Intro: Indianapolis won the AFC South title Sunday in a manner less-preferred than anyone wished. The Colts fell behind by 21 points early in the second half at Cincinnati and rallied to make it a one-score affair before eventually losing, 42-28. The Colts have three games left to hone their playoff approach.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts’ 42-28 loss at Cincinnati was not made any more palatable when three hours later Tennessee lost at Denver to hand Indianapolis its eighth AFC South crown.
The Colts fell behind by 14 points at halftime, a margin that grew to 21 points before the offense roared to life.
Still, four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes could not rescue the day as Cincinnati grew its lead back to 21 before winning.
The Colts are in the playoffs. Time remains to sharpen aspects of the approach in all three phases, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
PLAYOFFS GUARANTEED – The Colts are one of three teams (Denver, Seattle) to nail down a playoff berth, the only one to claim a division crown at this point. That cannot be taken away, and it was the first goal the team had entering 2013. “A division championship is a division championship any way you get it,” said Jim Irsay. Said Robert Mathis, “I’m not going to sneeze at a division title. We just have to work from here.” Sure the team is not functioning at the level it seeks, but a ticket has been punched to play beyond 16 games. That is an accomplishment. Every other goal the team has still is in play.
EXECUTION IS ELIXIR – A scoreless first half with no third-down conversions in six attempts had the Colts in a halftime hole. With five-of-40 third-down conversions in six games, it’s hard not to mention. The Colts have had a first-half lead in only one of the last six games and have been out-scored, 114-24. The combined deficit is 49-9 in the first quarter. During the span, Indianapolis has 15 two- or three-and-outs on 37 possessions, with 16 total possessions not producing a first down. Opponents have four three-and-outs in 34 possessions, with only five drives not yielding a first down. The first-half time of possession disparity in the six games is 101:16 for opponents and 78:44 for the Colts.
HOPEFUL SPARK IS FOUND – Eight Colts receivers had first-half receptions at Cincinnati, but T.Y. Hilton was not among them. Hilton was targeted five times in 46 Andrew Luck passes, and he did not catch a pass until 12 minutes remained in the game. Da’Rick Rogers (six receptions, 107 yards) and LaVon Brazill (three-for-53) saw significant time, and each had two touchdown receptions. Granted the tilted scoreboard created a higher number of passes than planned, still a team looking for a spark among receivers may have found one at Cincinnati. Rogers is young and learning. Brazill needs to make a push as his second year nears completion. Yesterday’s production was a needed boost that needs to remain. Each showed a physical nature that produced yards after the catch.
SERGIO BROWN IS SPECIAL – Sergio Brown has been among many bright spots for the Colts this year. Every unit likes a go-to performer, and Brown has been that on coverage units. With seven tackles, Brown is among club leaders. He also has two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal. Twice against Denver, he downed punts deep in Broncos territory. At Cincinnati, he downed a punt at the one and batted another back into play that was downed at the Bengals’ four. Brown is a heads-up guy, a play waiting to happen.
STINGIER ON GROUND – Seven times this year the Colts have allowed 140-plus yards in a game. Seven of the last nine opponents have rushed at least 30 times, each time topping 30 minutes possession time and but once not reaching a 4.0 average. Cincinnati ran 35 times Sunday, netting 155 yards and a 4.4 average. Where some games have had skewed rushing totals with quarterback scampers (Ryan Fitzpatrick had 54 of Tennessee’s 162 yards and eight of its 36 attempts a week ago), yesterday was not one of them. Five times in the last eight games an opponent had at least 33:55 possession time. Opponents’ rushing production is a factor in the time of possession, and it creates added pressure on the other team to maximize its opportunities.
