The Indianapolis Colts pulled off an impressive upset against the Denver Broncos yesterday. The national media hadn’t give the Colts much of a chance.
The Colts managed to hold a team that averages 35 points per game at home to just 13. Game balls should go out to the entire defense for yesterday’s effort. They didn’t just sneak out of Mile High with a late win, they dominated from the second quarter until the final whistle.
We have been up and down on coach Chuck Pagano this season, but he deserves all kinds of credit for yesterday’s game plan. After the Broncos first drive, the Colts made adjustments that completely took the fight out of the Broncos offense.
Pagano also deserves credit for finally benching Trent Richardson. The Colts didn’t donate any plays to the Broncos via a Richardson carry and that’s important. Its a move that should have happened months ago, but when it mattered most he was on the bench and not in uniform.
Here’s what stood out from Sunday:
- Narrative. Did Peyton Manning lose the game or did the Colts shut him down? Why can’t it be both? The Colts took away Manning’s underneath routes and dared him to throw deep but he couldn’t hit those passes. His receivers also struggled to get open against press man coverage by the Colts.
- We’ve learned that Manning has a torn quad in his leg. Throw power starts with the legs and its clear that for the last month his velocity on passes was way down. As a result, he wasn’t able to hit his receivers down field. But playing through that sort of injury isn’t easy. Manning is a warrior for toughing it out the past few weeks (and no, playing Brock Osweiler wouldn’t have helped).
- Hot Streak. We’ve talked an awful lot about how the Colts could get to the Super Bowl if Andrew Luck starts dealing. Well, its happened. Luck is taking that next jump from “very good quarterback” to great and is in discussion for “best quarterback in the league.” He made a number of throws that were beyond impressive. The deep throw over three defenders to Coby Fleener was perfect (and a great catch by Fleener). The laser to Hakeem Nicks for a touchdown with all sorts of pressuring bearing down on Luck (and did the Colts sign Nicks just for the playoffs or did he just wake up?). The adjustments Pep Hamilton has made to the offense has led to utter brilliance from Luck. The plays are there for him and Luck is making just about every single one.
- People might point out the two interceptions, but both came on third and very long. Both essentially resulted in roughly the same field position as a punt. Interceptions aren’t always the a devastating play and considering Luck put the ball in the air 43 times a turnover or two should be expected.
- Average. Many have talked about just how awful the Colts offensive line has been this season, but that simply isn’t true. The line is just about average and generally when they give up sacks, its been early in the game and they manage to rally for the rest of the day. Yesterday, they kept two premier pass rushers and the rest of the roster from recording a single sack.
- Mathis-like. The Colts only got to Manning once, but it was a game-changing play. The Broncos had a very promising drive before Jonathan Newsome came around the edge and separated Manning from the ball. It looked shockingly like a play from Robert Mathis. The Colts scored after recovering the fumble and never relinquished the lead. It might have been the play of the game and clearly gave the defense a bit of extra adrenaline.
- Davis’d. Vontae Davis basically played a flawless game. He was two near-interceptions away from what could have been the best playoff performance from a cornerback. Davis was targeted 11 times and allowed just five receptions for a meager 21 yards. He was credited with three pass breakups and had four stops. It really doesn’t get much more dominant than that.
- Fourth-and-one. Three players had a shot at C.J. Anderson on this play. It felt like one of those plays that could have changed the game, but ultimately didn’t make a difference. Cory Redding whiffed on the first tackle and LaRon Landry apparently has no idea how to tackle in the first place. Bjoern Werner should have helped clean up Redding’s hit, but just stood there. Tackling drills should be done before facing the Patriots.
- Him? Landry has apparently done enough in the coaches eyes to regain his starting spot at safety. Granted he played fairly well down the stretch, but on Sunday was a huge liability. Despite being torched in one-on-one coverage in the first meeting with the Broncos this year, the Colts decided to put him on Julius Thomas and the results were predictable. Adjustments were made to rectify this mistake, but Landry struggled especially in run support.
But really, all credit goes to Sergio Brown for his inspiring post game speech.