Third and ten, Fitzpatrick under pressure, throws right, intercepted by Jerrell Freeman. Game. Victory formation. 22-14, Colts.
How they got there was rough to watch at times, except, perhaps, for a field goal enthusiast, but this one goes in the win column. Given what’s occurred in recent weeks, that “W” looks great.
The game began with excitement over the news that Indianapolis had finally benched the struggling Trent Richardson in favor of Donald Brown, but the first drive ended quickly, when Andrew Luck’s pass, though beautifully thrown where only his receiver should get it, bounced off T.Y. Hilton’s hands for an interception.
The defense, who would find themselves on the field most of the game, answered with a three and out, setting up Luck and the already struggling offense for a field goal drive and a 3-0 lead. On the drive, Chuck Pagano at one point elected to go for it on fourth and one from the Tennessee 36, which Trent Richardson was able to convert.
Indy’s defense held the Titans scoreless through the first quarter, and the offense, thanks mostly to good field position and a rare catch by Darrius Heyward-Bey for 23 yards, tacked on another field goal for a 6-0 lead.
Tennessee finally answered back with a one-yard quarterback sneak by Ryan Fitzpatrick, to cap off an 11-play, 79-yard drive and a 7-6 lead.
The Colts, struggling mightily to protect Luck – who wasn’t having his best game already – managed to drive into field goal range once again after WR Da’Rick Rogers, on his only target of the day, drew a pass interference penalty on Titans CB Alterraun Verner.
Up 9-7, some great pass defense by Antoine Bethea and a nice stop for two yards by Erik Walden and Kelvin Sheppard set up another punt, which Indianapolis answered with a quick three and out after Luck took a sack from Kamerion Wimbley.
Darius Butler, starting in place of Cassius Vaughn on the outside, broke up a third down pass intended for Kendall Wright to force another punt, but once again, the Colts offense could not capitalize. Luck was sacked twice on the drive, fumbling both times (both were recovered by the Indianapolis).
After Cassius Vaughn picked off a Fitzpatrick pass intended for Kendall Wright, the Colts took possession at their own 36 with 26 seconds left in the second quarter. Despite taking yet another sack – his fourth of the half, he managed to complete passes of 17 and 20 yards to T.Y. Hilton, to set up Adam Vinatieri’s fourth field goal and take a 12-7 halftime lead.
To open the second half, Fitzpatrick drove the Titans 70 yards for a touchdown, finishing off the drive with a 1-yard pass to Chris Johnson on fourth down to take a 14-12 lead.
The Colts, still struggling on offense, managed to answer back after Robert Mathis strip-sacked Fitzpatrick at the Tennessee 32-yard line. Indianapolis, strangely, called a trick play that turned out to be an end around to Heyward-Bey for an 11-yard loss. It was a 4 play, 1-yard drive, but Vinatieri nailed a 49-yarder to, quite improbably, retake the lead, at 15-14.
The defense, exhausted from following up multiple short drives, came through once again when Fitzpatrick threw an errant pass toward Nate Washington under pressure for Cassius Vaughn’s second interception.
After another three and out, newly activated linebacker Josh McNary broke up a deep pass on third and eight. Then, after yet another three and out by the offense (their third straight), Robert Mathis hit Fitzpatrick as he threw to set up an incompletion on third and ten.
The Colts offense finally rewarded their counterparts with an 11-play, 92-yard drive. There were some nice short passes, particularly the 13-yarder to Coby Fleener on second and eight, but it could be summed up in two words: Donald Brown.
Brown carried the ball 6 times for 46 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to help seal the win. The coaches even appeared to try to give the TD to Trent Richardson after Fleener’s catch set them up at the Titans’ 4-yard line. No gain. The hard-charging Brown crashed into the end zone with linebacker Mario Harvey as the lead blocker for a 22-14 lead.
The now somewhat rested defense, with 1:56 left in the game, needed one more stop. Fitzpatrick and the Titans raced 59 yards in three plays before Jerrell Freeman ran underneath a pass intended for Wright and picked it off – the Colts’ third interception – and returned it 13-yards before going down to let the offense run out the clock.
The defense had a fast start and came through with a beautiful effort, despite being on the field for 33:55. The offense survived. Adam Vinatieri went 5/5 on field goals, and Pat McAfee averaged 45.4 yards per punt. 22-14, and the Titans are all but eliminated in the AFC South. We’ll take that.
A few notes, in no particular order:
- Indy was 3-14 on third down. Those, sadly, are not playoff team numbers.
- Chris Rainey muffed a punt and returned a kick where the blocking just wasn’t there. But he averaged 9.7 yards on punt returns and looked very, very fast.
- Robert Mathis now has 15.5 sacks this season. He hasn’t had much help, but he keeps chugging along. His strip sack today helped save this game.
- Neither Cassius Vaughn nor Darius Butler has played well on the outside, but Vaughn got his hands on nearly every bad pass (and at least one good one) in the slot today.
- Freeman had an embarrassing missed tackle early on, but finished with 9 tackles, a pass defensed, and the game-sealing interception.
