The Indianapolis Colts got an ugly win Sunday afternoon against an underestimated Denver Broncos team thanks to a last-second Adam Vinatieri field goal going up 13-15 late in the fourth quarter.
The Colts’ second-round pick, Rock Ya-Sin, proved he still needs time to develop in the NFL after being torched by a below-average offense and committing penalties which extended drives for the Broncos. Coming into the game, the Broncos were blown out at home 30-6 by the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night football and showed their weaknesses in doing so.
Joe Flacco was supposed to come in to be the interim answer for the Broncos as the savvy veteran in an offense that wasn’t scary to opposing teams. Once Emmanual Sanders was shipped out, this offense got worse instead of better. Even without the Pro-Bowl receiver, the Denver offense ran down the field almost at will it seemed for the first 3 and a half quarters of the game.
On the flip side, the Colts defense played bad football, particularly in the passing game. Rock Ya-Sin gave up key yardage and committed penalties at an alarming rate. Ya-Sin gave up 2 penalties on third down – one holding call, and one pass interference call – and Khari Willis also gave up another holding call in the red zone that led to a first-down, but thankfully the Colts defense held the Broncos to a field goal.
One of the weaknesses for the Colts has been the secondary. The tough linebacker corp has been holding it together with Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, and defensive end Ben Banogu all playing well in the win. However, up until yesterday, Ya-Sin played decently average. He played 302 snaps 204 in pass-coverage. He’s allowed 15 receptions on 23 targets (65% average) with 242 yards allowed with a 16.1 yards per reception and 2 touchdowns and a passer rating when targeted of 129.3 and no pass breakups.
For comparison, Pierre Desir has played 292 snaps with 202 in pass coverage. While both have a 65% catch percentage, Desir has a 14.9 per catch average and an interception for a touchdown to go along with a pass breakup. With a 94.8 quarterback rating when thrown his way, Desir is still average but has veteran experience.
To further compare both players, I want to look at Stephon Gilmore who I think is the best corner in the NFL right now – keeping in mind the quarterbacks the Patriots have faced. He’s allowed 20 of 45 targets for catches with a 44% completion percentage, 266 yards given up, a 13.3 yards per reception, with 3 interceptions and 6 pass breakups. Most impressive, though, is the 36.0 passer rating when targeted and he’s played 270 coverage snaps on 373 total.
In reality, Joe Flacco didn’t have a “good” game by NFL quarterback standards with 20/32 with 174 yards, it was the secondary which played bad and gave up key receptions along with bad penalties allowing long, extended drives by the Broncos, who, if you remember, have an awful offense.
Courtland Sutton, in particular, had a decent game with big plays on 3 receptions for 72 yards, with no scoring touchdown by any receiver on both teams. The game was pretty even too, with both teams having 30 minutes of possession.
The Colts had 19 first-downs compared to the Broncos’ 21 (with at least 3 coming off penalty), but Indianapolis had more passing, rushing, and total yards while running three fewer plays. They also had a 5.3 yards per play to the Broncos 4.4. According to the box score, this should’ve been an easy win, but the least penalized team committed 10 penalties at crucial times leading to a tough win.
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All of this isn’t to say the offense played perfectly, they didn’t. Brissett gave up a crucial fumble with about 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter when the game was 13-12 after a Vinatieri missed an extra point. The offensive line struggled and the usually reliable Anthony Castonzo and Quenton Nelson allowed a lot of pressure.
Even while the refs were calling holding and defensive PI on the Colts all day long, they missed a PI call on T.Y. Hilton on third-down which Reich challenged and won, giving the Colts the ball back, who then had to punt it away. On the subsequent drive, the Broncos elected to run the ball on 3rd and 5 with 2:00 left, then the Colts called a timeout and got the ball back with 1:50 and no timeouts to go ahead with the Adam Vinatieri field goal.
The Colts didn’t win this game, the Broncos lost it. The Broncos had the Colts’ number all day on offense and the defense was playing extremely well after hearing about Jacoby’s career day last week against the Texans.
One thing is for sure, the Colts, as a team, are inconsistent and if they played like this against New England or Kansas City in the Playoffs, it wouldn’t be a 15-13 win, but a 24-10 loss. If Frank Reich and the team as a whole want to find a way to win against good teams, they need to beat up on bad teams.
The mark of a good team is the ability to beat up on bad teams and get close wins against good ones. The Colts have yet to beat up on a bad team this year and are in a mist of a string of game against losing teams currently. Their next three weeks are against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, then at home against the Dolphins and Jacksonville who will soon have Nick Foles back in their lineup.
Just like Reich said last week in an interview with Matt Taylor on Colts.com, never underestimate a team because you don’t want to think back when you’re traveling to another stadium in January “man, that Denver game really cost us a lot.”
In the end, a win is a win, even if it’s ugly.