Colts Rally Against Browns: Under Review


The Indianapolis Colts pulled off a 2012 style rally against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. A horrible showing by the offense ended with great “have-to-have-it” drive to steal a win.

It was the Colts first road win against a team with a winning record this season. While we can debate whether or not the Browns are really a playoff team, they were completely in the hunt heading into the game and clearly have a defense capable of competing in January.

Normally I’d make a bullet point about Reggie Wayne‘s struggles, but we’ve learned that he’s playing with a torn tricep and this warrants more discussion. There are two thoughts I have about this: first, he’s a warrior to play with it; and second, he’s hurting the team. Wayne couldn’t catch anything thrown his way.

Wide receivers have a tendency to fall off a cliff numbers wise at the end of their careers, but this is different. They usually don’t forget how to catch the ball and just can’t get any measure of separation from defenders. Wayne hasn’t been able to catch lately and its been clear something is seriously wrong.

It seems that Chuck Pagano has too much admiration for Wayne to tell him to take a seat and get healthy before the playoffs. With players like T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Donte Moncrief the Colts are well equipped to deal without Wayne for a few games.

Here’s what else stood out from Sunday:

  • The Comeback Kid. How many more times can the Colts rely on heroics from Andrew Luck to win the day? You expect it out of your franchise quarterback, but the entire offense played poorly on Sunday. Thankfully there is no quit in Luck and he does a great job motivating his team (even when they’re dropping passes and making him run for his life). How Luck is able to accomplish so much without the help of a decent offensive line or rushing attack is baffling.
  • Run Game? The Browns are 28th against the run per DVOA, yet the Colts running backs racked up just 56 yards on 15 carries. Between the lack of a run game and the offensive line woes (more on that later), Luck has little help and has to shoulder the entire offense. Its why he had to throw the ball 53 times on Sunday. For a front office and coaching staff that preaches running the ball, the Colts don’t even come close. But we did see one of the most impressive one yard runs ever from Dan Herron.
  • Line Woes. Again, the offensive line struggled mightily but got better as the game wore on. Why? Well it took an injury to Jonotthan Harrison to finally get A.Q. Shipley back at center. While you hate to see that happen, the protection immediately got better with Shipley on the field. Khaled Holmes was also forced to fill in for Joe Reitz and played very well for someone who hasn’t been able to get on the field all year. The Colts need to stop forcing certain players into the lineup and play the best available players. It won’t happen, but it needs to.
  • Fumble-itis. The Colts seriously need to work on ball security this week. And that goes double for Mr. Luck, who has to learn how to take a sack. The Colts fumbled four times and were lucky to lose only two of them (and Hilton’s didn’t really look like a fumble either). Nothing can derail a drive faster than a turnover and the Colts have to find a way to cut down on the careless mistakes. Good teams will take advantage of the Colts coughing up the ball, thankfully the defense showed up on Sunday.
  • 10 Points. The Colts’ defense has feasted on inferior offenses this season. On Sunday, they allowed just 10 points on the road. A lot of it had to do with the half-blind quarterback (seriously, that has to be the only excuse for Hoyer’s “accuracy”), but they still played more than well enough to win. Three of those points came after the offense turned the ball over and the Browns moved it just two yards before kicking a field goal.
  • Not So Special Teams. For a unit that has been the best in the NFL, Pat McAfee and company struggled yesterday. Josh Cribbs had a pair of fumbles that luckily weren’t lost and looked very mediocre against his former team. McAfee couldn’t find the distance on kickoffs and had some of his worst punts of the year. Luckily, the Colts play two of their final three in domes and will have a home playoff game. Nothing to be worried about with the special teams.
  • Ageless. It looked like Adam Vinatieri‘s perfect season was going to come to an end with the swirling wind and 51 yards to go, but he nailed it. Whatever he is doing to stay in shape, he should patent it and sell it to the rest of the league’s elder statesmen.