Friday, November 15, 2013

Colts Observations: Week 11 vs. Titans

Chris Johnson for 30 yards. On the first drive, after a series of passes, Chris Johnson bolted right, got great blocks, and raced to the endzone. 7-0, Titans. Just like that.

Trent Richardson's first carry. He gained a yard. Barely. The Colts did make an effort early in the game to get him involved in the passing game.

GRIFFNATION--uh, never mind. Griff Whalen gave us his best DHB impression, dropping a third-down pass on the Colts' first series. It was awesome.

Will someone cover Delanie Walker? The first quarter wasn't even over, and Walker had four catches for 40+ yards. He finished with 10 grabs for 91 yards and a TD. Fun fact: he was targeted 10 times, meaning each time Ryan "Rugged Outdoorsman Beard" Fitzpatrick looked for him, he caught a pass.

Great start. Two drives, two touchdowns for Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans. Just like that, the Colts were down 14-0. Mission critical.

Finally on the board. The Colts finally scored early in the second quarter with a field goal from Adam Vinatieri. They were down 14-3, but it felt quite a bit different from the Texans or Rams deficits. I can't explain why I felt that way.

DHB: Hands of Marble. DHB dropped another pass on what should've been a big play. The ball got tipped slightly, but he had it in sight and got both hands on it. Will this guy ever make a play?

Momentum swing? Guess not. The Colts forced a three-and-out after Vinatieri's field goal. They picked up a couple first downs before punting.

The Flag Drive. Penalties against Robert Mathis, Cassius Vaughn, and Erik Walden gave the Titans plenty of free yards, showed the Colts had lost their composure, and put Tennessee in scoring position. Ryan "Zero Dark Thirty Beard" Fitzpatrick almost rope-a-doped the Colts into a free first down, but the Titans settled for a field goal. So...I guess one point for each flag?

The headbutt. Erik Walden headbutted a helmetless Tennessee receiver (Delanie Walker--so I guess they tried to stop him?). So there's that.

DHB caught a pass. It happened. I saw it. He even got out of bounds near the end of the first half. It was his only catch of the game.

Field goal before halftime. The Colts faced a 17-6 deficit at halftime. Luck led them on a nice drive to get close to the endzone. The drive sputtered with about 40 seconds left after Luck got sacked, setting up a short FG by Vinatieri.

And Donald Brown gets into the endzone. The Colts put together a terrific drive to start the second half. Luck converted some third-down opportunities, we saw a couple of decent runs from Trent Richardson (!) and Donald Brown. The drive culminated in a nice TD run that was well blocked by the Colts.

And a turnover! Tennessee fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Colts great field position. Indy capitalized with a touchdown. The fumble turned the game around, and the Colts never trailed again. They scored 20 unanswered points from the end of the first half through the fourth quarter.

Call your own number, man. Luck had Griff Whalen open in the flat, but pump-faked a Tennessee defender and took off for the endzone. The guy's incredible. Just like that, the Colts had a 20-17 lead.

"A Football Life: The Forward Pass." I love the NFL Network show, but the concept of this one is just weird.

Erik Walden shouldn't be allowed to dance. He sacked Ryan "Wookie Pelt Beard" Fitzpatrick, but Erik Walden--he of the cheap headbutt--shouldn't be allowed to do a celebratory dance.

First down challenge. Titans had to do it. It also had to fail. The spot on the QB sneak was very generous; I have no illusions about that. I understand why the Titans challenged the call, but I also knew there was no chance of a reversal. There was nothing--nothing--in that replay that would've reversed that call. And...the Titans probably could've used that timeout later, right?

Vinatieri with another one. After a failed third-down conversion, Adam Vinatieri came on the field to do what Adam Vinatieri does: nail big kicks.

Grinders. I didn't think they had it in them anymore, but Indy stepped up and brought back a balanced offensive attack in the second half. The power game worked and guys held their blocks. Indy had four drives of 11 or more plays. Each of those drives led to points, and none was more important than the 11 play, 74 yard drive that resulted in Donald Brown's second touchdown of the game. In fact, each Indy touchdown came on the ground (two by Brown, one by Luck). The resurgent running game also allowed Luck to hit on some big play-action passes.

Fantastic Fleener. I've been known on Coby Fleener from time to time. However, he proved his worth in this game, catching eight passes for 107 yards. He was there just about every time the Colts needed a big play, and I don't remember any of his signature, inexplicable drops either. Luck targeted him ten times vs. Tennessee.

Dashing Donald. Donald Brown had a phenomenal game, carrying 14 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns. He just looked more decisive and comfortable in the running game than Richardson. I've noticed that the Colts tended to run Brown out of different sets than Richardson, but against the Titans, Indy put Brown in those power formations. He showed patience, burst through the hole, and got to the second level. He's nimble-footed and has great vision. Let's put it this way, if this is the way the Colts' 2009 first-round pick plays in 2013, I'm expecting big things from Trent Richardson in 2016.

Protecting Luck. What a difference a running game makes. The Titans got to Luck a few times, but he avoided getting hit for the most part. Tennessee had one sack and four QB hits, a markedly better performance than we've seen in recent weeks against the Texans and Rams.

Luck's legs. Luck made big plays tonight when he saw running lanes. One scramble went for a key first down; another resulted in a touchdown. And I'd just like to say the "Luck Spike" is a thing of jubilant beauty. He ran nine times for 31 yards.

All too easy. Brown's second TD run late in the fourth quarter should've salted this game away, but the Colts defense let the Titans march right down the field and score despite the fact they had no timeouts. The onside kick failed, but there was absolutely no excuse for the easy TD.

And Chris Johnson had less than 100 yards rushing. After victimizing the Colts repeatedly in the first half and scoring two touchdowns, Chris Johnson disappeared in the second half. True, the Titans fell behind and the Colts did a better job on the running back, but it's still baffling to think CJ2K couldn't crack 100 yards after gaining 80 in the first half.

Reggie the Mentor. We'd like to see Reggie Wayne in the game, but we know that can't happen right now. It was great to see him on the sideline mentoring the young receivers and cheering on his team. The Colts may not be able to "Win One for Reggie" this year, but they'll certainly give it their best shot.

How the South was won? The Colts likely sealed the division and a playoff spot with this win. They hold a three-game lead over the Titans and will play them once again. As up and down as the Colts have been lately, this game will probably end up being a major turning point for the season.

Back-to-back streak intact. With the comeback win, the Colts still haven't lost back-to-back games in the Pagano/Luck era. I realize everyone knows this already.

No turnovers. Take care of the ball, and good things happen.

Good challenge. When the Colts caught the Titans with approximately 75 defenders on the field, and the refs missed it, Chuck Pagano threw the challenge flag. Indy got the call and ended up scoring a field goal on the drive. Considering the score was 14-0 at that point, it was a pretty big decision.