Against Cleveland, the Colts offense looked sharp once again, and the defense was, for the most part, something we haven’t seen around the Circle City in quite a while: Dominant. The Colts held the Browns’ starters scoreless until a third quarter field goal against Indy’s second team defense.
The Browns starters had dominated their first two opponents, outscoring St. Louis and Detroit by a combined 37-13 in the first halves (the part before preseason games turn into, well, preseason games). The Colts starters outscored Cleveland’s first unit 17-3 before the backups helped them cruise to a 27-6 decision.
The team as a whole allowed a mere 270 total yards and just 13 first downs and held Cleveland’s running backs to 59 yards on 16 carries (3.7 YPC). While it should be noted that the Browns offense doesn’t look very strong yet – they only averaged 3 YPC on the ground in their two wins, the Colts kept from making them look like All Pros. In fact, they did exactly what a good defense should do against such an opponent and shut them down.
The Colts first team generated some nice pressure at times, with some good play from Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner, and Robert Mathis. CB Greg Toler forced and recovered a fumble, and the secondary played well overall.
One final defensive note, if you haven’t heard of Caesar Rayford yet, you must have watched a different game. This 27-year old rookie and former Utah Blaze star leads the team in sacks in the preseason and, barring the unforeseen, is now a virtual lock to make the final roster. He needs to work on his open field tackling and run stopping skills, but the guy creates absolute havoc for opposing quarterbacks, and he can use his size and length to help make up for being out of position at times.
On offense, Andrew Luck continues to shine, and that’s putting it lightly. He posted a 92.8 QB rating and went 16/25 (64%) for 164 yards, 2 touchdowns (one to FB Stanley Havili and one to T.Y. Hilton). He did throw an interception, when his pass came in a little hard and fast, or hot, as football people like to say, to Havili, and it deflected into the hands of a defender.
Reggie Wayne led all receivers with 7 catches for 79 yards, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who continues to look like the real thing, chipped in 3 receptions for 33 yards and a 6-yard rush on an end around. Griff Whalen led the reserves with 4 catches for 57 yards and generally frustrated defenders – even in man to man coverage – drawing a pass interference penalty in the second half that set up Adam Vinatieri’s second field goal.
Oh, yes, and that running game. The Colts, who ran well against Cleveland in the regular season last year too, racked up 34 carries for 149 yards and 4.4 YPC.
Kerwynn Williams led all rushers with 9 carries for 37 yards, but unfortunately actually had 8 carries for 10 yards and another one for 27 (4 of his runs were for no gain or negative yardage). Vick Ballard had 33 yards on 10 carries, much of it against eight man fronts (there just aren’t many audibles going on in the preseason). And Donald Brown took advantage of the blocking of rookie guard Hugh Thornton and the improved play of center Samson Satele later in the first half to finish with 35 yards on just 5 carries.
Overall, the Colts did a nice job of running and stopping the run, two areas in which they’ve emphasized a need for improvement. (You may have heard Coach Pagano mention them a time or two…) That did help them to do well in the even more important areas of passing and stopping the pass.
Next week, against the Cincinnati Bengals, the starters likely will rest for most of the game. As the final round of roster cuts looms, expect to see a contest played almost entirely by backups and players trying one last time to make an impression on the coaches. For those gentlemen, the fourth week of the preseason will be their Super Bowl, and they will lay it all on the line to preserve their NFL dreams.
For now, we know that the Colts starters have the ability to put together one beauty of a half, and that should bode well for them beginning at 1:00 PM on September 8.
Williams does well - when he's playing against reserves. He looked like a high school player in the first half. I'm guessing he goes to the PS. Reed is the returner and 5th WR until Brazil comes back, then they need to make a decision. Also agree with TrueBlue, Brown is the best back that's played in the preseason.
Marcus... Donald Brown took advantage of the "improved blocking" of Samson Satele??? Are you kidding me??? He only comes alive when Brown is running???
I actually believe that Brown is a good bit better than Ballard and way better than Williams. Bradshaw is the best of the lot. Pep's offense can better utilize Brown's talent by getting short passes to him with a little open space. That is Brown's strength... he can turn on the jets to split a seam for major yardage.
I've heard some people bitching about playcalling on third downs and in the two-minute drill. Yeah, I'm not real worried that Hamilton is going to be calling run plays in two minute drills in games that actually count. It's called "keeping your powder dry". Love the no-coast offense, Colts are going to blow the roof off a couple of games this year for sure.
@smonroe I'd like Ballard to be better, since he's got more years (and years under contract) left, but the speedy guy from Connecticut still looks like our best guy til Bradshaw comes back. Interestingly, in Brown's and Bradshaw's best seasons, 2011 and 2012 respectively, their DVOA rank was exactly the same (like 6th if I remember correctly. It's in the TC preview on the running backs somewhere). I Agree with @TrueBlue that a healthy Bradshaw is probably better.
@TrueBlue First off, that's a great user name. Secondly, I try to be positive. Satele was cringe-worthy early on, and started blocking better later in the half. I don't know why - it seemed to coincide with Thornton playing beside him instead of Linkenbach. Anyway, any positive sign from Satele is a good thing, since the coaching staff and front office are so strongly committed to him. Heck, they even traded away his main competition for the starting job. We need this guy to make some blocks and not get knocked backward on running plays.
The best part was Thornton was a BEAST. Dude is nasty out there. He's strong, and he moves around well. I don't know if he's doing everything right yet, but his strength can probably mask some mistakes here and there while he catches on (Please start this guy, coaches).
@TrueBlue Pep and Andrew worked with multiple RBs in Luck's final year at Stanford. Each back had slightly different strengths...however, all were good pass protectors. Brown will earn his share of time. If you've seen his upside, they've seen it too. BTW, time of possession, ball control, is one strength of Hamilton's no-coast offense; Luck knows that his counterpart can't score if Indy has the ball. With that thought, wouldn't it seem practical to spread the load with multiple rotations in the backfield? That's what Luck did with Pep's scheme at Stanford. Versatility on offense is demanding on the opposing defense especially since Luck will exploit what the defense can handle least.
@ColtsHead_Ben I honestly wonder how much Pep is going to have a say on playcalling during 2-minute drills. He knows Luck knows his stuff, it's just a matter of the rest of the team not lagging behind him.
@matt_has @MarcusDugan @smonroe @TrueBlue Sounds good to me. I get tired of being trolled do pieces every time I say something good about Donald Brown. You give that guy some daylight, like he actually had on Saturday, and he is flat out GONE. So, I'll agree, "Speedy Guy from Connecticut" sounds better than Donald Brown: Puppy Kicker, or "G**Dammit Donald"