- Donald Brown beat the NFL version of office politics to earn a start. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, but played very well on the fourth quarter touchdown drive.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey had a wide open drop in the second half that caused Luck to throw his arms in the air in frustration. Luck went right back to him, but DHB fell down, setting up a punt.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick has himself a BEARD.
- Receiving, and pass blocking are major issues moving forward.
- An ugly win is so much better than an ugly loss.
There have been rumblings that PEP might be one and done in Indy after this year. He has had problems adjusting to the schemes and terminology at this level. He is feeling the pressure to succeed as a OC even with Luck, and the same offense at Stanford. I would like to see Rodgers in the game more, along with Rainey in the backfield like Sproles.Kudos to the defense yesterday, they rose up especially the secondary, all were on point and defended their matchups. What happened to Walker on the Titans?
Crazy ass idea. Pats cut Austin Collie a month ago when he knee acted up on him. Still Collie played in one came and helped Brady make two critical completions in a late 4th quarter TD drive against the Saints.
I say start Brazill and Rodgers against the Bengals. If DHB comes off the bench and is unable to contribute, I say bring in Collie and at least take a look. Collie can at least run the kind of short routes that move the sticks and he catches the ball.
With how bad the interior OL is right now we don't have a deep passing game. That is the only area where DHB can really help. Brazill, Hilton and Rodgers can run the deep routes. We need help filling Reggie's role.
Wayne's injury did the Colts offense in. Since the ability of the O-line to buy receivers time to get open is very questionable at best, Wayne's reliability was what kept the chains moving. Now their only hope is big plays (that aren't dropped), Donald Brown and Luck scrambles. Not exactly the recipe for success.
Still, the Colts basically have the AFC South locked up and there is no reason they couldn't get lucky during playoffs (see, e.g., Ravens, Giants).
We could have traded for Josh Gordon...
Here's your weekly dubstep moment
An impressive victory if you consider all the negative distractions of recent weeks... Philly fans can relate...
You know what I find most frustrating about this year's team. I don't even think it's the worst group of offensive linemen in the past 5 years, but this has easily been the most ineffective offense in that stretch, when we've had a QB worth the jersey he's wearing.
Sure our interior oline is a dumpster fire, but at least we have 2 decent tackles. Having Saturday was nice and probably helped mask a lot of deficiencies by being able to call out blocking assignments, even though Manning did it, but he was routinely the only good lineman we had. Lining up CJ at LT and a revolving door of Pollak/Reitz/Devan at OG isn't a recipe for success.
DHB's one drop, the one that sailed past his upright palms and hit him squarely on the numbers before bouncing to the ground, was not just bad, it was textbook how not to catch a football. But heck we have already seen a dozen just like it so far this year. So, pretending things are going to change, is definition of insanity.
Please, do not start DHB against Cincy, let Brazill and Rogers carry the load. The kids got learn one way or the other, sooner or later.
Reactivate Justice Cunningham. At least when you throw to MR. Irrelevant he makes a effort to catch the ball with his hands and succeeds half the time. See if vote of confidence and playing time spurs improvement.
The Colts started the season hoping to run lots of two TE formations and throwing to both. Lets see if any of the backup TE can help make that happen. Has Jack Doyle even had a target yet? You will likely have to the use them next year until Allen absolutely is 100%. You got 4 games with the division all but locked up to start the process.
During the game I just kept thinking: "What does this team do well?"
They try to hang their hat on being a power running team, but that was non-existent until miraculously they just figured it out on that last drive.
Also, this O-line has to be in the historically bad range for hits and pressures allowed. It's nearly every pass play.
A win is a win. I'm happy, but I still think they should dump Pep and his offense. The Colts came into the game today ranked 17th in passing efficiency and they sure as heck aren't going to move up with that performance. Being in the bottom half of the league at throwing the ball when you have one of the best QB prospects in the last few years just isn't good enough. What is more Luck is getting visibly frustrated out there. He seems too classy to say anything, but this offense is obviously not helping him develop or making effective use of the players the Colts have.
A couple small plays I appreciated: 1. Rainey showing impressive body control by snagging a punt right by the sideline, stopping on a dime, and picking up 12 yards to let the O start at the 17 instead of the 5, and 2. Sergio Brown once again being in the right place at the right time on Rainey's fumble. The guy quietly goes about his business and consistently contributes on special teams.
How did we become a run first team on that last drive? What adjustments were made? It wasn't all DB, he didn't have much success before that drive. I'll look forward to the OLine breakdown.
@erhall01 lmao. I thought he could come in and catch 55-60% of his targets (close to his 2011 production) and be better than Avery's 47%, or whatever it was. I was WRONG. So wrong.
DHB started out looking respectable, and after the first four games, he fell off a cliff. I feel badly for the guy, but I just don't know why he's starting anymore. Apparently, his backups aren't much better if at all.
Yesterday, I tweeted that when I drop something around the house, the verb is "DHB."
@erhall01 NO MORE FREE AGENT RE-TREADS!
@Tom Jackson Maybe, but the Eagles don't have a offense the makes their best player seem mediocre. Rather, it has take a decent QB prospect and made him elite.
@Payton They had a good offensive line in the early part of the Manning era. Oh, how I miss that group.