Tags: Andrew Luck, da'rick rogers, indianapolis colts, Jim Irsay, LaVon Brazill, robert mathis, Sergio Brown, T.Y. Hilton
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Intro: Indianapolis earned a 22-14 victory over Tennessee to move within one win or a Titans loss of the AFC South crown. It takes 60 minutes and 45 players to win a game, and rarely does one like yesterday symbolize that more. Here are Five Things Learned from Sunday’s win.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts’ 22-14 victory over Tennessee was a 60-minute effort that needed something from every player.
Indianapolis got it to vanquish Tennessee and move much closer to a second straight playoff berth. It was a good bounce back after a difficult loss at Arizona, and the club kept alive its nearly two-season streak of not losing consecutive games.
The Colts are on the cusp of a divisional title that yields a home playoff game, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
FOCUS DURING ADVERSITY – The clamor around the Colts last week was loud as observers asked how the team would respond to a 2-2 stretch that included 29- and 30-point losses. Some outsiders who might have thought the ship was sinking heard Colts players talk about doing what they do, but only doing a little better. The process put in place by Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson in 2012 has been modified cosmetically as needed as things do through 28 games, but the bedrock foundation of trust, faith and philosophy stays rooted. Players knew execution and fundamentals were needed to beat Tennessee. The mid-week message was repeated afterward. From statesman Cory Redding after the win: “We settled down. We trusted one another to get the job done. We went back to basics, and it worked. That’s what we kind of got away from, guys trying to do too much. Just do your job and trust the man next to you to do theirs.”
BIDE YOUR TIME, SERVE YOUR TEAMMATES – Donald Brown waited 12 games this year to get a starting nod. He had not opened a game since week four of 2012. Brown came through as the leading rusher for the fourth time this season. After four straight starts for Greg Toler, Cassius Vaughn did not start. His focus then was to be the best CB on the field should his time come. It came – two interceptions. Jeff Linkenbach started at RG for the third time this season, and the Colts won for a third time. Mike McGlynn contributed in other roles, and Pagano praised every player involved for professionalism. It truly was a mature mindset by a team that listens to its coach. His mantra of, ‘45 Men, 60 Minutes, Don’t Judge, All You Got,’ was on full display.
PRODUCE IN CRUNCH – The Colts mustered 25 rushing yards through three quarters, but had 79 when it counted the most, including a four-yard Brown TD burst. The defense gave up a long TD drive to open the second half. An unsightly three-and-out offensive possession that included a penalty and sack, plus a long punt return, put the defense at its 32 just two minutes later. Robert Mathis had a sack-strip that led to a field goal to re-gain the lead. Four plays after the kick, Vaughn intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick. Takeaways on consecutive drives kept Tennessee from scoring again. The Colts scored 10 unanswered points, while the defense forced two punts and had one more interception with 33 seconds left to seal the game. Indianapolis produced in the crunch. Not always does a team win going away. Many do so by making plays when it matters.
ADAM VINATIERI VINTAGE – Adam Vinatieri twice before had made five field goals in a game, but not since 2004. Vinatieri tied a club record done seven other times by hitting from 47, 48, 45, 37 and 49 yards. His first, third and fifth kicks put the Colts ahead. It looked like Indianapolis would have to win a game without scoring a touchdown for the first time since 2003 – until late. Vinatieri is 26-of-29 this year, including 15-of-18 from the 40-plus range. He has made 22 of his last 23 efforts, 34-of-35 inside 50 yards. In addition to joining Morten Andersen as the only kickers with 800-plus points with two different teams, Vinatieri joined eight others (done a total of nine times) who hit four times from the 40-yard range in a game. Of all free agent signings in Colts history, his is one of the best.
STEADY IS MONEY – In going 4-2 at home and away, the Colts are 8-4. After going 3-1 in the first two quarters of the season, Sunday’s win put the Colts at 2-2 in the season’s third quarter. That steady production has the Colts within grasp of a 16th playoff berth since moving to Indianapolis. Under Pagano and Grigson, the Colts started 2-2 in the first quarter of 2012 with nearly a completely rebuilt team. Afterward, Indianapolis was 3-1, 3-1 and 3-1 to reach 11-5. This year’s two 3-1 starts meant five consecutive quarters of seasons had that steady production. Fighting injuries and uneven play, the Colts ended the third quarter with a .500 mark. An extended period of play since 2002 has seen the Colts have only five non-winning seasonal quarters – a span of almost 12 full seasons. Colts fans – current and long-time – should appreciate that feat.
