Monday, November 5, 2012

Colts Observations, Week 9

Two games over .500. I originally thought the Colts would be lucky to win three games this season. After seeing Luck play in the preseason, I upgraded that to five or six wins. Now they're 5-3 and knocking on the playoff door in a weak AFC. I'm impressed with how hard the team is playing...and it goes to show that having something to play for means everything.

Rookie passing record. Luck threw for 433 yards Sunday, eclipsing the single-game rookie record held by Cam Newton. Luck may have beaten that record by only a yard, but he wins the maturity game by about eight million points.

Dwayne Allen is a bad, bad man. The Colts' decision to grab a second tight end in the draft left me (and many other people) baffled. I can see why they grabbed Allen when he was available. He's fast and powerful...a great target for Luck to have.

Reggie bein' Reggie. Seven more catches for 78 more yards and a great touchdown grab for the resurgent Reggie Wayne. Most impressive? He did it this week without his magic orange gloves.

Effective ground game. Note that effective doesn't mean "great" or "dominant." The Colts ran the ball against the Dolphins in a few key situations. Delone Carter seemed particularly effective on some runs up the middle. They didn't crack 100 yards (as a team, the Colts rushed for 97 yards), but the Horseshoes ran just enough to keep the defense honest.

Two 100-yard days. Both Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton finished with more than 100 yards receiving. Hilton's day included a spectacular "go up and get it" touchdown grab (along with a dropped "gimme" touchdown); Avery's day included a terrific diving catch (along with a not-so-terrific attempt at a sideline grab in which the defense knocked the stuffing out of him).

"The most accurate kicker in the NFL..." Listen, Adam Vinatieri is good. You can't deny that. He's not having a good season, however. He missed two more field goals against the Dolphins...and has now missed six field goals on the year. He hasn't reached Kyle Brindza (sorry, Notre Dame fans) levels of concern, but the Colts need points whenever they can get 'em.

Second-half defense? The Colts allowed only three points in the second half after surrendering 17 at halftime. At one point, I commented that it looked like they'd have to score 30 points to beat the Dolphins. In the third and fourth quarters, the Colts clamped down defensively, coming up with enough stops to keep the game from getting out of control.

Say, could we get a turnover? While the defense didn't let the Dolphins put up a bunch of yardage in the second half, they also failed to create a turnover. Given that the new scheme is supposed to feast on confusing quarterbacks and generating turnovers with aggressive play, I'm a little concerned by this.

Third down efficiency. The Colts converted on 13 of 19 third down opportunities--many of them were third-and-long situations. On repeated occasions, Luck coolly delivered first-down pass to an open receiver. The kid was absolutely on fire.

Finally hitting them deep. If there was one part of Luck's game that wasn't coming together consistently, it was the deep ball. It wasn't that he didn't have the arm to get it there, but he seemed off target. He hit Avery and Hilton on long plays...and darn near hit Hilton for another big pass. If he gets the long throws down consistently, watch out.

Freeman tackling machine deactivated. Jerrell Freeman had a quiet day (for him), credited with only two tackles. It's only noticeable because the guy averages just under a billion tackles a game.

Zero turnovers. When you talk about the offensive side of the game, this is a good thing. The Colts didn't fumble the ball or throw an interception. That helped offset a bad day from a penalty perspective (11 penalties for 91 yards). I should probably mention that there were a couple close calls from an interception standpoint.

Keep 'em busy. The Colts ran 75 plays to Miami's 58 plays. Much was made of the Dolphins go-go-go-go offensive tempo, but the Colts more than matched it.

"D" in Dolphins? Of what I'd heard about the Miami Dolphins this week, it was that they had one of the most underrated and talented defenses in the league. By the third quarter, they were gassed and running on fumes. I will say the Colts would've put up 35 points against a lesser defense. Yet, Luck still threw for 433 yards.

Vick Ballard, closer. Last week, the Ballard-Copter had liftoff, lifting the Colts to an overtime win on the road. This week, the rookie running back was more reserved (60 yards on 16 carries), but he saved his best for last: a powerful, third-down run that made sure Miami wouldn't get the ball back. When it was all said and done, Ballard--with defenders draped all over him and teammates pushing the pile as he backed himself upfield for more yards--covered 19 yards and broke Miami's back.

Inspiring words. The Colts didn't live their circumstances; they lived their vision. I don't need to write another word about that.