Intro: Indianapolis controlled every aspect of the game at Kansas City over the final 56 minutes. The Colts did not allow a point, ran for 135 yards, forced four turnovers and had four sacks and won going away (23-7) in a very tough road venue.
INDIANAPOLIS – With one game left in the season, Indianapolis is in play to move to the AFC’s second playoff seed, or it could shift to third or stay put at fourth.
Regardless, it has been a season of accomplishment on all fronts, and the Colts are gearing for a 16th playoff berth in 30 seasons in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis was dominant at Kansas City on Sunday, bouncing back from a 7-0 deficit with 56 strong minutes on defense and with an offense that thrived accordingly.
A two-game winning streak has the Colts at 10-5 and creating momentum beyond next Sunday.
After the club’s fourth-largest victory margin and the fourth over an opponent with 10-plus wins, here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
OFFENSIVE LINE INTEGRITY – If Chuck Pagano had his way, Santa Claus might put a little something extra in the stockings of OL coaches Joe Gilbert and Hal Hunter. The Colts started their seventh different line of the season Sunday at Kansas City, and it was the fifth straight week a different unit opened. While Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn are regulars, along with tackles Gosder Cherilus and Anthony Castonzo, Xavier Nixon was making his first start at left guard. Nixon, a natural tackle, made his career debut (in extended play) the previous week against Houston at right guard. The Colts managed with a 10th 100-yard ground day, played turnover-free ball and Andrew Luck was sacked once. While the offense is an 11-man operation, if the line doesn’t perform everything gets ugly (in all phases). Kudos to the coaches and everyone associated with a stellar performance.
RESILIENCY IN GETTING BACK ON TRACK – A band of brothers hung tough after a 6-2 start went to an 8-5 juncture. Indianapolis has rallied with two straight wins where every phase of the team performed well – particularly the defense and ground game. The Colts have forced six turnovers and eight sacks in two games and have allowed only six-of-23 third downs to be converted. The Colts led for the final 54 minutes against Houston and did not surrender a point at Kansas City over the final 56 minutes. Indianapolis held the Texans without first downs on seven-of-14 possessions, including a five-possession marathon stretch. While Houston had no post-season designs, Kansas City did, and Indianapolis shutout the Chiefs on five-of-seven drives, while one that did yield a first down ended two snaps later with a fumble. The season never was in extreme jeopardy, but a five-game lull tested moxie around the locker room.
MAKING YOURSELF RELEVANT – Chuck Pagano used the phrase about Griff Whalen in training camp and while Whalen has done a very good job of doing so, Donald Brown has done a whale of a job. Brown on Sunday scored on a 33-yard reception and a 51-yard run. It was the first scoring run beyond 50 yards for Indianapolis in 33 games, and Brown had that last one as well in 2011. Brown has a 5.6 average on 90 rushes, bucking to become only the fourth Colts back ever to have a 5.0 average on 80 seasonal attempts. It has been done just once in the team’s Indianapolis era (George Wonsley, 1985), and Brown has contributed 24 receptions for two more scores. Undervalued by many outside observers, Brown has cast himself in a much different public light. His integrity and ethic are exemplary in all areas.
TEN WINS TRULY NOTEWORTHY – Indianapolis had a nine-year streak (at the time the NFL’s second-longest in history) with 10-plus wins end in 2010. Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have reconstructed a roster where only 10 players remain from 2010 and before. Indianapolis has gotten to 10 wins in a year when a league-high 72 players have been pressed into service. Getting to 10 wins is an accomplishment for any team and though this is the 13th in 30 seasons in Indianapolis, it is only right to acknowledge achievement.
PLAY TO WIN – Pagano was vocal in recent weeks about the NFL scheduling 16 games and that he intends to play them all. Indianapolis still can grab the coveted second seed. The Colts could jump to third or stay fourth. Regardless, he plays to win and this Sunday should be no different. Pagano has instilled a process around the team in which players buy in and excel. The process sustained through his 12-game absence last year and with his full-time presence this year. So much of coaching is messaging to players. Players buy Pagano’s message.
Tags: Andrew Luck, anthony castonzo, chuck pagano, donald brown, gosder cherilus, Griff Whalen, Hal Hunter, indianapolis colts, Joe Gilbert, mike mcglynn, ryan grigson, Samson Satele, Xavier Nixon
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