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Cassius Vaughn, chuck pagano, cory redding, donald brown, greg toler, indianapolis colts, Jeff Linkenbach, mike mcglynn, ryan grigson
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Andrew Luck made an appearance on the NFL Network on Monday, the day after the Colts’ 40-11 loss at Arizona left them at 7-4.
The Colts maintain a two-game lead on Tennessee in the AFC South chase and host the Titans on Sunday in a key contest.
A victory Sunday and one in one of the remaining four games (at Cincinnati, vs. Houston, at Kansas City, vs. Jacksonville) would hand the Colts their eighth AFC South crown and the first since 2010.
Luck weighed in on some questions surrounding the club:
- On reasons Indianapolis has fallen behind in the first halves of the last four games:
“A myriad of factors but really at the end of the day it’s lack of execution. Credit to the other teams as well, but we’re not handling our business; I know from the offensive perspective, I’m not doing a good enough job getting completions, getting first downs, getting drives together which usually end up in points if you can get some first downs. So lack of execution and we’re working on it. Guys are anxious and excited to get back on the practice field and work on it. We understand you can’t survive your mistakes forever, as evident by this past weekend [against Arizona], so we’ll keep working on it.”
- On what are the biggest issues facing the Colts moving forward:
“Again, it’s lack of execution. The slow start [against Arizona] definitely hurt; I know I need to pick my game up, I know everybody else in the locker room feels the same way. It’s one guy here, and the next play maybe it’s another guy, the next play it’s another guy. We all just have to get back on the same page and get back on the practice field and work at it.”
- On if the game plan is to get Trent Richardson and Donald Brown involved a little bit more with wide receiver Reggie Wayne out for the rest of the season:
“I think with Reggie [Wayne] out it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys, not just the running backs, but our wideouts, tight ends to get involved. We know when we’ve been successful we’ve been able to run the football. Last weekend we didn’t do a great job of running the football, and a lot of that falls on me to make sure we’re getting in the right play. So we know when Trent’s rolling, when Donald Brown is rolling, that usually means our team is rolling.”
- On how big this weekend’s game against the Tennessee Titans is:
“It’s huge. In my short career so far, I’ve realized that every game is huge in the NFL, especially when it’s a division game at home against a salty, good team in Tennessee. It’s always fun to play them because we know it’s going to be a heavyweight fight.”
KELLEY’S VIEW: The mood of the fans is of understandable concern, but they should be heartened by the ability of the team to respond to challenges. Four games without Reggie Wayne have added to the difficulty of competing, but a time-tested process is in place that will work with accompanying execution. It’s not a very popular answer, but it is the appropriate one.
There are 52 players on the roster in addition to Luck. Each player needs to do his part (Luck and many are), and it’s good to hear leaders pointing toward themselves in saying they must produce at their highest individual level.
The margin of error shrunk a little with the Arizona loss, but no goals have been lost. The team controls its own destiny.
While the Colts have beaten Tennessee nine of the last 10, half have been by one-score margins. The last three have included comebacks.
It will be an exciting day in the stadium. Players want to atone for a 38-8 loss in their last home appearance. Tennessee is one of six teams at 5-6, and they harbor legitimate post-season hopes.
Tags: Andrew Luck, indianapolis colts
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Intro: Indianapolis suffered a second wide-margin defeat in four games by losing at Arizona, 40-11. The Colts are at 7-4 and still own a two-game lead in the AFC South in hosting 5-6 Tennessee, their closest divisional foe.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts’ trip to Arizona more resembled the one they took to San Diego in week six (19-9 loss) than it did the one to San Francisco in week three (27-7 win).
