Indianapolis Colts' Adam Vinatieri (4) reacts with Matt Overton after Vinatieri kicked a 53-yard field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
This recap is best if read while listening to this song from NFL Films.
The Colts came into Lucas Oil Stadium on this cold, foggy Indiana day with a chance to move to 9-4 and create some potential separation in the race for the two wild card spots in the playoffs. Early on, things did not look promising, but they mangaged to eke out another close one, 27-23
Does this sound familiar? “Luck, under pressure...incomplete.” In the first half, there were plays in which the Titans rushed four, and, as Greg Cowan pointed out, the Colts lineman still allowed two pass rushers to get free. Andrew Luck's protection in the first half was possibly the worst all season, and, in this writer’s opinion, the worst blocking since 1997. On some plays, Luck didn’t even drop back, but began to sprint for his life as soon as the ball was snapped.
Under duress throughout the first half, Luck managed to go just 9/19 for 123 yards, a touchdown to Reggie Wayne and 2 interceptions (one at the end of the half). He also had an interception returned for a touchdown that the fans, commentators, and everyone but the officials believed should have been overturned. Luck, scrambling for his life, was sacked from behind and tried to get a pass off after his knee was down. He threw the ball right into the hands of Tennessee Linebacker Will Witherspoon, a poor decision. Touchdown. Upheld. Tennessee led 17-7, and tacked on a field goal to push their half time lead to 13 points.
The consensus has been that Luck needed to play his best game for the Colts, who are playing well despite gaping holes in their roster from a talent standpoint, to have a chance to win. Once again, however, Luck had a tough day at the office, finishing the game 16/34 for 196 yards, 5.8 per completion, 1 TD, 2 INT and was sacked 4 times (but only once in the second half). He had seven completions in the second half of the game. Pressure, drops, questionable calls. It just didn’t look like his day.
Nevertheless, the defense came through, along with the special teams and a resurgent running game, to help the team win a surprisingly ugly 27-23 game. Pat McAfee should be at least considered for a game ball after averaging 53 yards (consistently – his longest was 54) on punts, putting two inside the 20 yard line including a spectacular punt inside the two, which would prove crucial to the outcome.
The Colts had started the second half with better protection, getting some great push in run blocking from A. Q. Shipley, who came in for the injured Samson Satele at center. They forced their way down the field 80- yards in 14 plays with Delone Carter putting the exclamation point on it with a touchdown. 20-14, Titans. Suddenly, it was a close game, and we all know about these Colts in close games.
The defense did their part afterward, forcing a brilliant three and out, including a nice play by none other than Cassius Vaughn to break up a pass for Nate Washington on third down. Luck and the offense, as they did last week against Detroit, followed up the long touchdown drive and three and out by the defense with a sputtering three and out of their own. McAfee came back out to punt and hit a beauty, 52 yards to the sideline. The best part of the play may have been watching the Colts gunners and long snapper as they looked for the ball, which was still in the air. It finally landed and bounced out of bounds at about the 1-yard line. The football-savvy crowd in Indianapolis roared to life, but the best was yet to come.
The Titans took the field again, leading 20-14 and tried a short pass from the 1-yard line to Nate Washington, but Cassius Vaughn was ready this time. He had safety help on his side, giving him the confidence to jump the route. Vaughn, who was having a rough game overall, backed off, and baited the quarterback into trying the short pass, then bolted hell-bent toward the receiver for a pick six. After the extra point, the Colts had the lead at 21-20, in a sequence that sent the 86th consecutive sellout crowd into a frenzy.
Then things got weird. On the next drive, the defense appeared to play well, possibly forcing three third down stops (that’s right) on a 16 play, 72-yard drive that devoured 10:08 of the game clock. On 3rd and 8 from the Tennessee 39, Jake Locker was sacked by Robert Mathis, along with Jerrell Freeman and Cory Redding (If three players could be credited, they probably would’ve been). In comes the punt team? Nope. Flag. Defensive holding on linebacker Moise Fokou, a questionable call, but sometimes it goes that way.
