The Colts’ lost their first playoff game in the Grigson/Pagano/Luck era on Sunday, falling to the Ravens 24-9. The Colts were in a position to get back in the game or take a lead several times in the second half, but simply could not get the ball over the goalline. The lack of touchdowns combined with Cassius Vaughn and a porous run defense was too much for the young Colts team to overcome.
For the game, Andrew Luck played brilliantly, evading mass amounts of pressure and making strong throws despite rarely seeing a clean pocket. Nevertheless, some naysayers looked at Luck’s final stats (28-54, 288 yards and one interception), and either blamed the lack of scoring on him, or dismissed it as a typical, inefficient 2012 Luck game.
I don’t buy either of that. Luck was, as I said above, nothing less than brilliant throughout the game, as he received little to no help from his offensive line and receiving targets. I’ll take a closer look at the protection later this week, but today I want to look at how the Colts’ receivers hurt the offense on Sunday, especially in the second half.
(14:14 First): First drive of the game, Luck throws a little pass to Fleener in the flat. Luck’s throw isn’t good, but Fleener fails to adjust to it and the ball is just out of his reach. You have to give Luck some blame here, but Fleener should have made a better effort for the ball.
(8:41 First): Luck throws a good ball to Wayne down the middle, but Wayne loses the ball in the sun, and gets turned around, and it goes right over his head. It was actually a pretty good throw by Luck if Wayne would have been able to see the ball.
(4:44 First): On this one, Luck tries to go deep to Wayne on a deep crossing route. Not able to set his feet and plant (pressure from Winston Justice’s man), Luck’s throw is a little short, but Wayne nearly digs it out. Rewatching the play, Wayne doesn’t go back to the ball at all, but merely waits for the ball and falls forward when it’s clear it won’t get there. Again, Luck couldn’t get a good throw off, but with a small adjustment it would have been an easy catch for Wayne.
(10:32 Second): The first of several third down drops, Hilton dropped a short curl route that would have been a sure first down. Accurate throw, good play call, but Hilton just muffed it.
(0:48 Third): After a couple of Mewelde Moore runs in the redzone (apparently they didn’t learn their lesson from Week 15), the Colts had a third down and four at the Ravens eight. Wayne runs a quick slant behind Hilton, and Luck’s throw is slightly behind and high. Nevertheless, it hits Wayne in the hands, and it’s a pass he usually catches.
(11:49 Fourth): Avery runs a slant on 3rd-and-9, ball hits him in the arms at about six yards. Avery may or may not have had room to make a move and get the first, but regardless it should have been caught.
(8:20 Fourth): T.Y. Hilton runs a comeback route on the right side, and is open, but slips and falls as Luck releases the ball, causing an incomplete pass.
(6:54 Fourth): Luck throws a perfect pass to Donnie Avery down the seam, but Avery loses the ball as he hits the ground and gets jarred by the knee of a defender. It would have been about a 20-yard gain. To add insult to injury, the Colts lost the challenge on the play, and lost a timeout.
(5:39 Fourth): The Colts should have run here on 3rd and 1, but I digress. On the play, Allen runs a quick out, with Ray Lewis covering. Allen slips as Luck releases the ball, and it’s incomplete. Lewis was close, but Allen should have been able to shield him with his body.
(3:46 Fourth): After a three-and-out, they Colts got one last chance on offense. They started out with a beautiful pass from Luck to Wayne down the seam, but Wayne dropped the ball before being hit by Bernard Pollard. It would have been about a 25-yard gain, but at least the Colts got 15 on a Hit on a Defenseless Receiver penalty on Pollard.
(3:33 Fourth): Luck does a great job in the pocket, absorbing a hit by Kruger, escaping, and throwing on the run to T.Y. Hilton 35 yards downfield. Hilton drops the easy catch. The Colts did get 15 yards on a taunting penalty on Pollard, but it’s still a loss of 20 yards at least on the play.
