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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Intro: Indianapolis gained momentum with a 25-3 win over Houston, the club’s second-largest victory margin of the year. The Colts grabbed the lead from the outset and did not need any comeback in assuring an 18th winning season in Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS – Three of the Colts’ previous eight wins needed fourth-quarter comebacks, and the club had not earned an advantage larger than one score since November 14 at Tennessee.
Indianapolis had been plagued by slow starts in the last six outings but ended all of that by scoring early and building a 17-point halftime margin in a 25-3 win over Houston.
The Colts gained a measure of momentum heading into a week 16 showdown with 11-3 Kansas City, a possible playoff foe.
The Colts were the only AFC division leader to win last weekend, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
RESERVES TRAIN LIKE STARTERS – Chuck Pagano and his staff have said numerous times that reserves train like starters. Trent Richardson yesterday credited the scout team (comprised also of practice squad players) for providing great ‘looks’ in practices that only help hone the starters. Joe Reitz, Fili Moala, Griff Whalen and Darius Butler figured to get heavy work Sunday. Tackle Xavier Nixon did not, but he went in early for Reitz at RG and played the duration of the game after never having played the position before. With Reitz starting at RG, the Colts were using their sixth different opening configuration. His early exit with a concussion almost makes this count as a seventh different opening bunch. Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler have split starting time for Greg Toler, and both had multiple interceptions in the Colts’ last two wins. Credit coaches, credit players, but give credit when looking for one way how the team won Sunday.
EARLY ADVANTAGE, EASIER PLAY CALLS – Andrew Luck said the faster start yesterday made “a world of difference.” Pagano said it opens things up on both sides of the ball and makes calls easier because the outcome is not hanging in the balance with so much time left on the clock. The Colts won late against Oakland, Seattle and Houston, while making plays down the stretch to subdue Denver and Tennessee (twice). San Francisco (27-7) and Jacksonville (37-3) were the only real wide-margin days for a battling Colts club. It’s not that yesterday didn’t have stress, there was just less of it by finding a rhythm, getting an advantage larger than one score and finishing out an opponent.
RICHARDSON UNSELFISH – Trent Richardson lined up in different spots in the offense. He did so at blocking back. He works hard enough during the week when moved elsewhere that he wants to contribute as a receiver. He has caught nine passes in the last two games, and yesterday he produced a season-best 102 scrimmage yards. His adaptation to the offense has had fits and starts. Yesterday was a good day for Richardson, and he needs to remain a building block.
POINTS A PREMIUM – Yesterday’s 25 points could have been more had a handful of chances been cashed in better. A red zone turnover early led to Houston’s lone score. Takeaways that started possessions at Houston’s 17 and 44 produced field goals. Those happened in the first half when Indianapolis still built a 20-3 lead. Later, a long punt return set the Colts up at Houston’s 28, but a field goal was the result. Pagano cited these afterward as points left on the field. It did not bite harshly on Sunday, but there are other Sundays looming.
DEFENSE WAS NEARLY AIRTIGHT – Houston’s only points came off a 32-yard drive that only produced two first downs. The next 11 defensive possessions for the Colts ended with seven punts, two takeaways, a turnover on downs and a sack-strip-safety. Those 11 possessions netted nine downs for the Texans, while the Colts pitched first-down shutouts on five straight possessions just after halftime. Indianapolis held Houston to 16 yards on 10 plays in the third quarter. It was an overall performance that included four sacks, a two-thirds failure on third downs (the best since week five), 12 first downs and 26:49 possession time (the season’s third-lowest mark). Well done.
Tags: Cassius Vaughn, chuck pagano, darius butler, Fili Moala, greg toler, Griff Whalen, indianapolis colts, joe reitz, trent richardson, Xavier Nixon
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The Indianapolis Colts today signed free agent defensive end Lawrence Guy and signed tackle Xavier Nixon from the Washington Redskins practice squad. The Colts will have to make two additional moves to reach the 53-man roster limit.
Guy, 6-4, 318 pounds, rejoins the Colts after being waived by the team following the preseason finale against Cincinnati. He spent the 2012 season with Indianapolis after being signed from the Green Bay practice squad on September 3, 2012. Guy totaled 21 tackles (15 solo) and 1.0 sack in nine games played. He was originally selected by the Packers in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but spent his rookie season on the Injured Reserve list.
Nixon, 6-6, 314 pounds, was originally signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent on May 2, 2013. He was waived by the Redskins on August 31, 2013 before being signed to the team’s practice squad the following day. Nixon appeared in 46 games (33 starts) on the University of Florida offensive line. As a senior in 2012, he earned All-SEC honors after playing 11 games with eight consecutive starts at left tackle. In 2009, Nixon was part of a Florida offense that ranked No. 3 in the nation in yards per carry (5.59), yards per play (6.97) and total yards (6,410), earning him freshman All-America recognition from CollegeFootballNews.com and a selection to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Tags: Lawrence Guy, roster moves, Xavier Nixon
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