The Colts (7-4) fell at Arizona, 40-11, in a game they never led and one that spun out of control in the first 30 minutes.
Indianapolis has responded from eight prior defeats under Chuck Pagano with victories, a resilience that must be called upon again as Tennessee (5-6) visits with intentions of tightening the AFC South race and earning a playoff berth of some kind.
Improvement is needed from the Colts, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY – The reality is Indianapolis needs to play more consistently in the next five games than it has done in the last four. Personnel losses have not been used as a crutch, and the secondary has been battered of late after most of the injuries early in the year were spread across the offense. While players said they could not “big-picture” the situation in the moments after the Arizona game, a long flight home certainly provided that time. Sure, 8-3 beats 7-4. Sure, New England had pulled it off (going to 8-3 from a near 7-4 after a 24-point home halftime deficit to Denver) about the same time the Colts’ flight landed. What’s done is done, but reality also holds that the Colts control their playoff fate with a two-game lead over Tennessee. This Sunday’s game has added implications, but no added meaning. Chuck Pagano says every game is a must-win because he wants to win them all. The approach this week will be to improve and take advantage of being in a good spot. No season-opening goal has been lost.
STILL SEARCHING POST-REGGIE – The 16 quarters Indianapolis has played since Reggie Wayne’s injury late in the Denver win have seen the team struggle much more than thrive. T.Y. Hilton has done well. Colts tight ends did well at Tennessee, but large deficits have put the offense in modes it doesn’t particularly enjoy. Needing a surge at Arizona, wide receivers other than Hilton caught six-of-13 passes targeted, gaining 57 yards. After tight ends had nine receptions in 13 attempts against Tennessee, the unit had five receptions at Arizona. The offense is laboring with a consistent identity. Early deficits have hindered the growth.
MAKE A PLAY – When Arizona moved for a game-opening score, the onus shifted to a team whose first-half struggles have been rehashed and debated for the past month. Still, Indianapolis failed to extend five-of-six first-half possessions beyond three plays. The one drive that did stalled in the red zone. The offense also gave up a defensive touchdown to Arizona in that span as the Cardinals bolted to a 24-point halftime advantage. The Colts now have converted three-of-25 first-half third downs in the last four games. Until it improves, this remains one of the key storylines around the team.
STOP A PLAY – Over the last four games, opposing quarterbacks are operating at a 122.1 rating level and though it’s a small sample compared to 11 games, only one QB in the league has higher individual seasonal rating. Since beating Denver, the success of opposing QBs (Case Keenum, Kellen Clemens, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer) has caused the Colts’ seasonal numbers to increase in pass defense – 58.7 completion percentage to 61.3; yards per attempt from 7.23 to 8.07; yards per completion from 12.3 to 13.2; TD:Int ratio from 8:8 to 16:8 and rating from 78.3 to 92.4. The Colts have allowed 11 TD passes while intercepting one.
CIRCLE TIGHTLY – A cut-throat, competitive league can have teams going from advantageous positions to peril in a matter of two-to-four weeks. Clearly the Colts are more in peril than after being 6-2. To a man, players are circling tighter to improve themselves and to lessen any noise outside the locker room that could cause harm. While this could sound minimally important outside the circle, those inside it know the imperative nature of doing so. Antoine Bethea said Sunday the Colts win and lose as a whole, and they must look each other in the eyes to spur a rebound. Hanging as a band of brothers is the only way.
Tags: antoine bethea, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton
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Indianapolis Colts defensive end Cory Redding has been selected by his teammates as the recipient of the 2013 Ed Block Courage Award.
The award is an annual recognition for courageous play by an individual and Redding is one of 32 National Football League players who earned the accolade. The players of each member club nominate an individual annually and those chosen are honored at a banquet in Baltimore each March.
