Colts Top Awards: Andrew Luck Perfect; T.Y. McGill Still Terrorizing Backfields
While the Indianapolis Colts fell just short of beating the Baltimore Ravens–in more ways than one as punter Pat McAfee‘s would-be 62-yard game-winning field goal fell short of the crossbar, there were still some top performers to take notice of following the team’s nail-biting 19-18 loss.
Despite having not appeared in gametime action in nearly 9 and a half months due to a season-ending injury that cost him the Colts final 7 regular season games this past year, Andrew Luck looked like he was in midseason form–showing no signs of rust.
Specifically, Luck was perfect on the evening, completing 8 of 8 throws for 71 passing yards and a passer rating of 103.6. Not to mention, he also rushed 2 times for 12 yards.
Perhaps most importantly, Luck didn’t foolishly put himself at risk, instead sliding on a handful of occasions during his limited snaps where serious physical contact was otherwise imminent. Truth be told, the depicted play below first looked eerily similar to the scramble against the Denver Broncos that ultimately ended his season.
However, this time around, Luck used his better judgment and slid–a stark contrast to the reckless abandonment he often played with regarding his body last season:
Turns out there’s another T.Y. in town other than the Colts highly regarded Pro Bowl wide receiver. This T.Y. isn’t diminutive though, but is rather a robust 310 pounds and dangerous–just in an entirely different way.
For the 2nd straight preseason game, T.Y. McGill once again dominated the opponent’s backfield, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 QB hits–which doesn’t nearly paint the entire picture of his dominance as seen below:
With Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford recovering from injuries, as well as Art Jones looming 4-game suspension, McGill could be a strong candidate to become a starter for the Colts defense during the immediate future. At the very least, he’s been the team’s best defensive lineman in preseason and should remain a key rotational defender going forward.
Playing with a heavy heart, as Winston Guy‘s mother, Renessa, passed away nearly two weeks ago, the Colts safety simply made plays on Saturday evening–honoring his late mom in the process:
"“I said a prayer for her before the game,” said Guy regarding playing in the memory of his mother via Colts.com. “And she definitely protected me.”"
While Guy appears to be the frontrunner for the remaining Colts backup safety spot, not many roster spots are guaranteed and he’s fighting for his job just like nearly everyone else on the team.
He made a strong statement on Saturday; however, as Guy’s 3rd quarter interception set up the Colts first touchdown drive–which occurred just 6 plays later.
- 1st Unit’s Pass Protection: The pass protection during Luck’s first (and only) two drives was exceptional, as he was given ample time to make plays and was never really under significant duress. While some of that can be attributed to the Ravens not really blitzing in this preseason game, the Colts offensive line did a great job and also got help from running backs Frank Gore and Robert Turbin, who both had key blocks in pass protection early on respectively
- Backup Quarterbacks: Scott Tolzien rebounded from a disappointing preseason debut with the Colts, completing 13 of 18 throws for 107 passing yards, a touchdown, and a passer rating of 105.6–presenting much more poise in the pocket. Meanwhile, Stephen Morris once again made the most of his opportunity as despite playing behind a patchwork 3rd-string offensive line, still completed 7 of 11 throws for 66 passing yards, a touchdown, and a passer rating of 110.4, as well as a long run of 26 yards.
- Young Wideouts: While Chester Rogers appears to have the slight upper-hand over Smith for the 4th wideout spot on the Colts depth chart, it was Tevaun Smith who reached paydirt this time around as his early 3rd quarter touchdown reception from Tolzien was the Colts first touchdown of the evening. Nevertheless, Rogers still managed to finish with 5 receptions for 31 receiving yards and has flashed his incredible quickness throughout the preseason. This competition appears to be a dogfight between both of these talented young wideouts, but both undrafted rookies have played well enough to make the Colts final 53-man active roster and very well may.
One could tell this was still the 2nd preseason game because the Colts were incredibly sloppy with penalties and turnovers:
"Aug 20, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano during their game against the Baltimore ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports“He (Andrew Luck) ran the offense, he made great decisions, we moved the ball up and down the field, but then we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” said head coach Chuck Pagano regarding his starting offense’s performance. “We should’ve had two touchdowns.”"
The Colts had 9 penalties on the evening, including a Robert Turbin false start on the Ravens 4-yard line during the opening drive that was immediately followed by a personal foul facemask on Joe Reitz that forced the Colts to eventually kick a field goal instead.
Only exasperating matters, linebacker Trevor Bates was called for an illegal formation penalty on special teams just a possession later, as the Colts would’ve otherwise forced the Ravens to punt. Instead, their offensive drive was extended as a result of the 5-yard penalty.
Unfortunately, the sloppiness didn’t stop there, as tight end Dwayne Allen fumbled in the red zone during Luck and the starting offense’s final (2nd) drive on the Baltimore 16-yard line, eventually leading to a Ravens touchdown, who scored just 5 plays later. It was a major point swing and something you shouldn’t see out of the starting unit:
Morris Converted 2-Point Conversion–For the Other Team:
The NFL has recently made it a point to try to make the points after touchdown play into an exciting football play again, and if late in Saturday’s game was any indication, they succeeded.
I had never seen anything like it, and I’m not sure I will for quite a long time, but after Morris connected with running back Trey Williams for a 7-yard touchdown reception and the Colts took a late 18-17 lead with 3:54 left in the 4th quarter–the football gods gaveth.
And they immediately taketh away.
Specifically, Morris stared down tight end Chase Coffman on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt–which would’ve put the Colts ahead by a field goal if successful. It led to an Anthony Levine interception, who took it the other way for a successful 2-point score for the Ravens, narrowly escaping a diving Morris in the process:
Despite just taking the lead, the Colts were shockingly down 19-18 only a split second later–which remained the final score. While conventional wisdom still says that a team should go for the 2-point conversion in that situation, it shows what the worst case scenario could be if a team doesn’t properly execute. The Colts can laugh about it now–and assuredly will learn from it, but the stakes are much, much higher in the regular season where such a botched play could be truly devastating.
The undrafted rookie Cal cornerback struggled a bit on Saturday evening, as not only did Darius White receive a defensive pass interference penalty when covering Ravens wideout Kamar Aiken that resulted in 41 yards during the 2nd quarter, but he also gave up a relatively easy 12-yard Jeremy Butler touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the first half:
That being said, cornerback is one of the toughest positions to play in the NFL–let alone for a rookie, so there may still be some hope left for White yet.
You Serious, Clark?
The Colts 3rd round pick out of Texas Tech has shown flashes of promise during training camp practices, but remains a developmental project. Look no further than with 3:37 left in the 3rd quarter, when Tolzien was absolutely walloped on an attempted pass because of Le’Raven Clark‘s poor pass blocking:
Listen, rookies make mistakes, and one bad play doesn’t mean Clark is destined to become the next Tony Ugoh. Playing offensive tackle in the NFL is really hard, especially against proven pass rushers. At the same time, it looks like Clark owes Tolzien a nice dinner or at least a couple of ice packs after that hit.
Guessing that one’s going to hurt in the morning.