Monday, January 12, 2015

Colts Observations, Divisional Round vs. Broncos

Quick summary:

A legend fades. An upstart tastes his destiny. That's not overdramatic at all.

Did you think they would win? I thought the Colts had a shot, but I didn't expect them to dominate the Broncos like that. I thought we'd see a high-scoring game with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck trying to one-up each other until time ran out. That's not what happened.

Stellar defense. Where has this been all season? This is the same unit that surrendered six touchdown passes to Ben Roethlisberger, got torched by Tom Brady, and got embarrassed by Tony Romo. They were physical in the secondary--their strength--and also showed some semblance of a pass rush. True, they only had two sacks, but they harassed Manning all day and made a key play early.

Jonathan Newsome. Did anyone think this kid would lead the Colts in sacks during the regular season? I didn't think so. His Robert Mathisian sack-fumble at the start of the second quarter shifted momentum in the Colts' favor. The Colts capitalized with a touchdown and never looked back. Well, at least, not very far.

The offensive line. If I had five game balls to give out, they'd go to these guys. Where did this come from? Denver has two premier pass rushers who combined for 24 sacks during the regular season. Yet Andrew Luck, who spent most of the season getting the slobber knocked out of him and telling defenders they "made a nice hit," ended up with a clean jersey this week. And what about the Colts' last true offensive possession? Thirteen plays, 54 yards, and 8:14 of time off the clock. The result was a field goal and an 11-point lead. You don't hold the ball for eight-plus minutes without the O-line doing its job. So let's hear it for Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, Khaled Holmes (yes, that KHALED HOLMES), Lance Louis (yes, that LANCE LOUIS) and Joe Reitz (yes, that JOE REITZ).

T.Y. Hilton. The numbers don't jump off the stat sheet: four catches, 72 yards. What they don't tell you is how thoroughly T.Y. Hilton dominated Aquib Talib throughout the game. It doesn't factor in another key drop by Hilton on what should've been another huge play. He's turned into one of the best in the league, and it's fun to watch.

Da Boom. He touched the ball 31 times this week. No fumbles, no drops, no drama. Okay, a little drama with that left shoulder, which appeared to be a little tender on the first series and seemed to be aggravated during the touchdown run. Herron was solid, not spectacular, and I love how the Colts have used him in the playoffs. Hat tip to "I'm Zurlon from the Planet Tipton," too. They worked themselves into a solid RB duo.

Where's the Trentspiration? About to be cut by the Colts, methinks. We all waited for Richardson to show something, and some of us (cough, cough) were reluctant to give up on him. It's clear he didn't work out, given how effective the Herron-Tipton combo has been in the playoffs. I mean, Herron-Tipton isn't the greatest RB combo ever, but they're just productive enough, something you can't say about The Mistake.

LaWorthless. I don't like LaRon Landry. I suspect no one likes LaRon Landry except for himself in the mirror. He had two memorable LaWorthless moments: letting Julius Thomas beat him for a deep pass that set up the Broncos' first touchdown and missing a tackle on C.J. Anderson that left me shaking my head. Landry's supposed to be "the enforcer" safety in the run game, so he has to make that play. Cory Redding also let Anderson shake out of the tackle, while Bjoern Werner was kind of in the area but not really a factor. You know, just Bjoern bein' Bjoern. In the end, it didn't matter, but it gave the Broncos a much-needed spark. Other than those two keys plays that killed his own team, Landry had a decent game.

They won despite a ton of mistakes. The Colts had ten penalties for 67 yards, including a roughing the passer flag that led to Denver's only touchdown. They had false starts and offside penalties as well. Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal, which is always notable if a little picky on my part. I'd throw a couple of turnovers in there as well, but I'm not too down on those.

The interceptions. One did lead to a Broncos field goal before the half, but I didn't have any problems with these throws, really. My only hesitation would be that you have one of the best punters in the game and should use him. Pat McAfee's usually good for 45-52 yards on a punt and could've more significantly changed field position.

Two great throws. Luck was on target for most of the game, but my two favorite throws were the BB he sent to Hakeem Nicks while scrambling and the big throw to Coby Fleener that set up the Nicks touchdown. The first one was a great example of Luck (to use the cliche) extending the play while the second was a perfectly thrown ball in a tight window on third and 16. He got it between the linebacker and the safety--they don't come much better than that.

End of an era. Manning clearly faded late in the season. He wasn't hitting the deep ball that he usually throws so well. He was clearly hurt and clearly upset that he lost and wasn't at his best. As a Colts fan, I've been on the other side of those news conferences, where a neatly dressed Manning stands there and answers the same questions a million times and tells everyone he just wasn't good enough that game. Will he come back? I don't know...but I do know that I want a different ending for him.

Ageless Reggie Wayne has, lamentably, aged. Two great figures of the Indianapolis Colts Golden Era are now in their golden years, and it's no fun. Reggie Wayne didn't catch a single pass this week--not a single one. He gave us some nice edge blocking, but he wasn't a major factor in the passing game. Combined with Peyton's tough luck, it put a sad capstone on a wonderful era.

Onto Foxborough! It's the place where Colts playoff teams go to die. Will young Andrew Luck and his ragtag band of rebels shock Emperor Hoodie and Darth Brady?