“The Ed Block Courage Award is special to me because these are the things that I cherish and hold close to my heart as far as being a leader on and off the field, helping people in need, challenging myself in times of adversity to bounce back, all the characteristics that make up the Ed Block Courage Award,” said Redding. “To be nominated by my peers and elected from a committee of people to receive this award is the greatest honor I’ve had to this point in the game of football and I’ll do my best to represent the award.”
Redding is in his second season with the Colts and 11th overall in the NFL. In 10 games this season, he has posted 27 tackles (19 solo), 3.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and one pass defensed.
“Cory is a true professional on and off the field,” said Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano. “His leadership skills are unparalleled and he embodies the true sense of serving. Cory is extremely deserving of this award and I’m thrilled that he is being recognized by his peers for his efforts.”
Redding, has appeared in 155 games, making 125 starts over his 11-year career. He holds career totals of 480 tackles (323 solo), 31.0 sacks, 20 passes defensed, 10 fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles and one interception. Since joining the Colts in 2012, he has started all 24 games he’s played in and has recorded 73 tackles (44 solo), 5.5 sacks, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
Off the field, Redding lends his support to many charitable endeavors. In 2007, he started the Cory Redding Foundation to support educational, recreational and community assistance programs for at-risk populations. The foundation’s current programs include the 3D Football Camp, the Cory Redding Middle School Challenge program and a partnership with Meals and Wheels in Austin, TX which provides meals for more than 2,000 individuals each year. Redding has also been involved with several other community events, including the CHUCKSTRONG Gala, Playground Build, Play 60 Challenge Launch Party and the Million Meal Marathon.
The award is named after Ed Block who was the head athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts from 1954-1977. He served as trainer emeritus with the club until he passed away in 1983.
Past winners of the award dating back to 2000, include: S-Antoine Bethea (2012), DE-Robert Mathis (2011), DE-Dwight Freeney (2010), DB-Marlin Jackson (2009), C-Jeff Saturday (2008), OG-Ryan Lilja (2007), WR-Reggie Wayne (2006), LB-Cato June (2005), LB-Gary Brackett (2004), DE-Chad Bratzke (2003), LB-Rob Morris (2002), QB-Peyton Manning (2001) and DT-Bernard Whittington (2000).
The 36th annual Ed Block Courage Award dinner is schedule during March in Baltimore. Proceeds from the affair benefit the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation in Baltimore. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation’s objective is to establish homes for abused children in each NFL city. Indianapolis established an Ed Block Courage home (Children’s Bureau) in October of 2000. The home is part of a national support network for abused children.
Tags: cory redding, ed block courage aware, indianapolis colts
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Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison are among 25 semi-finalists for the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class.
These would be two worthy additions for their contributions to the game and for how they entertained Colts and NFL fans.
With a humanity and integrity that exceeded his coaching exploits, here are some of Dungy’s accomplishments:
- Overall record of 148-79 with a 65.2 winning percentage.
- Entering 2013, his 148 victories ranked 19th-best in NFL history.
- Had 66.8 regular-season winning percentage (139-69).
- Was 85-27 in regular season with Colts, 92-33 counting playoffs (the winningest Colts head coach).
- One of six head coaches to win 100+ regular-season games in first 10 years of career.
- Directed 11-of-13 teams into the playoffs, reaching three conference title games and one Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLI, where he became the first African-American winner).
- Only Colts head coach with 10+ wins and playoff appearances in each of first seven years.
- Had 10 career double-digit victory seasons and was first coach to defeat all 32 NFL teams.
- Earned 10 consecutive playoff appearances (1999-2001, Tampa Bay; 2002-08, Colts) to surpass Tom Landry (9) for the most by an NFL coach since 1970.
- Earned seven straight 10+-victory seasons (2002-08), tying then the second-longest NFL streak.
