After an embarrassing 40-11 loss last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the Colts returned to Lucas Oil Stadium to play against division rival.
The Colts faced Tennessee Titans. They entered the game with a 5-6 record. Not scary by any means but with the lack of consistency of this Colts team, you never know what’s going to happen, especially if that opponent was playing to keep alive its hope of winning the Division.
After the jump, we take a look at the performance of the Colts’ three units and pick the best offensive and defensive players of the game.
You know what happens early in the game. Bad starts are kind of the signature move of the Colts. This time it wasn’t just a three and out or a quick punt. It was an interception. Andrew Luck threw a long pass to T.Y. Hilton who touched the ball but was picked off by Pollard.
The Colts’ second drive was a bit better. Fleener made two consecutive catches (21 and 16 yards) to enter Titans territory. Trent Richardson converted a fourth & one, but the Colts couldn’t get another first down and had to kick the FG. 3-0.
Their third drive wasn’t too bad either. Even Darrius Heyward-Bey made a couple good plays, including a 22-yard catch. Unfortunately, the Titans started to put some pressure on Luck and the Colts had to kick another FG. 6-0.
Indy kept moving the ball well. After a 19-yard catch by Stanley Havili and a pass interference penalty caused by Da’Rick Rogers (#FreeDaRick), the Colts found themselves at the Titans 22-yard line. Again, they couldn’t do a lot more and had to kick the FG. 9-7.
Their next two series ended in punts. Luck was sacked three times, fumbling the ball twice. The Colts fortunately recovered both fumbles.
Still, they got the ball again with 0:26 to go before the half. The drive started with a gorgeous throw by Luck to Hilton on the sideline. After a sack, a false start penalty and with 0:07 to go on third & 17, Luck threw a long pass to Hilton. The WR made the catch but time had already run out. Right after the play though, the refs called an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Titans, giving the Colts one more play at Tennessee’s 19. Vinatieri capitalized and got his fourth FG of the game. 12-7.
The Colts’ first drive of the second half ended in a punt after Luck was sacked again on third & long.
After a recovered fumble by the defense, the Colts started the next series at the Titans’ 32. They couldn’t move the ball more than a yard and had to settle with another FG to regain the lead. 15-14.
Their next drive began at the Titans’ 48. On second & four, Luck threw a long pass to DHB who made one of the most ridiculous drops in recent memory. He was wide open but he let the ball hit him in the chest. Instead of a 20+-yard gain, it was a drop. It even got what looked like an f-bomb by Reggie Wayne on the sideline. Colts had to punt.
On their next series, S George Wilson decided to pay a little tribute to DHB and dropped what should’ve been an easy interception.
Luck and co. started their next drive at their own 8. The Colts finally moved the ball well on the ground. Both Luck and Brown made some key plays. On third & two, Luck carried the ball 22 yards to reach Titans territory. Brown then gained 21 yards on two carries. The Colts faced a first and goal after a 13-yd catch by Coby Fleener. On second & goal, Brown finally scored the Colts’ first and only TD of the game to extend their lead to 22-14. They ran nine times and passed twice on this 92-yard drive.
While the Colts still moved the ball well enough to score five FGs, it was still another frustrating day for the offense.
The running game was again non-existent until late in the fourth quarter. Ironically, 73 yards of the 92-yard final scoring drive were gained on the ground.
Luck was sacked five times, fumbling twice. He’s playing with a mediocre line and a pretty bad WR corps. Other than Brown, Fleener and Hilton, he can’t trust anyone on that offense.
Speaking of mediocrity, Darrius Heyward-Bey was just terrible. That drop was one of the worst in recent memory.
It was nice to see Da’Rick Rogers in the game. He didn’t make any catches but caused a defensive pass interference penalty. He should get more chances in the following weeks.
Richardson got 19 yards on five carries. Not much to say about T-Rich at this point. Luck finished with 42 yards on the same number of carries.
Overall, it was a good enough game for the offense. It was ugly and frustrating most of the time but they did enough to get the W.
Offensive player of the game: Andrew Luck
He finished with 17/32 for 200 yards in the air, an interception and two fumbles. Pretty bad, I know. But, he also finished with 42 yards on the ground, with a key 22-yard carry on their TD scoring drive. Considering a) the mediocrity of the o-line (he was sacked five times), b) the awfulness of players like DHB c) a non-existent running game for most of the game and d) that Brown was good for just one drive, he deserves the award.
