbs (16) returns a punt during the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts defeated the Jaguars 23-3. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Cribbs: The 10-year veteran and acclaimed special teams kick returnman looked like same old Josh Cribbs on Sunday with two electrifying kick returns that averaged 32.0 yards per return. Unfortunately, Cribbs biggest play of the afternoon was called back, as Cribbs’ would-be 82-yard punt return for a touchdown was called back because of an unneccessary roughness penalty that was called on cornerback Josh Gordy. If Cribbs has returns on special teams like he did this past Sunday, the Colts will have really upgraded their special teams return game.

1st Half Offensive Line: In what was a banged up unit to start game, certainly played like it in the first half. The team was missing starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus with an injury, and it clearly showed. QB Andrew Luck was strip-sacked twice in the first half, and while he held onto the ball for entirely too long in both situations, he never had much of a clean pocket for the 1st half. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons had 3 first half sacks, destroying the Colts’ offensive line in the process.

The offensive line eventually settled down a bit in the second half, but for much of the first half, Luck was forced to play in a “playground” pocket, using his athleticism and speed to avoid trouble and make throws on the move while under duress.

Nov 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass against the Jacksonville Jaquars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Ball Security: While some of this falls on the offensive line, QB Andrew Luck was careless with the football in yesterday’s game. He had 2 early first quarter fumbles lost, and it really came down to holding the football for too long and refusing to simply take the sack. He had 4 fumbles total on the afternoon (2 lost). The Colts’ don’t mind Luck playing the role of hero, but he has to be smarter about taking care of the ball and picking his spots. He wasn’t alone in his fumbles on the afternoon though, as Herron had his aforementioned fumble early in the 2nd quarter and T.Y. Hilton almost lost one on the sideline in the 1st half.

Hugh Thornton: While not solely to blame for the Colts’ offensive line struggles, Thornton’s recent play at starting right guard certainly hasn’t helped. With all of the injuries and inexperience, the team needs Thornton to mature in his game and start playing like a veteran. However, he struggled largely in yesterday’s game and has in recent weeks. The former 3rd round pick of the Colts in 2013 left the game in the 3rd quarter because of a knee injury, and while that shouldn’t be held against him, one could make a strong argument that the offensive line played much better in his absence. ProFootballFocus re-echoed this sentiment, as Thornton was given a -2.9 overall grade, including a -3.3 in pass blocking.