The Colts are in the playoff hunt after three straight wins, and with a favorable schedule the rest of the way, have a decent chance at a one year successful rebuild.
The win comes on the shoulders of the entire team, but some players certainly had better games than others. But which ones had the better games? Which ones fell off the horse? We'll look at three players on offense and defense for both categories, but first, we look at the good news.
There can't be enough said about Andrew Luck's incredible performance on Sunday afternoon, with the best performance I've seen from an Indianapolis quarterback since Peyton Manning was in town. Even if Manning was in town, a performance like we saw from Luck would have been special. To see it from a rookie? Outstanding.
Luck finished the game 30-48 for 433 yards and two TDs. The last time the Colts had a 400 yard game from a quarterback? Week 1 in 2010, Manning had 433 yards, on 57 attempts. Those 433 yards by Luck (and Manning in 2010) is the most thrown by a Colt since Manning threw for 458 against Denver in the 2004 playoffs. It's also the most yards any Colt quarterback has ever thrown for while also getting a game winning drive.
Luck's most impressive form came on third downs (13 of 17 for 204 yards and a TD with a rating of 135.4) and under pressure (13 of 19 for 220 yards and a TD with a rating of 124.9).
The Colts are 5-3 right now because of Andrew Luck. Nobody expected him to play like this as a rookie. Nobody. And if anyone says they did, they had unfairly high expectations. If the ROtY voting was today, he'd win easily. Right now the Colts' roster is the worst of any team starting a rookie QB (save maybe Cleveland, even then it's close), yet they have the best record of any of those teams. RG3 has been great as a rookie, but Luck has done more with less.
Reitz had a great game on his first game back from injury, showing why we've expected him to be the starter all year. Outside of a poor holding penalty that stalled a drive, Reitz didn't have a negative play on the day, not allowing any pressure on Andrew Luck. Reitz' grade by PFF was the best of any of the Colts' linemen for the week, and second only to Luck on the offense. His overall grade for the season (including 11 snaps from last week at TEN) is now 5th best on offense, and he's only played in two games. The Colts' line will certainly be grateful to have him back in the lineup.
This spot could have gone to Avery or Wayne, but Wayne could be here every week, so we'll go with Avery this week. Avery had a big game against Minnesota in Week 2, but has been quiet since then. This week however, he was very good, with five catches for 108 yards. Most impressive was his diving catch for 48-yards between two defenders, a play that illustrated what Avery's speed can give the Colts in the passing game. He did have one pass that was what I would consider a drop in the first quarter, but outside of that was solid all day.
Hickman hasn't contributed much to the Colts' defense this year, but was very good in limited time on Sunday. His overall grade by PFF was the highest on the defense, and deservedly so, getting two QB hits in just nine pass rushes, and also getting a stop in run support. If he keeps playing this way, the Colts' depth at OLB will just keep looking better and better.
Kavell Conner/Moise Fokou
With Jerrell Freeman having an off day, Conner and Fokou teamed up to have impressive days. Conner is the run stopping linebacker, and looked the part with five tackles on Sunday, in just 25 snaps. Four of his five tackles were defensive stops, and he also had a great pass defense as well. Fokou has been the nickel linebacker all year, and showed why on Sunday with an impressive job in coverage, gaining PFF's highest coverage grade for Colts' players. Fokou also had five tackles, four of which were stops.
Freeney had by far his best game on Sunday, getting his first "green" grade by PFF on the year (a grade of +1.0 or better). He looked spry throughout the game, like his ankle may finally be fully healed. He finished with a sack, a hit, and two hurries, as well as a second stop. With Mathis leaving this game with an injury again, the Colts will need him to continue his high level of play, especially considering their lack of turnovers that continues to persist.
Ballard had a solid game, picking great running lanes--Luck was super and made a few great throws one while getting drilled what a bright light.
While I totally agree that Luck should be the Rookie of the year, I don't think he will get it. (Even if it were held today.) I hope I am wrong, but the national media just has too much invested in RGIII. (Who is having an outstanding season, just not as good as Luck's.)
The Luck story is not sexy enough.
Don't forget the holding penalty Freeney forced on the Fins' last play--had the completion been one yard longer for a 1st down conversion, we would have accepted the flag and put them back ten yards for a 3rd and 25. That's so typical Freeney--even when a play does not show up in the stats column for him, he makes an impact. Glad to have him back.
We are really lucky as Colts fans--how easy would it have been for this article to have been wirtten about our team about now: (Eagles are Laughingstock of NFL) http://www.csnphilly.com/11/05/12/Instant-Analysis-Eagles-laughing-stock-o/nbcsportseagles.html?blockID=798173&feedID=692
It would be to easy for a young team, a team of assembled journeymen and rookies, a new GM and coaching staff, to bumble around like newbies, secure in the fact that they're just learning the ropes and rebuilding. No pressure to win. But no, they are playing as if they expect to win, and that's what's happening.
Like the 1995 Colts team that made a deep playoff run, these guys are over-achieving, winning close, winning late, and playing with a lot of heart. LIke I always felt with Manning at the wheel, I feel we're never really out of it with Luck. That took all of 3-4 games to develop that feeling. Holy cow. When the D starts discovering what a turnover is (DL pressure and health will be a factor here), winning should be come a bit easier.
Good stuff, Kyle. I liked seeing Joe Reitz perform pretty well this weekend and it was nice to just see a good effort by the whole team. When names like Donnie Avery, Justin Hickman and Moise Fokou appear here, I think it shows that everyone on the team was dialed in.
Any opinion or information on how Shipley performed in Satele's place? I'm curious and it seemed like he might have had a hand in the Colts' improved run game as the game progressed.
@bradicus18 Shipley was worse than Satele in the game in run blocking, but better in pass pro. Overall this season, Shipley's been better than Satele in both, IMO
@Kyle Rodriguez Ha! Shows you what I know. Well, some pass protection improvement didn't hurt. I know his snaps have been more limited, but maybe it would be good to see Shipley in place of Satele for a game. Thanks, Kyle.