The Colts were not to be beaten by one possibly bad call, so they regrouped and stopped them again on 3rd and 5 from the 50-yard line with a beautiful play form Antoine Bethea – but wait. What? Pass interference. This time, the play could not have looked much cleaner. The officials didn’t see it the same way though, and penalties aren’t reviewed or challenged. Thus, Tennessee got the first down at the Indianapolis 40-yard line.
Still, not to be beaten by a couple questionable calls, Indianapolis held them to a field goal. 23-21, Titans.
The Colts offense managed a decent drive for a field goal to take the lead right back at 24-23 with 6:23 remaining. Vinatieri’s kick was a 53-yarder that could likely have gone in from much farther out. Then, after another clutch interception by Darius Butler, the special teams came through again with another Vinatieri field goal, extending the lead to 27-23, despite a three and out by Luck and the struggling offense.
Tennessee got the ball one more time, with 3:48 left in the game. Could the defense, who was exhausted on the long drive earlier, come through again? After throwing a first down, Locker was stopped for no gain by Cory Redding. He then threw two straight incompletions, aided by good pressure from the Colts front seven, especially Robert Mathis.
With 2:42 remaining, the Colts needed a couple first downs to seal the win. After a big run by Ballard for 13 yards, followed by a dive for no gain, Luck surprised the Tennessee defense, the commentators, and probably most people watching, with his 16th completion of the game, an 11-yarder to Dwayne Allen at the 2-minute warning.
Victory Formation. Game over. 27-23, Colts.
There is a great deal of concern about the Colts’ pass protection. Allowing the future of the franchise to be chased and hit on nearly every play is a huge problem. But the defense, often a bigger concern themselves, played some clutch football, and the Colts special teams units were phenomenal. If the defense and special teams play as well as they did today in a game where Luck gets hot on offense, this team could put together a real beauty of a game.
But for now, we’ll take the win however it comes. 9-4, 8-1 in one score games. That dream of the playoffs looks more realistic each week. They just keep finding ways to win. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m feeling pretty #CHUCKSTRONG once again.
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This makes two weeks in a row, the colts dodged the bullet. It is just like Al Davis used to say," just win baby," and that is what they are doing. The horseshoe is not only on their helmets. What concerns me is the rash of injuries, they look like a mash unit. Also, the quarterback's name is Luck enough said. I hope they put enough bodies out there to protect him because if they do, he will torch Texan's secondary next week.
@horseshoe19 Yeah, they don't do any big injury updates on Mondays, but I'm betting they're gonna have to shuffle the roster and practice squad around again after yesterday. Too many guys are getting hurt on a team that isn't very deep.
Nothing else to be said about this team... it just continues to amaze.
But, forgotten play that tells you everything you need to know about this team and Andrew Luck. Last play of the first half, instead of just taking a knee, the Colts try a Hail Mary.
Instead of just throwing it out of the back of the end zone to protect his stats, Luck intentionally lofts it up, knowing that it is going to be fair game, not afraid of taking the interception, for the remotest of chances of getting a lucky play. I guarantee you most QBs in that situation would have protected their stat lines
@DougEngland "I guarantee you most QBs in that situation would have protected their stat lines." Apparently Luck doesn't draft himself in Fantasy leagues like Tom Brady does.
So glad the Colt's won that game or I would have had a two day grudge against anyone wearing black and white.
I've been a bit of a vinatieri hater this year, but he came out today and proved that he still has the leg. Actually, I think he's got a stronger leg now than he has at about anytime in his career. That 53 yarder would have been good from 65. Amazing.
The OL is bad. Very, very bad. I kept hoping we'd go to three out in routes with some max protect, but never happened.
Also really like Ballard.
@rogcohen I was glad to see Vinny have a good game too. He's had some rough patches this year. It's good to see him get back in a groove. Glad he's still got it.
Clutch effort by Vinatieri and the Defense. But what the heck happened out or OL? Did the whole OL have a bad day or are the Texans frount 4 just that good? Oh, had what the Heck Avery? The ball bounced off your facemask! You had space and no one was close? How do you make all those great grabs over the middle and then miss that?!