The Titans started their first series at the Colts’ 43. Surprisingly, the Colts forced a three & out. Not a bad start for the defense. Tennessee’s second series also ended in a punt.
Unfortunately, the Titans scored a TD in their third series on a one-yard run by Ryan Fitzpatrick to take a 7-6 lead.
That TD was Tennessee’s final score of the half. After the TD, their next three series ended in punt, punt and interception. It was Cassius Vaughn who intercepted a poor throw by Fitzpatrick. That was the first forced turnover by the Colts in a long time.
To start the second half, Indy’s defense was flagged twice (unsportsmanlike conduct on Cory Redding and holding on Darius Butler), allowing the Titans to go deep into Colts territory. On fourth & goal from the one, Fitzpatrick threw the ball to Chris Johnson inside the end zone for a one-yard TD and a two-point lead. On the replay, it looked like CJ didn’t have control of the ball when Darius Butler knocked it out from his hands. The refs called it a TD. 14-12.
That was Tennessee’s final score of the game.
The Titans started their next drive still holding that 14-12 lead. On third & six from the Colts’ 28, Robert Mathis made the biggest play of the game. Mathis strip-sacked Fitzpatrick and Jerrell Freeman recovered. Great play by #98.
The turnovers didn’t end there, as Cassius Vaughn intercepted another pass by Fitzpatrick (his second of the game) on the Titans’ next drive.
The Titans were forced to punt again on their next two series.
With a 22-14 lead, the Colts’ defense needed to make one more stop with 1:50 to go. Wright made a 35-yd catch on the first play of the drive but on first & ten at the Colts’ 34, Freeman intercepted Fitzpatrick to seal the win for the Colts.
After not forcing a single turnover in the last four games, they forced four against the Titans (three interceptions and a forced fumble).
The Titans scored 14 points in the entire game. The Colts kept making stop after stop. Their best play was that strip-sack by Robert Mathis. Tennessee had the lead and was already in FG range. Key play by Mathis right there.
Cassius Vaughn made two interceptions. It’s hard to believe, but that happened.
It was a great game by the defense. It’s tough to see them playing this well for the remainder of the season but let’s hope they keep it up.
Defensive player of the game: Robert Mathis
#98 is the heart and soul of this defense. His strip-sack came at a key moment in the game. That was his 15 ½ sack of the season. He’s having a great year and should be considered for Defensive Player of the Year.
Special mention goes to Cassius Vaughn who finished with two interceptions.
It was a huge game for the STs, especially for Adam Vinatieri. The veteran kicker finished the game with five FGs, four of them of more than 45 yards. First time he makes five FGs since the ’06 divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. Good times, huh?
There was one scary play on a punt return. Chris Rainey couldn’t catch the punt but still touched it. Fortunately, Sergio Brown was in the right place to quickly recover it.
Speaking of Rainey, he had two kickoff returns and failed to reach the 20 in both of them. He still can’t be any worse than David Reed.
I would contend that the O-Line is much worse than mediocre. In addition to the 5 sacks, they gave up 5 hits and 12 hurries.
They are now ranked third worst in PFF's pass blocking efficiency. Yes, Luck holds onto the ball a bit much and is responsible for some of the sacks, but the pressures and hits are not on him. In fact, before the game he was 7th best in the league in not letting pressure become sacks (again, according to PFF).
I think it deserves to be said: the coaching staff showed a willingness to make changes when the status quo clearly wasn't working, Hamilton used some creative playcalling instead of relying on power-run (run, run, pass, punt), and for the first time in a month and a half, the entire team looked ready to play at kickoff.
Kudos to the coaches this week!
Except for the muff, I thought Rainey looked pretty good returning punts. I'd rather have him back there than TY, we don't need to risk him getting hurt. They also had him on at least one O set, we may see more of that.
What I really want to know is what the heck happened on that last drive? I'm looking forward to Ben's O-Line analysis. It was like they were a different group.
The worst part of our offense is that on plays where Luck has time to throw, he holds the ball forever because our receivers can't get any separation. He's getting visibly frustrated out there and I don't blame him. Looked like he gave Fleener a mouth-full after he didn't even turn to look at the pass on 3rd down.
@glwilliams4 well that was a pretty crummy throw. In general I agree though.