- From 2003-08, earned six straight seasons with 11-plus wins, tying the NFL mark, while setting the league standard for the most consecutive seasons with 12-plus victories.
- Only NFL coach to win at least seven consecutive games in five straight seasons (2004-08).
- Won five straight AFC South titles (2003-07).
Harrison played in 190 career games from 1996-2008 and totaled 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. His receptions, yards and scoring receptions broke club records held by Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Raymond Berry, marks that stood since 1967.
With 59 100-yard reception games, his total was third-most in NFL history at his departure.
Harrison caught passes in the first 190 games of his career, an NFL record and set the NFL seasonal record with 143 receptions in 2002.
From 1999-2002, he became first NFL player with 100+ receptions in four consecutive seasons and from 1999-2006, he had eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Harrison is the only player ever with eight straight seasons with 1,000 reception yards and 10+ scoring receptions.
Dungy and Harrison are two of the four first-year eligible candidates among the 25 semi-finalists.
The Hall of Fame Selection Committee chose the semi-finalists from an initial list of 126 nominees.
The 2014 Hall of Fame Class will be decided on Saturday, February 1, one day prior to Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Colts are represented well in Canton. There should be room for these two outstanding performers, plus a few more to follow.
Tags: indianapolis colts, Marvin Harrison, NFL, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Tony Dungy
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Down 17-3 and having been out-scored 69-6 in the first halves of the last three games, the Colts captured something that led to another comeback win, this time at Tennessee, 30-27.
That something was ‘Mo’ – momentum.
It started on a 68-yard drive in the final 2:32 of the first half when the Colts navigated for an Adam Vinatieri 30-yard field goal at the gun.
Andrew Luck found rhythm (a cousin of ‘Mo’) on the drive by connecting with six different receivers on the march, good for 62 yards. A third-down interference call extended the drive early on – ‘Mo.’
“You can feel it,” said Luck. “We wish we didn’t have to rely on momentum to do that, but it’s a part of sports. It’s a weird phenomenon. You could feel it.”
An 18-year veteran, Vinatieri can sense intangibles, and he felt it when the club narrowed its halftime deficit to 17-6.
“It was important to get the momentum back,” said Vinatieri. “To put it back to 11 for some reason feels better.”
The Colts shaved the margin closer with a 74-yard march where Luck converted third downs with passes to T.Y. Hilton and Griff Whalen. He even scrambled 13 yards for a first down.
To close the final 14 yards of the march, Luck connected with Hilton for eight yards, then Donald Brown burst off left tackle for the score.
“You kind of feel it,” said Hilton. “We’ve been down that road time and time again. Once we start to click……”
The ball came out on the ensuing kickoff return and special teamer Daniel Herron made a play.
“The wedge was coming to me,” said Herron. “The next thing I know, I turned around and the ball was right there. Right place, right time.”
Pat Angerer notice how ‘Mo’ visited a number of teammates.
“Yeah, it’s just one guy making a play after another,” said Angerer. “We never get down.”
Be it Luck, luck, the horseshoe or ‘Mo,’ it’s better to have than not.
“Credit these guys,” said Chuck Pagano. “They find a way. We just gained momentum and held on.”
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck, chuck pagano, Daniel Herron, donald brown, Griff Whalen, indianapolis colts, pat angerer, T.Y. Hilton
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Intro: Indianapolis responded to a 30-point loss five days earlier with a solid road win at Tennessee, 30-27. The game meant separation or a much tighter divisional race as the season reaches six remaining games. Wiping out two 14-point deficits, the Colts showed a number of big things in the win.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are 7-3 and own a three-game AFC South lead with six games to play.
Just as important is the team battled back from its worst outing – a 38-8 home loss to St. Louis five days earlier – with a spirited performance in Tennessee.
