Intro: Indianapolis controlled almost every aspect of a game for the third straight week in moving from 8-5 to 11-5 with a 30-10 victory over Jacksonville. The Colts earned the momentum they sought entering December, and now it is on to January.
INDIANAPOLIS – After Sunday’s 30-10 victory over Jacksonville, Chuck Pagano said everyone knows the second-most important month to be playing good football is in December.
He then pointed to his team’s 4-1 mark that was forged with three straight double-digit wins to end the season.
It was a strong response following a December 8 lopsided loss at Cincinnati, 42-28, the day Indianapolis captured the AFC South crown.
Knowing better play was imperative, the Colts focused on basics and end up entering the playoffs with much-needed steam.
After the club’s impressive victory over the Jaguars to go 6-0 in the division, here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
WINNING ELEMENTS – A message that Chuck Pagano uses that irks a few followers is, “In the NFL, more games are lost than won.” It’s not that Pagano doesn’t take calculated approaches to win, he just wants to avoid pitfalls that equate to losses – two being penalties and turnovers. Indianapolis became the second team in 26 years (Kansas City, 2002) to top the league in fewest penalties (66, for 576 yards) and turnovers (14). The Colts rebounded from minus-12 to plus-13 in turnover ratio from 2012 to 2013 (a jump from 26th to third). The turnovers set a franchise record. The team had three or fewer penalties in eight outings and only hit 40-plus infraction yards six times. The NFL penalty-yard average was 98-845. Of 12 playoff teams, 10 have positive or neutral turnover ratios. The top six ratios all are playoff teams.
POSSESSION ADVANTAGE – While points win games, so can possession time. Indianapolis won its last three games by controlling the ball 33:11, 38:20 and 33:40. In eight of those 12 quarters, the Colts held the ball for nine-plus minutes and only three times lost the possession margin. It speaks to executing third downs as well as ball security. The Colts are 7-1 this year when topping 30-minutes. Clearly the team is doing something with the ball when it has it, but keeping it usually means an opponent is being held at bay.
SPECIAL LUCK – Andrew Luck now is tied for the second-most wins by any QB since 1970 for the first two seasons of a career (22). His 8,196 passing yards are the most ever over the first two seasons. Luck is on a short list of Super Bowl era QBs who opened or are opening their careers with consecutive seasons with playoff starts (5, Joe Flacco; 3, Dan Marino, Bernie Kosar, Andy Dalton; 2, Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanzhez, Luck, Russell Wilson). Dalton, Luck and Wilson are current streaks. Enjoy Luck as he starts in his second playoffs. It’s been a wondrous run so far by a special talent. Note: Luck has hit five, nine and 10 different receivers in the last three games, some of whom did not start the season here.
UP TEMPO, AGGRESSIVE LEAD FROM START – The last three games have seen the Colts pick up the tempo a notch on offense. Sunday saw the club probe down the field in an aggressive manner. There are factors that help a team get off quickly in a game, and this has helped as the Colts own a 24-10 first-quarter and 53-13 first-half points advantage in that time. The previous six games had seen the club labor with 49-9 and 112-24 deficits over those opening quarters and halves, while holding the lead but once. Keeping the foot down can help the passing game and open up some running room.
SO BASIC – So many times, less is more. When the team struggled, it went basic. While focusing on small aspects of the game not appreciated by some non-purists, Robert Mathis preaches the critical nature to crafting solid performances. “Just doing the little things, fundamentals, techniques, sound football, that’s the difference between winning and losing,” said Mathis. “Fundamentals separate good players from great players and good teams from great teams. It’s very important.” Said Adam Vinatieri about the need for a team to focus on itself, not others, “It is very important. If we work on what we do and execute our game plan, the team that does that wins a lot of games. We have what it takes in this locker room. We just have to continue to play well, commit ourselves and everything that it takes. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts, robert mathis
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