Monday, December 29, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 17 vs. Titans

Quick summary:

The Colts wrap up their AFC South Sucks Tour by beating up on the Tennessee Titans.

Week 5 of the preseason. This game meant nothing for the Colts. Sure, there were some records to chase, but the Colts could've sat the starters for four quarters and lost, and it wouldn't have changed their playoff position one bit. As a result, we were treated to a hefty dose of Matt Hasselbeck, Zurlon Tipton, and Hakeem Nicks in the second half.

Andrew Luck broke a record. Luck set a new franchise mark for passing yards in a season, dethroning Colts legend Peyton Manning.

And Reggie Wayne was part of history. It doesn't get much more vintage Reggie Wayne than the catch No. 87 made to secure Lucks' franchise mark. Wayne showed the grace, athleticism, and hands we've come to expect from him. Too bad he couldn't make it into the endzone. Someone made a crack that Reggie "couldn't outrun Father Time." It's a good enough joke, but Reggie was never a breakaway speed guy. He made his bones with great footwork, precision routes, and incredible hands. Let's hope that groin strain isn't anything major.

Jonathan Newsome leads the team in sacks. The rookie from Ball State was touted as an undersized speed rusher who would probably have minimal impact on the team. He's really come on in the latter half of the season. Since Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden both kind of like to pull disappearing acts from week to week, Newsome's been a nice surprise as a pass rusher. Indy's rush unit still isn't very effective, however.

Adam Vinatieri is human. He missed a 46-yard field goal, ending his consecutive FG streak. I say better to break it now than have it happen in the playoffs, if it had to happen at all. Vinny's job is still safe.

Jack Doyle! Jack Doyle! He's the tight end no one ever talks about. Doyle does the dirty work, and this week he had four catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. I like it when the role players--the dirty work guys--get the chance to shine.

Josh Cribbs still has it. Cribbs took a kickoff return 76 yards before he was stopped. He made some great cuts, showed tremendous vision, and even flashed some strength while a Titans defender tried to bring him down. Of course, Cribbs also let the Titans have a 79-yard punt when he watched a ball bounce and bounce and bounce until it was a touchback. You don't see many 59-yard net punts involving a touchback, that's for sure.

A.Q. Shipley sighting! Shipley was on the offensive line, which saw a reshuffled starting unit for the tenth time this season. Jack Mewhort started at right guard for Indy. Of course, Shipley suffered an injury and had to leave the game. Hugh Thornton also left with an injury, extending the Colts' misery along the offensive line. Gosder Cherilus and Joe Reitz are supposed to come back for next week's game, so there's that.

Coby Fleener. I love to poke fun at Fleener. Heck, I expected him to totally drop that wide open TD pass from Luck. To his credit, he didn't. Fleener's put together a really nice season and turned out to be a pretty good redzone option. His numbers are good: 51 catches, 771 yards, and 8 touchdowns. He added a nice catch from Hasselbeck and finished with two touchdowns. The tight ends, in fact, were responsible for all three of the Colts' touchdowns this week.

Theft by Vontae Davis! The Pro Bowl corner simply took the ball away from Titans running back Bishop Sankey in one of the best plays of the year.

Hustle matters. Look, Mike Adams totally got blasted by Shonn Greene. It was one of those "runaway freight train" plays. I'm sure Adams will enjoy seeing it on film. But there was something about that play that I loved--Greg Toler hustled his butt off and stopped Greene from getting into the endzone. The Titans ended up settling for a field goal on the drive. Hustle matters, folks, even in meaningless games.

The AFC South sucks. The Colts went 6-0 in the division this year, beating up on the mighty Titans, Jaguars, and Texans. Only Houston managed a winning record at 9-7. Statistically, it wasn't the worst division in football thanks to the inept NFC South, where every team had a losing record. You'd be hard-pressed to find two teams more inept than Jacksonville and Tennessee, however.

Who you taking at No. 2, Tennessee? The Titans will have the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. Will they go after one of the high-profile quarterbacks? Will they trade the pick instead of being forced to select that knucklehead from Florida State? Intrigue, people. Intrigue.

Who Dey! Who Dey! Who Dey say gonna host dem Bengals?! Since the Bengals disappointed their fans on Sunday Night Football by letting the Pittsburgh Steelers win the AFC North, they get to come to Lucas Oil Stadium to play the Colts. Indy dominated the Bengals during a 27-0 win back in October when they were actually playing good football. The Bengals were without all-world wide receiver A.J. Green in that game--and the A.J. Green Watch is in full effect for Sunday after he suffered a concussion against the Steelers.

No turnovers. After a rash of turnover-plagued performances, the Colts didn't yield the ball once this week. They came pretty close in the first quarter, though, when Andrew Luck had one of his signature "I'll just keep this play alive forever and cough up the ball" moments. Hugh Thornton recovered that one, fortunately.