@hankster That was an awful day for the OL. They had to start Seth Olsen in place of Joe Reitz. I'm not a coach, but I'd love to know what they see in Olsen. Winston Justice also went down during the game, and Satele, who has never looked 100% healthy, went down as well. The good new is A. Q. Shipley stepped in and once again looked like he should be starting despite his being a pretty slow moving guy. The bad news is, they probably won't let him back on the field unless someone is hurt. As a fan watching, he looks like he could replace Olsen or Satele easily, but I don't have any stats to back myself up...yet.
@MarcusDugan I'm not sure why, but from what I can tell every team in the league has a guard or tackle all the fans think is atrocious. I agree about Olsen, Titan players don't even seem to slow down as they ran past him, but it the fact that nearly every team seems to have a sub-par lineman or two I'm guessing there isn't much talent out there to replace him with.
Hopefully we can upgrade the OL next year and actually protect our franchise QB.
I just managed to get back on and clean this thing up. Sorry for the typos earlier. Feel free to let me know if any of you find any more of them :)
@MarcusDugan You forgot to include the drop by Avery that would have been a huge TD on 3rd down, but had to settle for the long Vinny FG. Was dropped right in his hands.
I know Shipley was a UDFA and definitely has some weaknesses, but how can the coaches keep trotting out Satele when he's been bad in just about every game he's played? Shipley had one rough game but he's been pretty solid otherwise.
@Payton Shipley's been a great pickup, and has outplayed Satele in his limited time. However, Satele has had some great games, and the bigger problem has been trotting out inconsistent lines due to injury. Honestly, we just really can't afford to have Olsen in our lineup at all.
@7IHd @Payton Satele has looked very bad in protection and doesn't get a ton of push in the run game. I know they want some consistency, but they need to go with the better player, and Shipley could take over for Samson or Olsen and be an upgrade. He's extremely slow, but makes up for it with strength and just doesn't get beaten as often.
@MarcusDugan @Payton Oh, I agree with this. I was just saying that the bigger problem with the line thus far has been due to injury inconsistencies. Satele has not been great, but given that Joe Reitz has been out, I would rather see Satele at C and Shipley playing instead of Olsen. But today, we had quite a few gaps to fill with Reitz (out to start the game), Justice and Satele all going down, so it was going to be cobbled together from the start. I don't have any idea how Olsen still has a spot on the roster.
So if we win one of our remaining games, we're in the playoffs, right? I'm sure there's other ways to get in (i.e. Jets lose one). The O Line is what it is, we have to accept they're playing as well as possible given their talent. So our coaches really need to come up with better protection schemes.
@smonroe I thknk we just skip the OL entirely, except for a center, which NFL rules apparently "require" and put Luck in a suit or armor behind his one lineman. 3 FBs to buy him time, and six receivers. Unconventional, but that just means nobody has tape to study! With Balt faltering and looking like a #4 seed, I am getting REALLY psyched because I think that's the one playoff team we have a decent chance at.
@smonroe Yes, one more win puts us in. Otherwise, we'd need Jets and Pitt to lose one or Bengals to lose 2 to be automatically in (either the Bengals or PITT will lose in 2 weeks, but if we lose out and Bengals only lose to Pitt, the conference wins are a push, so idk what the third tie-break is).
Sorry it's so garbled:
TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM
If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.
If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps.Two ClubsHead-to-head, if applicable.Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.Strength of victory.Strength of schedule.Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.Best net points in conference games.Best net points in all games.Best net touchdowns in all games.Coin toss.
@Bobman We should be able to split with HOU (hopefully) and beat KC, though nothing's a given. We have a great chance to lock up the 5th seed with a win against KC. With BAL's OT loss, this gives us a good chance of being matched against them in the first round.
@smonroe If we lose out and Pitt only loses 1, they have us beat in common games (2-2 to 2-3, with a loss to KC) and Bengals would have a similar advantage if we somehow tied in record and conference record (unlikely).
Doesn't look like a concern now with Pitt, Balt, and CIncy all losing. What a trifecta.We win one more (KC, I'm looking at you) and we're in no matter what. Houston rolling over in Week 17 would be gravy, but I wouldn't bank on it.