Sunday, September 16, 2012

Colts Observations, Week 2

Already half as good as last year: Wins were at a premium last season after more than a decade of consistent winning. After two games, the Colts already have as many wins as they had in 16 games during the previous year. We may not see a lot of them, so this one was a biggie. Since we're obsessed with comparing Andrew Luck to Peyton Manning, #18 didn't get the first win of his rookie campaign until the fifth game, when the Colts played Ryan Leaf and the San Diego Chargers.

Someone switched off the Turnover Machine. After giving the ball away five times last week, the Colts didn't have a single turnover in this one. Even though they played relatively mistake-free from that standpoint, they barely won the game, reminding us all (again) how thin their margin of error is for each and every game.

The neck beard is the source of his power. Luck's numbers weren't eye-popping--20 of 31 for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns--but they were good enough. He seemed much more comfortable at home and showed the decision-making ability that had scouts frothing at the mouth. Last week, he was clean shaven and turned the ball over four times (three interceptions, a fumble), so I guess we'll have to live with the neck beard.

Running. Always running. Luck has the uncanny ability--much like Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees--to sense pressure. The kid moves well in the pocket, sidestepping defenders and turning surefire sacks into throwaways or completions. We also saw his scrambling ability this week, especially early in the game. Luck was the Colts' second leading rusher (that's not saying much) with 4 carries for 21 yards. He'll need to show that elusiveness all year because...

...the line can't hold. It's a good thing Luck has otherworldly elusiveness. Otherwise, he would've been sacked several times. Like last week, pressure came from everywhere--blindside, weakside, strongside, middle--and the line couldn't open up any holes in the defense.

Balancing act. The Colts led early and didn't fall behind this week, which means they had better balance in play selection. Luck threw the ball 31 times; the Colts ran the ball 30 times. That's a much better ratio for a rookie passer.

So conservative that I'm fairly sure Mike Pence was calling the plays. My biggest gripe with the Colts was their second half offensive coma. After a great drive to start the second half (impeded by Indy penalties and helped by Minnesota penalties), the Colts went ultra-conservative. The offensive bonanza included three straight three-and-outs and four punts. I'm not saying Luck should be out there chucking it downfield every play, but it truly felt like the Colts were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. If you're going to build the monster, you have to feed the monster and keep pushing.

Percy Harvin. The Colts had no answer for him--although few teams do. He didn't exactly kill them, but he was several notches above just being "pesky."

Settle for the field goal, eh? Luck has been terrific in the two-minute drill. I liked that he wasn't satisfied merely with getting a late field goal in the first half; when he saw an opening, he took it...and delivered a sweet pass to Reggie Wayne for the touchdown. Huge play.

Special Team Hero #1. Adam Vinatieri rebounded from last week, when he missed a "gimme." He knocked in field goals from 26 and 45 yards before knocking through a 53-yarder with typical Vinatieri clutch-osity.

Special Team Hero #2. Pat McAfee had an excellent game. His booming kick from his own end zone (combined with a penalty of course) got the Colts out of a jam. McAfee averaged more than 53 yards a punt.

Donnie Avery Express. We didn't see much from Donnie Avery in the preseason, and we didn't see much from him last week. Against the Vikings, Avery excelled, catching 9 balls for 111 yards. He even threw in a couple runs. While Luck leaned heavily on Reggie Wayne last week, he looked to Avery against the Vikings.

Big mistake. Luck's reliance on avoiding pressure caught the Colts in a critical moment when he tried to evade a couple Vikings defenders before getting dropped for a huge loss. It was one of those plays that simply can't happen, setting the stage for the Vikings' game-tying score by completely changing field position.

31 seconds to freedom. Two games into his NFL career, Luck already has a signature moment. After the Colts gave up a late score with 31 seconds to go, Luck--armed with two timeouts--got the team in field goal position with back-to-back 20-yard completions to Donnie Avery and the ageless Reggie Wayne. Adam Vinatieri nailed a 53-yard field goal (Cash. Money.) to seal it with a kick.

Canadian Edge. Jerrell Freeman continues to make the most of his playing time. Starting in place of injured Pat Angerer, Freeman finished with 13 tackles (6 solo), a forced fumble, and a sack. Not bad for a guy from the Canadian Football League.

One, two, three, four...Pressure! The Colts defense sacked Christian Ponder four times and flushed him from the pocket on several occasions. This was by no means a flawless game (the Vikings aren't very good, it appears), but I saw some positive things from the defense.

Not all wine and roses. Thanks to offensive ineptitude, the defense clearly lost focus in the second half. The Colts gave up touchdowns on back-to-back drives after limiting Minnesota to two field goals the rest of the way. One TD was a fluke--a deflection on fourth down--but the D looked out of gas on the game-tying drive.

Wrap and tackle, son. Wrap and tackle. Sergio Brown had the Vikings dead-to-rights on a punt return. He tried to blow up the returner and bounced right off him. Wrap and tackle, son.