Sunday, September 8, 2013

Colts Observations, Week 1 vs. Raiders

"The Mayor" runs for office. The Colts signed Ahmad Bradshaw in the offseason to bolster the running game, but second-year 'back Vick Ballard emerged as the starter. He was effective, running 13 times for 63 yards--very close to the Colts' desired average of 5.0 yards per carry (Ballard was at 4.8 YPC). I loved Ballard last year, and the 2013-2014 campaign looks promising.

Little bit of Bradshaw. We really didn't see much from Ahmad Bradshaw. He had seven carries, got dropped for a loss on his first carry and also got stuffed on a third-and-short. His most memorable run was a 10-yarder in which he leveled a couple Raiders defenders before going down. I think the Colts are starting him off slowly, given that he's coming off an injury.

Spectacular start. Early on, this looked like a mismatch as Andrew Luck and the offense carved up the Raiders. Two drives produced back-to-back touchdowns, jolting the Colts off to a 14-0 lead. Luck's first touchdown pass to Ageless Reggie Wayne was a thing of beauty; his second TD pass involved a great move from Dwayne Allen. They were running the ball well, protecting Luck, and controlling the tempo. At first.

And then... The wheels fell off. On four straight drives, the Colts produced zero points, three punts, and a turnover on downs. All the while, the Raiders hit their stride, taking a shocking 17-14 lead. Luck was continually sacked (the Raiders dropped him four times), the Colts couldn't get anything going, and at one point faced a third and 31 thanks to a penalty and a sack. Not to the mention that the revamped defense struggled mightily.

The Big Miss. I can't understate how big Sebastian Janikowski's miss just before halftime was. Had he connected on that kick, the Raiders would've been able to kick a field goal at the end of the game. Instead, they needed a touchdown.

Take the free 20 yards, kid. I love Greg Toler. He's a guy who always seems to have his nose on the ball. After intercepting Terrelle Pryor, he decided to take the ball out of the endzone. The result? Vontae Davis got flagged for a low block, and the Colts were backed up at the 11. A touchback hurts no one.

He didn't have a carry, but he's still special. Donald Brown didn't run the ball or catch a pass, but he did make a nice tackle on special teams. When a guy like that--a former first-round pick--is willing to buy in for that, you've gotta like it.

Third drive's a charm. For the first two drives, the Raiders showed some flashes, but it was the third drive that signaled the Colts were in for a long afternoon. Pryor had runs of 9, 29, and 13 yards on the drive. The Raiders were so efficient--or the Colts defense so inept--that Oakland never even faced a third down on the scoring drive. At the end, after Darren McFadden squeezed his way into the endzone, it was apparent that we had a ballgame.

Not quite as #Boomstick as usual. The usually solid Pat McAfee had a pretty mediocre day by his standards. Three punts averaged 39 yards, including a 33-yard stinker that was his first boot of the day.

The end of the half was brutal. Just check out my notes on the Colts' and Raiders' final drives of the first half:

Fourth Colts drive

Reggie Wayne with a one-handed catch for two yards. Luck sacked on next play. Third and long forthcoming. Luck pass to right eludes leaping Darrius Heyward-Bey. First incompletion of the day for Luck. Back-to-back three and outs.

Fifth Raiders drive

Drive starts with poor tackling from Colts and a first down catch by tight end for 19 yards. Read option goes nowhere. Loss of three. Pryor misfires on second and long. Third and 13 now. Eight-yard pass brings out Janikowski for 48-yard attempt. Shanked it.

Sure they had four sacks, but they should've had five. In the Colts' first drive of the second half, Luck faced heavy pressure and should've been sacked. Instead, he somehow powered his way out of a sure tackle and got free for a 9-yard run that netted a first down. Think of the run as a preview of coming attractions.

Reggie Wayne. 8 catches, 96 yards, touchdown. That is all.

No Pryor restraint. The Indiana Hoosiers (basketball) had no idea Syracuse would use that 2-3 matchup zone last year. The Indiana Hoosiers (football) were surprised that Navy ran the option yesterday. The Indianapolis Colts appeared equally befuddled by Terrelle Pryor's ability to run. That's all the guy has. Seriously...did you see some of his attempts to throw downfield? The Colts seemed ill-prepared to face a running QB, something that doesn't bode well for future showdowns against Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Pryor ran 13 times for 112 yards.

Fourth and done. The Colts decided to go for a fourth and short just past midfield, a fantastic idea considering Ahmad Bradshaw got stuffed for no gain on third and short. The play call was some kind of rollout pass with Luck, but the Raiders were all over it and Luck got sacked for a 13-yard loss. The Raiders capitalized on the good field position by scoring a touchdown on the next drive. It was awesome.

Catching a break. Kind of. But not really. When Darren McFadden caught a long pass for a touchdown, Colts fans collectively slapped their foreheads. Then, they collectively screamed that McFadden didn't make the catch. A replay proved them right, but it didn't matter because the Colts defense failed to capitalize on the second chance and surrendered a touchdown later in the drive. Again, it was awesome.

"Pryor runs into old man, doesn’t get first down." My note on Terrelle Pryor's five-yard run on third and six, in which he ran over a game official while falling just short of the first down. The drive resulted in a Janikowski field goal.

Our quarterback can run, too! With the Colts trailing 17-14, Andrew Luck drove the team down the field. Facing third and 4 at the Raiders 19, he saw the middle of the field open up and sprinted 19 yards to the endzone. I breathed a sigh of relief.

He was BUTT OPEN. My brother often used this phrase to describe a receiver who was unbelievably uncovered. So, tight end Jerud Mastrud was butt open when he caught a 41-yard pass on the Raiders' final drive. Fortunately, Mastrud has cement in his feet and was tackled before he could go all the way.

Finally, some pressure. Robert Mathis finally got to Terrelle Pryor at a most opportune time, sacking him for a 16-yard loss and turning first and goal at the 8 to second and goal at the 24. Of all the good things Pryor did, it's mistakes like these that killed him. Similar situations included interceptions, some delay of game penalties and other instances of poor game management/awareness.

As it began, so it ended. Terrelle Pryor's first drive of the game ended with an interception. His last drive of the game ended with an interception. That's symmetry, baby.