After a humiliating 38-8 loss at home against the St. Louis Rams, the Colts desperately needed to show everyone that that game was no more than an accident.
This time, the Colts (6-3) were facing their division rivals, the Tennessee Titans (4-5), so the Colts not only had the chance to somehow erase the bad memory from the previous week, but also to gain more advantage in the race for the AFC South.
After the jump we take a look at the Colts’ offense, defense and special teams and also pick the best player of each unit.
The tradition of the 2013 Colts is to have slow starts in every single game. Against the Titans it was no different as their first series ended in a three & out.
Their second drive started at their own 5 down 14-0, but they got to their 18-yd line quickly after a short pass to Trent Richardson. The Colts managed to get to the Titans’ 35. Shocking no one, Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped a decent pass by Luck that would’ve put the Colts at the 15. Instead, they had to settle with a FG.
Their next series started near midfield but the Colts only got to the Titans’ 40-yd line and had to punt.
With 2:32 to go before the half, the offense got the ball again. After getting 66 yards on eight plays, they reached Tennessee’s 14-yd line. On 3rd down from the Titans’ 9, Luck was sacked. The Colts had to settle with another FG, making it 17-6 right before the half.
The Colts received the ball to start the second half. In their first drive of the third quarter, the offense kept moving the ball well. With key third-down receptions by T.Y. Hilton and Griff Whalen, the Colts found themselves inside the Titans 8-yd line. Luck tossed the football to Brown who took it to the end zone to make it 17-13. Nice, balanced drive that not only finished with Brown’s TD, but also lasted more than seven minutes.
It didn’t take long for them to take a lead. After a fumble recovered by the STs, the Colts offense started their next drive at the Titans 20. On second down, Luck ran the ball for an 11-yd gain and the Colts second TD of the game. Luck apparently wanted to throw a short pass to Whalen, but found a defender in the way and after the pump fake, decided to run it instead. Great play by Luck.
For their next possession, they found themselves inside FG range after a couple throws to Coby Fleener. Adam Vinatieri scored a 50-yd FG to make it 23-17. The Colts had now scored 20 unanswered points and it was their fourth straight scoring drive.
Up 23-20, the Colts seemed like they would make it five straight scoring drives since this series started with a 39-yd pass to Fleener. After that, they only gained two more yards and were forced to punt.
With 7:41 left in the fourth quarter, the Colts decided it was time to finish the game. Donald Brown got 31 yards on three carries to start the drive. With the aid of an unnecessary roughness penalty, the Colts had a first down at the Titans’ 10-yd line. From there, Brown scored his second rushing TD of the game to give Indy a 30-20 lead. Brown’s TD practically sealed the Colts win.
The offense played great in the second half, just like they did against Houston. On the first half though, they only scored two FGs. The slow starts need to stop.
Donald Brown is looking great. He’s hitting the holes quickly and making tacklers miss. On the other hand, Richardson continues to struggle. Again, he had a couple of decent plays and that was that. The o-line isn’t good, but that can’t be used as an excuse since Brown runs just fine with it.
Fleener had a great night. He continues to improve game after game. With Reggie’s absence and the lack of reliable targets, Luck sure needs him.
Overall, it was a good game for the offense but they need to find a way to play well for 60 minutes.
Offensive player of the game: Donald Brown
While players like Andrew Luck (232 yards passing, 1 rushing TD) and Coby Fleener (8 catches for 107 yards) had good games, the award goes to Donald Brown. He finished the game with 80 yards on the ground and 2 TDs. He’s doing everything Richardson isn’t: finding holes, getting big plays and scoring touchdowns. Brown is playing great and should be the unquestioned starter for the rest of the year.
The very first defensive play by the Colts was a sack by Cory Redding. Unfortunately, they did little else during that drive, as Chris Johnson would score a 30-yd TD on the ground to make it 7-0.
The next series was just as bad for Indy. Johnson continued to run well and scored his second TD of the game on a 7-yd carry. CJ finished the first quarter with 70 yards and two scores. This was quite an ugly start for the defense.
Fortunately, the defense woke up after the Titans’ second TD, forcing a three & out on the next drive.
The defense held the Titans to a FG on their next series. On this drive though, Erik Walden should’ve been ejected after headbutting a helmetless Delanie Walker.
After allowing 14 points in the first quarter, they held their opponent to just three in the second quarter.
The defense didn’t see the field again until half of the third quarter and they forced a three & out on the Titans’ first offensive series of the second half.
