It's a callback to earlier this season, but one that deserves some mention going into this weekend: Indy, after barely squeaking a single win from Oakland and Miami, went on a two-game winning streak on the road ... and then returned home to face the Seattle Seahawks, in one of the greatest games of their year. Now, months later, Colts.com's Kevin Bowen goes back to that game and asks: how did Indy beat Seattle?
T.Y. Hilton’s 140 receiving yards was the second most given up by the Seattle secondary all year. In case you were wondering, Hilton’s 73-yard touchdown began with coverage from Seattle’s All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Hilton also drew a 16-yard pass interference penalty against Sherman and caught a 12-yard third-down reception on Sherman during the Colts game-winning touchdown drive.
We learned something in that game: T.Y. Hilton is the future of Indy's receiving core. He dominated against the best pass defense in the league, while matching up against the "best" cornerback in the league, and finished the game with 140 yards and a touchdown.
I'm psyched for next year for a few reasons, but mostly because:
a) Andrew Luck will be throwing to T.Y. Hilton,
b) Vick Ballard will be running for over 1000 yards if he stays healthy (more on that in a sec), and ...
c) Indy will be playing in the worst division, against the worst division in the NFC, and against the (other) worst division in the AFC - a far cry from the West/West, three-of-four-conference-finalists schedule this year.
Quickly, about Ballard: Indy's breakout 2012 runningback was limited to one game last year and only 12 starts the year before, while splitting carries with Donald Brown for much of the season anyway. If Brown leaves next year, Ballard will have the clear #1 job after putting up almost 800 yards in 12 games in 2012. Moreover, he broke 100 yards only once, hence establishing himself as a very consistent contributor.
In his start this year, Ballard put up 63 yards on 13 carries in game one, very reminiscent of his stats from last year - but better. For a runningback to eclipse 100 yards, they need 63 yards per game ... a mark Ballard passed six times in his twelve starts as a rookie. In his last six starts (including the postseason), Ballard has averaged 83.3 yards/game, good for 500 yards.
Indy hasn't had a 1000-yard rusher since 2007. Since then, only Ballard and Addai have passed 800 yards in a single season; Addai did it while starting 15 games, and only notched 14 more yards.
My point is, predicting that Ballard will pass 1000 yards if he's healthy isn't even a risk - it's probable.
I dunno, RB is actually one of the positions that worries me the most for the Colts next year. Ballard's coming off an ACL reconstruction, and a lot of guys are never quite the same after those. An NFL RB depends so much on his ability to make sharp cuts and accelerate rapidly that just a slight loss of quickness can make a big impact. Sometimes guys come back and have great years, e.g. Adrian Peterson, but that's a rare exception. I expect Ballard to play, but it'll be a very pleasant surprise if he can match his 2012 output.
And hopefully Trent Richardson will be earning a big share of carries, but I'm not terribly optimistic about that either.
@Pied Sigh ... I hate when people who point out my mistakes are right.
@ECB I understand the concern, which is why I personally think they should offer Brown a small, one-year deal (or you know, cut Greg Toler and use the money they save to resign Brown). Ballard's the future of this running game, if he can rebound.
@Lou Pin @ECBThat's a possibility. But Brown seems like an ideal change of pace back. He did okay as a starter, but had several games where he pretty much disappeared. He'd be a great complement to either Richardson or Ballard if they pan out, but I don't see him as an ideal replacement if they aren't.