The 30-27 win came with two rebounds from 14-point deficits, and it came with a dominant offensive performance and with good defensive play, plus three Adam Vinatieri field goals.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
PERFORM AWAY FROM HOME – The Colts were 4-4 on the road last year, and it started with beating Tennessee after two lopsided losses away from Lucas Oil Stadium. Since winning in Nashville in 2012, the Colts have gone 8-3 on the road. It is one of the NFL’s better marks, and a team needs a strong road identity. Indianapolis earned consecutive 20-plus-point road wins at San Francisco and Jacksonville earlier this year, the first time since 2009 the team had accomplished that feat. This year’s 4-1 road record includes AFC South wins at Tennessee and Houston. Nice.
30, THREE AND ZERO – The Colts have been unbeatable in games with 30 rushes, three rushing scores and no turnovers. Since Pagano’s arrival, the Colts are 11-0 when they have attempted 30 rushes in a game, including 4-0 this year. A ground identity was sought by Pagano and his staff entering 2013. After a lull, it was in full force in Nashville. The Colts ran for three scores in a second game this season (also at San Francisco), and Indianapolis has won 24 straight times when doing so. Also, the Colts had their fourth turnover-free game of the season, beating Oakland, the 49ers and Houston in addition to Tennessee. Since 1998, only in 2004 (five), 2008 (six) and 2010 (five) have the Colts had more in one season than four times. Each season it did so, a playoff berth accompanied.
EXTENDING DRIVES – A week after Indianapolis had its worst offensive showing of the season with five turnovers and four empty trips to the red zone, it bounced back in grand fashion. A huge accomplishment in the 30-27 win was having four drives with more than 10 snaps from scrimmage. After being among the league leaders in 10-plus-play drives earlier this year, the number was waning recently with inability to convert third downs. The Colts had 13-, 12-, 11- and 11-play drives against the Titans that produced 20-of-30 points. (Another nine-play drive ended with a field goal.) Each of those four double-digit play drives at least four first downs. Well done, mates.
DIVISION RESURGENCE – Of the 20 coaches on staff, only Richard Howell was here through the dominant AFC South years when the Colts took the crown on seven occasions (2003-07, 09-10). Only New England (nine) has more division titles since 2002 than the Colts. Colts coaches spoke leading into the season about returning the crown to Indianapolis. It is a football quest. The Colts are 3-0 in the AFC South, having bested each foe in its home. December offers rematches in Lucas Oil Stadium. This is the sixth time the Colts have opened 3-0 in the division (2003, 2005-07, 2009), only the second time (2007) they have done it by opening at each opponent’s site.
REGAIN POISE – The Colts entered Thursday’s game as the least penalized team in the league in both yards and infractions. A messy second-quarter defensive possession with penalties for rough play helped Tennessee re-establish a 14-point advantage. Some teams could have lost composure and ended the evening in a tough manner. The Colts righted themselves competitively and returned to form. Indianapolis survived a tough moment by out-scoring Tennessee afterward, 27-10. Sometimes in-game instances do not go as planned. Teams with character quickly return to form.
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts, lucas oil stadium, Richard Howell
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Intro: Indianapolis suffered a 38-8 setback to the Rams, the first-ever NFL game that ended by that score and the club’s largest-margin loss of the season. Here are Five Things Learned from Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are 6-3 and lead the AFC South by two games, but the game that dropped Indianapolis from two to three losses was a 38-8 home defeat to St. Louis.
The Rams scored touchdowns offensively, defensively and on special teams before the game was 20 minutes old. Indianapolis was not able to get on track the rest of the day.
The Colts have four days to rebound in facing Tennessee in Nashville on Thursday Night Football. The Titans are 4-5 and are the Colts’ nearest divisional competitor.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
COMEBACKS NOT THE BLUEPRINT – During the week, Andrew Luck said the Colts would not be able to survive their mistakes forever. Miscues in every phase of the game put the Colts behind by three touchdowns before 20 minutes ticked off the clock. Twice under Luck and Chuck Pagano, the Colts have rallied from 18-point deficits to win. The franchise record for the largest deficit overcome is 21 points on four occasions. No one wants this scenario, and Luck likely would prefer that an 11th comeback win in late, dramatic fashion doesn’t happen any time soon. Early execution can avoid these deficits. It has not been a consistent part of this team’s DNA, but it doesn’t mean it cannot become so going forward.