(2:20 Fourth): On third and 4, Luck sees Brazill with a step on the corner deep left, and launches a rainbow towards the endzone. Brazill gets turned around, slows, and then makes a last ditch leap at the ball. Again, you could argue that the ball was slightly over thrown, but Brazill made possibly the worst play on the ball. If he keeps running at full speed, he catches it.
(2:14 Fourth): Now fourth down, the Colts ran Vick Ballard on a short corner route to the right, a safe call on 4th and 4. Luck hits the wide open running back, but the ball goes right through Ballard’s outstretched hands.
For the game, I counted six sure drops, two catches that should have been made (Fleener’s and Wayne’s in the redzone), three plays where poor or non-adjustments by the receiver caused the incompletion, and two plays where the receiver slipped. That’s half of Luck’s 26 incompletions! And that doesn’t even include the three passes that were batted at the line of scrimmage, or account for the vast amount of pressure that Luck dealt with all game.
Five of the drops/slips came on third or fourth down, and each of 13 plays but one or two would have been a first down.
If you came away from this game blaming Luck for offensive ineptitude, you’re not watching the game closely enough. Luck did plenty to win, but simply didn’t get enough from the rest of his offense, whether it be receivers, blocking, or playcalling.
Am I the only one wondering how in world Fleener was rated higher than Allen? Unless he really comes on next year, Fleener could be a (high) 2nd round bust. He's big but he sure doesn't play like it. Allen is also a good blocker and will be an excellent receiver for years to come.
@gaiter27 Tight ends usually take a bit of time to make the transition to the NFL. It's too early to judge Fleener, and don't hold Allen's great rookie season against him.
The dropped passes by recievers has been an issue for most of the season. Lots of rookies could be an excuse and really Avery's first full season. Brown also hurt most of season, probably our best reciever out of the backfield. The theory I just read on another blog as to "verticle offense", could cover some of the pitiful line play. This also makes Luck look even more brilliant not just philosophically. Pagano/ Arians/Christianson trio looks more of a genius, and with more catches, that were dropped, the Colts may well be in Foxboro this weekend. The per yard per catch could have been even better. The red zone issue may be resolved if Whalen(or like sticky-handed WO available) is healthy. Many fans that live and die by the stats, need to do recall on this issue of obvious catchable passes when assessing the real on-field play of Luck. When one does consider non statistical factors of the game that had a great deal of bearing on Luck and the Colts, I believe Luck was still the best rookie QB in the league.
All you said, but the Ravens get some credit. The Boldin catches were undefenseable, perfect throw, amazing grab. They are the better team. Not by that score, IMO, but except for the QB position, as good or way better every where else. You're right, Luck was the best player on the field. Again.
"The Colts should have run here on 3rd and 1, but I digress." I've been saying this to anyone who will listen, and those who are completely not listening, for two days. For some reason, that was the most frustrating part of the game.
Am I forgetting or did CC not call any quick throws out to Reggie (screen) where he usually gets pummeled by a corner? That play should be removed from the books.
@buymymonkey Reggie Screens are used solely to get him involved if he's having trouble getting free... I hope.
Yup, Luck have a wonderful game, I felt it was the best of the season actually, one of the big reasons is that he had consistent composure throughout the game in a tight pocket, and did not get rattled even in a road game against the Ravens with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on the other side.
I also thought a lot of credit should have went to Clyde for calling a good game and setting us up in position to have more 3rd and short situations than I can remember in any game this year, as well as taking advantage of an aggressive defense, we did not attack deep much, but someone made a good point that it is hard when you really do not have much space/time in the pocket.
Only thing I wish he would have done better was to always have a dumpoff on 3rd downs, seeing that the Ravens like to blitz.
Man, I must be getting old... as I sure did have in my mind that Avery had much more than two drops.
That play you reference at 8:41 in the first to Wayne. I'm glad you mentioned that play, because just watching it live, it sure did look funny. You say Reggie lost the ball in the sun, which makes sense. I remember thinking at the time that Reggie didn't seem to make a good play for that pass.