The Indianapolis Colts had to rally in the fourth quarter to defeat the Oakland Raiders, a team that many believe to be the worst in the NFL. While the Colts ended up winning, 21-17, it should have been more one sided.
It was Andrew Luck’s eighth fourth quarter comeback, making him the fastest player to do so. Its a testament to Luck’s ability as a quarterback, especially in crunch time. At the same time, its also a reflection of the defense and play calling on Sunday.
Here are our thoughts on the game:
- Andrew Luck is stupid good. That should be obvious by now, what with the fourth quarter comebacks and innate ability. But Luck made a few throws that very few players in the NFL can make. His first touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne was a thing of beauty. I watched it multiple times on NFL Rewind and was impressed with every viewing. His second touchdown pass to Dwayne Allen was impressive from the standpoint that Luck was unable to really step into the throw and took a big hit after the pass.
- The Safety Tandem. Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry had great games, and look to be a potent 1-2 at the position. Landry led the team with 15 tackles, Bethea was second with 11 (both also had a pass defense). It was great that Landry brought a physical presence to the team, but he was also cleaning up a lot of other players messes. If the linebackers and corners had either a) made clean tackles by wrapping up or b) contained Pryor then we wouldn’t be talking about Landry leading the team in tackles. As for Bethea, how many times has he made a big interception at the end of a game to seal victory?
- Vick Ballard. Ballard was very good at finding the small seams that the offensive line was creating and making the most out of nothing on Sunday. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed off some tough running ability. Where he really shined was in blitz pickup. When asked to stay in and block, Ballard avoided getting beat and was good at initiating contact with his man. He did his best to keep Luck clean and was better than some of the linemen.
- Tight end. Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen were invisible for most of the day. Both players had one catch, Allen’s being a 20-yard touchdown. Allen was injured at some point, leaving with a sore hip in the third quarter. Fleener simply went unnoticed. There is a great breakdown of his day, and to put it simply Luck just wasn’t looking his way. There are a number of plays where he is wide open and it was unfortunate he didn’t get the ball. Luck’s decisions cost him a fair number of passing yards and first downs on Sunday. There are a few plays where Allen or Fleener play decoy. It is also possible that Luck wasn’t supposed to pass to the tight end, but when a player is as wide open as they were why would you pass that up? The Colts drafted two very good tight ends and need to utilize them fully.
- Defense. It wasn’t so much that Terrelle Pryor ran wild on the defense, but that the Colts gave up long drives limiting the number of times that the offense touched the ball. The Colts struggled to pressure Pryor, and when they did he was able to scramble for big gains. Pryor was able to gain 26 yards off four read option runs, and the Colts were completely unprepared for them. Indianapolis was undisciplined in its approach to defending the read option, but against normal run plays the Colts only gave up 59 yards (and just 50 if you take out an end around). The Colts are going to see QBs who like to run the read option at least two more times (San Francisco and Seattle) and will face Jake Locker, a surprisingly mobile QB, two times this year. It is a must that the Colts find a way to get off the field on third down against these teams.
- Kelvin Sheppard. We knew it would be a long day when Pat Angerer was ruled out with a concussion (thankfully he’s been cleared to return to play). Sheppard was horrible. His job for most of the game was to contain Pryor in the middle, something he failed at horribly. He struggled to make plays and showed a lack of play recognition. Sheppard was often a few steps too late and reacted rather than acted when trying to make something happen.
A lot has been said about the Colts being too conservative after a 14-7 lead. But after looking at film, that doesn’t appear to be the case. It was less a product of play calling and more of simple failure. Here are the four drives between the Colts scoring drives.
- This drive started with 4:53 left in the second quarter after the Raiders scored, making it 14-7. It was a three-and-out by the Colts. It starts with a five yard screen to TY Hilton. Then a three yard loss on a run play by Ahmad Bradshaw (his first play of the season). On third down, Luck makes a desparate throw off his back foot to Bradshaw for seven yards. Drive over. What Oakland did was blitz, specifically with its corners who came across the line unblocked. The Colts didn’t protect Luck well enough to be successful.
- The following drive was a two-minute drill, something Luck has excelled with in the past. Luck misses an open Fleener on the first play, but completes a pass to Wayne for two yards (Fleener would have gone for at least 15; Luck is also blitzed, but well protected). Luck then takes a sack (after Anthony Castonzo gets beat), also misses Fleener who is wide open in the flats and could have gotten out of bounds. On third down, Luck never looks left and tries to hit DHB deep for a first down, again he had Fleener (and probably Wayne) open for a first down.
- Opening drive of the third quarter looked great, until it was killed by a 15-yard facemask penalty by Castonzo. Its very difficult to come back from a 15-yard penalty that makes it first-and-25.
- On the second drive of the third quarter the were Colts up 14-10. This series might have been run heavy, but those plays were largely successful. The drive comes to an end when Bradshaw is stuffed on 3rd and 1 for no gain. The Colts then go for it on 4th and 1, a play I applaud as they are at the Oakland 43 and would likely only net 20 yards of field position. Luck rolls out on a play action pass, and is met by a defender who grabs Luck’s facemask and gets the sack. No penalty is called. Yes, it was a broken play, but it was a blatant penalty that was missed by a bad crew of officials. When a player’s momentum stops and his head jerks, its a facemask every time and two officials missed the call.
What is really frustrating is when you have officials blatantly missing calls like the facemask. There were a lot of these all throughout the game as the refs missed numerous holds by the Raiders offensive line. On the Colts final drive, Hilton was taken out by safety Tyvon Branch. The announcers called it incidental, but Branch looked at Hilton and then dropped a shoulder into him. It was clearly pass interference, and a badly blown call. I hate complaining about the officials, but when its this bad it has to be mentioned. Thankfully it didn’t cost the Colts the game.
Up next, the Colts will welcome the Miami Dolphins to Indianapolis. We’ll look at that game later in the week.
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