EFFORT NOT ISSUE – Pagano made clear his team battled for 60 minutes Sunday, though the field was tilted heavily against it quickly. He is correct. The team will not give up its fight. Improving the techniques, fundamentals and communication can yield the desired results. Pagano has a “process” instilled in this team. He told it Sunday to give credit where it is due – to the Rams – then put the game behind it and move on. It’s the only approach. Dismissing problems is not done in Pagano’s program. Correcting ills is the tactic. It starts today and will be on display again Thursday in Nashville.
PROTECTION IMPROVEMENT – St. Louis was the NFL’s top team with one quarterback sack per 9.8 attempts, and Indianapolis knew this going in. In less than three minutes clock time, Luck suffered a sack-strip-touchdown. The Colts knew going in protection was a premium. Luck had been taken down four times among 11 hits at Houston. Sunday was three more sacks and seven hits. A team with an elite quarterback like Luck is going to have protect their asset with schemes, chips and protection from backs. Anthony Castonzo said there was a misjudgment in protection on that first play. Pagano stressed execution is the issue. In seven remaining games, the target is for marked improvement in this area.
WINNING FIELD POSITION – Putting pressure on an opponent can be helped by winning the field position edge. St. Louis clearly did so in the first half Sunday, averaging its five-possession half with a start point at its 40. Indianapolis had seven possessions in the half with an average start at its 15-yard line. The Colts had six punts and turnover. Indianapolis did not start a drive outside its 35 until St. Louis had scored all its points. Kickoff returns netted the Colts starts at their 35, 7, 7, 20, 13, 13 and 20. Field position is not an intangible among statistics.
RED ZONE/THIRD DOWNS – The Colts did not convert a third down at Houston until the third quarter and then not until their eighth attempt. For the game, they were four-of-13. The Colts were one-for-eight Sunday against St. Louis in the opening half and two-for-12 for the game. Extending drives lies in execution and staying in manageable situations. The club has converted 13 of its last 52 third downs over four games, a total that needs juicing. A heavily-tilted scoreboard took the Colts out of typical game situations and precipitated aggressive play calls. Indianapolis scored on one-of-five red zone chances against St. Louis. Entering the game, the Colts were 11th in the NFL in TD percentage in the red zone with 15 TDs in 25 trips (60%). Prior to Sunday, Indianapolis had not failed to score in the red zone (25 trips, 15 TDs/10 FGs). It was the NFL’s only perfect red zone scoring percentage. The club now is tied-for-17th with 16 TDs in 30 trips, and its total red zone scoring percentage is 86.7.
Tags: Andrew Luck, anthony castonzo, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts
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Andrew Luck guided the Colts to a 10th comeback win in his 24th start last Sunday at Houston, 27-24, keeping the Colts in first place in the AFC South and thrilling NFL fans with another outstanding performance in the clutch.
After the Colts trailed at halftime, 21-3, Luck directed the Colts to 24 second-half points and punctuated his passing night (18-of-40, 271 yards) with three touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton – 10, 58 and nine yards.
The touchdown passes came on three successive drives and allowed the Colts to match the sixth-largest comeback win in franchise history.
It was the third time this year Luck has directed a comeback win, and it moved the team’s record to 13-2 in the last two years in games decided by seven points or less.
Luck continues to place himself among the league’s top performers. For his efforts last week, he is a nominee for two awards – the FedEx Air Player-of-the-Week and the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Week.
Voting for those awards, plus the Pro Bowl is being conducted on http://www.nfl.com.
Tags: Andrew Luck, indianapolis colts
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