This was hard to watch. It's a wonder Luck wasn't sacked more. I love a win, and I enjoyed the hell out of that touchdown drive, as well as at least one of the FG drives. But the team we've seen in November isn't going to make any noise in the playoffs.
@thellamajockey I just don't think their backup tight ends - and that includes some they've cut, like Cunningham and Jones - are good enough to be a factor in the passing game. There's just not a Bryan Fletcher or Jacob Tamme type on this team. These backups are slow, plodding old school tight ends, intended to help in the power running game.
Benching T Rich was a big move, and it took them a looong time to pull the trigger on it. They 're super loyal to their guys. I just don't know if DHB is going to the bench or not. Also, I don't see the guy being back here next year. The Colts needed to address the future of either WR or OLB in the draft. They picked OLB, and ended up dealing with what we are seeing now. It's a shame.
@BDiddy I live out of the area, so I don't get to see every game...I did get to see this one. And I'm still washing my eyes. Save for the single TD drive, this was easily one of the most impotent offensive performances I recall seeing in a long time, and I blame it primarily on the O-line.
These guys were hand picked to protect the franchise QB, and they have had a miserable time of it. It's hard to watch.
@hankster On the TD drive Donald Brown really caught fire. Then at the 4-yard line Brown gets pulled for Richardson, who promptly runs up the middle for no gain. Even from the upper deck I thought Luck looked pissed as he walked toward the sideline and sure enough T-Rich came right back out and Brown in to run 4 yards for the TD.
Luck looked officially sick of this bullshit.
He looked pissed. He looked angry on one of his big scrambles and downright livid at DHB.
Finished with a 59 rating, I believe (I'm away from the computer now).
@smonroe This would be a perfect extension of the offensive line series by Ben. Break down what the Colts did on the last drives against the Titans versus the rest of them. I'm interested to see if it's a schematic change or a matter of execution. If it's execution, I'm going to be pretty pissed.
Me too. My first impression was that they might have stopped pulling the guards so damn much. But I was busy hopping up and down and yelling at the tv ;)
@MarcusDugan Sergio Brown catches better with a cast on his hand *with a smiley face on it* than DHB does with his god given hands. Also did anyone else notice Mario "Destroyer of Buffets" Harvey in at Fullback? That was interesting to watch.
@Payton @smonroe I'll be pissed either way. If execution, yeah, why weren't they doing it all game? If scheme, well, why weren't the coaches making these adjustments the previous 55 minutes? What, they're only paid to coach for five minutes each game? Good that they COULD make them eventually, but pretty crappy that it took forever to figure it out. And it recurs nearly every week. So either pisses me off. I guess I am just a pissed off guy right now.
(Seeing the refs screw Shanahan didn't help, either. And I'd feel that way if they did the same thing to Belichick, and maybe even Shiano, that's how bad it was.)
@MarcusDugan Went back and watched the last drive for funsies:
1) Guard dids pull. Link pulled on the second 14 yard run by Brown. He engage poorly and from the wrong side (probably a hold), but it helped keep the hole open. Doyle pulled on that play as well but didn't make it out wide. Thornton pulled on the next play and did a good job.
2) Link is just as bad as McGlynn, at least at run blocking. He routinely got pushed back 4-5 yards deep on run blocking plays.
3) Liberal use of play-action. Loved the play-action bootleg/option.
4) The playcall for Richardson (goal line set with pulling guards and no WRs) was moronic AND poorly executed, but his hesitation in the backfield played into being hit behind the line of scrimmage. Thornton pulled and got a nice block going, but there were Titans on either side of him unblocked.
5) Brown's TD run looked like a similar playcall, and there was barely a hole for him to run through. He dragged two Titans (DT and MLB) into the EZ as well.
@Payton Thanks for the laugh. The term dipshit is not used nearly enough these days. Unless one is discussing DHB. Then it's impossible for it to be used enough.
@Payton @BrianKlass @MarcusDugan Bob Lamey said he noticed Reggie Wayne practicing catching balls one handed with his right hand, so he asked him "Why are you doing that. Aren't you right handed?" He said he played baseball in high school and could catch just about anything with the left one handed, he wanted some practice catching stuff one handed with the right. That kind of dedication and practice is why Reg will be in Canton in the hall of fame and DHB will be in Maryland coaching High school football.
Has anyone said "Hey dipshit. Try catching the ball *during games* with your hands?"
Subtle reminders like 10 miles of wind sprints after practice or playing QB in practice with no red penny on might help jog his memory.
@matt_has @Payton I don't think Brown's body can hold up playing like that all the time, though. He needs some help from another back - like, say, one who appears built for dragging guys downfield - and he isn't getting it. He had so few carries early in the season, though, hopefully he'll still be fresh for the playoff game (I do hope there'll be more than one).
@Payton @MarcusDugan This comment reminded me of one of DB's 5 yd runs on first down. I don't even recall at what stage in the game it was or on which frustratingly pointless (literally) drive it happened ... but he was hit after a 2-3 yd gain, maybe. Kid kept driving his legs and pushing and, sure enough, took at least 2 defenders forward for an extra 2-3 yds. Impressive, for our "speed" guy.