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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