The Indianapolis Colts were a 10 point underdog heading into Sunday’s game with San Francisco. The Colts pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the weekend by smacking the 49ers around, 27-7.
The defense stepped up in a huge way against the 49ers to help the Colts improve to 2-1. While the offense left a few plays on the field, they still played a mistake free game that turned into a blowout.
This was the kind of lopsided win that Colts haven’t seen since someone wore #18 on the field, and it felt good.
Here’s what we took away from the game:
- The game ball goes to: Ahmad Bradshaw. Lost in all the fuss over Trent Richardson was the fact that Bradshaw is still on the roster and is a very good running back. He proved it on Sunday with 95 yards rushing and a touchdown. Having him playing at a high level allows the Colts to bring Richardson into the fold slowly and will give the Colts a very nice one-two punch at the position.
- Speaking of Richardson, he had a solid game for someone who picked up the playbook three days earlier. There were a few plays that he should have been in on, but wasn’t. Its hard to complain with his first carry being a touchdown. He did appear to be hesitant in the open field, but that is likely due to unfamiliarity with the blockers he has. I also noticed that for 225-pound running back he often doesn’t run defenders over or push the pile. He got stood up more times than I’d like to see, but the potential he has is tremendous.
- Is Andrew Luck becoming a game manager? Luck was 18-for-27 for 164 yards, no touchdowns and no turnovers. He played second fiddle to the running game on Sunday, but the throws he was asked to make were precise and on time. Luck never seemed rattled and he was more decisive than he appeared to be last week. At some point, the coaches are going to have to put more trust in Luck and let him loose to make plays on the field.
- All glory to the defense. The Colts D played a brilliant game. After a touchdown drive early by the 49ers, one that seemed to easy, Indy put the clamp down and forced back-to-back three-and-outs. The 49ers didn’t even sniff the red zone again until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and even then they turned the ball over. Most impressive was that the Colts did it minus Pat Angerer and LaRon Landry.
- Delano Howell, who filled in for Landry, had a very good game, especially against the pass. He broke up two passes with some hard, legal hits. He has some work to do in regards to run support (a few missed tackles) but overall he had a great game.
- Kelvin Sheppard should not be allowed on a football field. Two times he has had to start, and both have been awful. He is not a credible back up and the fact that Angerer can’t stay healthy is made more troubling by Sheppard’s terrible play on the field.
- Why did the Colts sign Erik Walden again? He is not very good and has gotten worse as the season has worn on. He doesn’t bring anything to the table. He can’t set the edge against the run, he can’t rush the passer, and he’s mediocre in pass coverage. Its time to let Bjoern Werner start at OLB in place of Walden. At least when Werner screws up we can chalk it up to him being a rookie and move on.
- Credit is due to the patchwork offensive line. Indianapolis played without two of its starters and it was hard to notice a difference. The line gave up just one sack and three tackles for losses. Anthony Castonzo had perhaps his best game in a Colts uniform on Sunday and he was facing Aldon “I Entered Rehab After the Game” Smith, a feared pass rusher. Castonzo particularly shined in run blocking. Mike McGlynn filled in at center and Jeff Linkenbach at right guard and while they did an admirable job, neither was particularly successful. Both were were (and are) bad at pass blocking and Linkenbach really struggled to open up any holes for the running backs. While overall it was a good game from the line, the Colts need to get healthy across the line fast (and maybe get Khaled Holmes some reps).
- This is what Chuck Pagano wants. This game is exactly what Pagano wants to see. He wants tough defense that locks down the opponent and forces a lot of three-and-outs. He wants a run game that smacks the opponent in the mouth and crams the ball down their throat. He wants to control the pace of the game and minimize risk. He won on Sunday against a Super Bowl favorite his way. His Colts out physicaled one of the toughest teams in the country. This is the way he wants the Colts (or at least the defense) to play every week. While I, and many other, believe that he needs to let Luck sling the ball around a little more, this win goes a long way towards proving the team can win with this style of play (at least some of the time).
- Why didn’t Pagano go for two? Indianapolis scored a late touchdown on a naked bootleg by Luck and the play put the Colts up 19-7. Pagano then opted to kick the extra point attempt, rather than go for a two-point conversion attempt. Two points would have put the Colts up 21-7, or two touchdowns. The extra point put them up by 13. This is the kind of detail that Pagano seems to miss as a head coach. There are a lot of plays he doesn’t run, or times he doesn’t go for it, when he really should because the stats back it up. This one was basic “when to go for two” management and at some point it might cost the Colts. It ended up not mattering as Kaepernick fumbled the ball on the 49ers next series and the Colts immediately scored, but there is a real chance it could in the future.
This was a statement win by the Colts. After losing to Miami, the sky started to fall and many questioned whether the Colts could make the playoffs. After this performance, there is hope again.
It was a game very reminiscent of the Packers game last season. Outmatched against a seemingly superior opponent, the Colts turned in an inspired performance and pulled out a big win.
Up next, the Colts will have a bye week. During the bye, they will head down to face an FCS opponent in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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