It took them a long time, but the Titans finally scored again at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Starting at their own 40, the Titans took advantage of their nice field position to get to the Colts’ 21, where they would kick a FG.
Down by three, the Titans got the ball again at their own 9. The defense needed to make a stop and they delivered after a couple great plays by Darius Butler. Butler batted a pass right from Nate Washington’s hands that would’ve given the Titans another first down and made a key tackle on third down.
With the game 30-20 and with less than three minutes to go, the Titans scored a quick TD. It only took them four plays and over a minute to do so.
Luckily, the Colts recovered the onside kick to give the Colts their seventh win of the season.
While the defense played well after the first quarter, there were some things that were just beyond ridiculous. Erik Walden’s headbutt against Walker was amazingly stupid. It was a miracle that he wasn’t ejected. There’s just no room for that lack of discipline on this team.
The start of the game was horrendous for the defense. Chris Johnson hasn’t often looked good so far in the year. In the first quarter, it was like it was 2009 again. For some reason, Tennessee stopped running the ball in the second half, just like it happened against San Francisco and Seattle. That’s just weird but the Colts shouldn’t complain too much.
This defense is struggling to create turnovers lately. You would have to go back to week nine against Denver to find their last turnover. Since then, three games (Houston, St. Louis and Tennessee), zero turnovers.
Decent game for the defense, but just as the offense, they have to show some consistency. The slow starts got old a long time ago.
Defensive player of the game: Pat Angerer
It was a solid effort by the defense as a whole but the award goes to Pat Angerer, who finished the game with eight tackles and an assist.
David Reed continued to return kickoffs. On his second return of the game, the kickoff reached the 1-yd line. For some reason, Reed let it bounce a couple times before picking it up. At that point, a few Titans were already in front of Reed, who barely took it to the 5. He just doesn’t look like a very smart player.
Luckily, Reed wasn’t relevant for the rest of the game.
Down 17-13, “Boom” Herron recovered a lucky fumble on a kickoff return by Devon Wylie. Wylie hit the back of one of his teammates and lost the ball after. That was arguably the biggest play of the game.
McAfee had a quiet day. He only punted the ball three times. Unfortunately, up 23-17, McAfee kicked the ball out of bounds on a kickoff to put the Titans at the 40. That was his only mistake of the game but it was a big one.
Adam Vinatieri finished the game with three FGs.
I just read that an elk in North Carolina was euthanized after head-butting a wildlife photographer. Erik Walden, you're on notice. If they start shooting you with paint balls or throwing firecrackers at you to scare you away, DO NOT head-butt anyone else.
I think these grades were reasonable and more or less fit my impression of the game. That being said, if we can win a road division game with a C average, we're in pretty good shape (assuming we are capable of producing B's or better when needed. Which we have done earlier this year).
Beyond the report card awarding of grades, the game held out hope that Fleener will be able to assist Hilton in taking on the receiving burden now that Reggie is out. Whalen, Saunders, Brazill and who knows Da'rick Rogers still have a lot to show. DHB is looking like he will continue to disappoint. Love to see TRich bust a big after catch run like Donald Brown.
What I don't understand is how Vaughn starts over Butler. If they want Butler to cover the slot guy, why not move him over when they go to nickel? It's pretty clear he's a better DB than Vaughn. Also, Bathea has been a rock for this team for all his years. But I really hope they don't throw a big contract at him next year. His play is still good but you can see the decline starting.
Im ready for the Da'Rick Rogers era to begin.... DHB and Whalen can't get the O going. I've never seen Rogers play, so I'm sure he's going to be AWESOME
Since he is part of the team, I really hope that Richardson finds a way to contribute down the stretch. But until something drastically changes, I don't see how it can even be debated that Brown is the best option and should be getting the majority of work.
(Heck, against the Titans, Brown was even much better running inside and getting the tough yards than Richardson.)
Don't forget that the Special Teams also had a successful onside-kick defended by defensive player of the game, Pat Angerer. (Okay, so it was a pretty pathetic onside-kick execution; still: there was no channeling of Hank Baskett.)
I'm not sure I agree that Brown should be the "unquestioned starter" for the rest of the year. It all depends on how the team intends to continue using the two backs. That said: if starting Brown means *not* starting in power run, I'm all for it.
@chip_bennett I meant Brown should be on the field a lot more than T-Rich. You know I like Richardson!