Monday, October 6, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 5 vs. Ravens

Quick summary:

The Colts dominate the Baltimore Ravens in almost every facet of the game but have to make a stop on a fourth down play to seal the win. The reason? Turnovers and terrible red zone offense.

Defense first. The game ball goes to the Indianapolis Colts defense. They were repeatedly put in terrible situations thanks to offensive ineptitude, but they came out strong and Baltimore couldn't do much against them. They were rock solid in pass coverage, forced turnovers, and pressured Joe Flacco. They made critical plays at critical times, such as Sergio Brown's sack on fourth and short, and Vontae Davis' interception--a play that set up the Colts' first touchdown. The D held Baltimore to 1 of 11 in third down situations.

Another 300+ yard game for Luck. Luck didn't have the best game of his career. Far from it, in fact. He made plays when the team needed him to, such as the TD pass to Dwayne Allen and a critical 13-yard TD run. He was terrific on the team's final drive. But...

Stop with the bonehead plays, already! Andrew Luck is athletic. Andrew Luck throws a nice ball. Andrew Luck is mobile. Andrew Luck can run. Andrew Luck can also make astonishingly stupid decisions that result in critical turnovers. His second interception of the day was awful. Throw the ball away, scramble, or take the sack. A field goal in that situation isn't the worst thing in the world. And considering last week's awful interception against in the Tennessee game--the one that came right before halftime--and you just wonder what in the world he's thinking sometimes.

Center of attention. So the Colts turned to A.Q. Shipley after injuries forced projected starter Khaled Holmes and backup center Jon Harrison to miss time. The offensive line was playing well. It's still not a collection of "road graders" who'll trample you over in the run game, but pass protection has been solid. The Colts then decided to start Harrison this week over Shipley in a situation one can only describe as "weird." Harrison, a rookie, was okay-ish in the position. The times he did make mistakes were noticeable: he snapped the ball early on a third and short, forcing Luck to try to make a play even though no one else was blocking because the snap count was wrong; he snapped the ball over Luck's head on one occasion; and then appeared not to know the snap count on another play, when the rest of the offensive line fired off the line and Luck never got the snap.

Did anyone miss LaRon Landry? I didn't think so. Sergio Brown had a solid game, and he doesn't have roid rage.

I bring in da good stuff, coach! It seemed like Bjoern Werner was everywhere against the Ravens. He disrupted several plays, rushed the passer, and finished with a pair of sacks. It was the most active I've seen him so far for the Colts, who have struggled (understating it) to rush the passer in the absence of Robert Mathis. On one sack, Werner bullrushed the offensive lineman, bowled him over, and then sacked Joe Flacco. I thought it was a pretty impressive showing.

GRIFFNATION! What's wrong with Griff Whalen? He's been a reliable punt returner but made two major mistakes this week. In one case, he let a punt go and it ended up backing the Colts way up. Not cool. In another case, he fielded a punt near the 10 yard line without calling for a fair catch. He ended up fumbling the ball, giving the Ravens a key turnover at a critical moment of the game. Later, he took a kickoff from nine yards deep in the end zone and barely made it past the 15. Griff's my guy, but he's on the roster because he's got good hands and makes good decisions. Neither was on display this week.

Fourth and uh oh. On their first drive, the Colts decided to go for it on fourth and one. Ahmad Bradshaw got stuffed, and the Colts turned the ball over on downs. In retrospect, the decision to forgo a field goal actually worked out, since the Ravens fumbled the ball on their first offensive play, giving the Colts another chance on offense. They eventually settled for a field goal after the turnover.

Ageless Reggie Wayne. Seven catches, 77 yards. He also got flagged for offensive pass interference and holding. Sometimes you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, right? Wayne also got shoved in the back on what I'm pretty sure wasn't a case of "incidental contact" on a third down play in the end zone. Speaking of which, let's talk about...

Crappy officiating. This was not one of the better officiated games in the league this week. Most of my observations are Colts-centric, as I am a Colts fan and look favorably on the team. However, the Reggie Wayne missed call was a bad one. Greg Toler ended up with a pass interference penalty on a play in which he had solid coverage. Vontae Davis was also flagged for PI on a play that should've ended in an interception by Darius Butler. How the officials can call the Wayne call "incidental contact" (he got pushed in the back!) but flag Toler and Davis is beyond me. I also thought Ahmad Bradshaw made the first down on the fourth and one call, and felt the spot was a bad one.

The lion's share goes to Bradshaw. While Trent Richardson got the start, Bradshaw was the guy the team leaned on. He carried 15 times and was even in for short yardage situations. It seemed clear to me this week that the coaching staff wanted to get Bradshaw more touches. Bradshaw carried 15 times to Richardson's nine. Both averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry (Bradshaw 4.5, Richardson 4.1). The Colts ran for 117 yards as a team even though their play selection tilted heavily in favor of the passing game. But then...

The unthinkable. The Colts marched down the field, putting together a game-clinching drive that started from their own 16 and moved deep into Baltimore territory. All they had to do was keep running the ball, force Baltimore to use its timeouts, and then kick a field goal. Bradshaw--reliable Bradshaw, mind you!--fumbled, giving the Ravens new life.

The tight ends. Dwayne had four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Still, you can't help but feel the Colts need to give him more touches. Fleener had only one catch for 30 yards. Fleener also, to my utter surprise, had some solid blocks in pass protection and the running game.

Time of possession. The Colts held the edge, 38:43 to 21:17. The thing about time of possession is that it doesn't matter if you fail to score points. Had the Colts taken better care of the ball, they would've won this one comfortably. We may have even seen some Hasselbeck late in the game.