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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