While the Offense has been carrying the Colts for much of the season, the Defense and Special Teams stepped up big for the Colts Sunday, leading to a 20-13 total team victory over the Bills.
If aesthetic value meant anything in the NFL, the Colts 20-13 victory over the Bills Sunday would have rated pretty low, but thankfully in the NFL only the final score matters, and the Colts came out on the right end. Personally I had a really hard time getting into the game, but that could have been the stomach-churning day and emotional evening I had the night before watching my alma mater complete a perfect regular season by beating the slimiest coach in America. I wouldn't have been much help inside Lucas Oil Stadium, so I'm glad the fans that were there did their job well.
For the first time this year, the Colts finished off a game with their four-minute Offense, getting the ball with 3:22 left from their own 5 yard line, and never giving it back. In most situations, I think Chan Gailey should have gone for it on 4th and 8 from their own 49 instead of punting there, but the Colts had shown time and time again this year they were content on running 3 times into the line and punting away late in games. Sunday, finally, we saw it come together. A big run of 11 yards by Donald Brown gave the Colts some room, and their first 1st Down, then a 14 yard pass from Andrew Luck to Reggie Wayne, which got the game to the 2 minute warning. The next 2 downs looked like we were gonna see the old Colts run it 3 times and punt on 4th and 10, but on third down the Colts threw the ball, and Wayne drew a Pass Interference penalty, ending the game. Three first downs, one each from rushing, passing, and via penalty, to end a game. It's about damn time we didn't have to sweat with the Colts Defense on the field at the end of a game.
Reggie Wayne had himself a milestone day Sunday as well.
- He passed Art Monk and Derrick Mason for 11th on the all-time list of Receptions, now with 946, and should pass Andre Reed this week to crack the top 10, as he's only five behind him. At this moment he's 156 receptions behind Marvin Harrison for 3rd all-time.
- He also passed Monk and Irving Fryar for 14th in all-time Receiving Yards, now sitting with 12,813. If he keeps up his production he'll pass both Steve Largent and Reed this season.
- Lastly, Wayne set an NFL record for most consecutive games with at least 3 catches, running his streak to 59 straight games, one better than Cris Carter, who set the record between '93 and '97.
While passing yards is a silly stat to draw any comparisons from, Luck is going to smash all the volume stats for rookies this season. As he sits now he has the most yards passing through November by a rookie in league history, and is only the 6th rookie to throw for 3000 yards. It doesn't tell you how he's playing, just that he's throwing the ball a lot this season, which isn't a revelation to any of us.
With the win, and losses from the Jets, Titans, and Chargers, the Colts really only have two other teams fighting for three playoff spots in the AFC. As I see it (and I'll try to get a little more in-depth later this week), if the Colts can just beat the Titans and Chiefs, they'll make the Playoffs. I'll certainly take those odds.
How well did the Colts play Sunday against the Bills? Let's jump into the numbers and find out...
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 12:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||61.9%||15||37.1%||5||Y||N||4-3|
|Avg Start Pos||20.5||30||22.5||7||N||N||4-2|
|3 and Outs||3||8||3||16||N||N||5-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.529||9||0.793||11||N||N||3-4|
|Ranking - Week (32)||14||14||14|
|Ranking - Season (352)||155||141||124|
Adjusted Stats for Week 12:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||53.8%||17||35.1%||4||Y||N||4-3|
|Avg Start Pos||20.0||26||23.1||2||N||N||4-2|
|3 and Outs||3.7||15||3.2||21||N||N||5-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.639||13||0.763||11||N||N||3-4|
|Ranking - Week (32)||22||9||17|
|Ranking - Season (352)||245||138||207|
- I want to start with something not in these tables, and that's the Punt Return for a TD by TY Hilton. I've struggled coming up with how to measure Special Teams, so I completely leave it out and only focus on Offense and Defense. However, as we saw Sunday, Special Teams can still make or break a game, even though there are far fewer plays. It was the Colts first return TD of any kind since 2009 (KO by Chad Simpson), and first Punt Return since 2007 (T.J. Rushing against the Raiders). The Colts have returned an onside kick for a TD and blocked a punt for a TD more recent than these, but Hilton had the first real return TD in three seasons.
- Turnovers have been the story of almost every Colts game so far this season, but this one was not the case. The two turnovers is a bit misleading, as one of them was Tom Zbikowski fumbling after he intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick, so while technically a Colts turnover, it isn't on the Offense. Luck had an interception that ultimately did not hurt the Colts.
- Even though the Colts held the ball for a good chunk of time per drive (over three minutes), they didn't have nearly the success gaining yards and keeping drives alive. It's rather surprising considering how well they've been doing it all year, and how bad the Bills have been. Just an off day I guess.
- This was one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL, and the Colts were terrible running the ball. I don't know who is to blame, but a 1/3 Success Rate and 3 Yards per Carry is way under what they should have done.
- On the Defensive side, the Colts really did a good job bottling up C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, save the long run by Spiller and a couple 8-9 yard plays. Third best Success Rate on the weekend.
- The Defense also really stepped up once the Bills got into the Orange Zone, allowing just a 35% Efficiency, well above their season average. Probably was the key to the game.
- They also stopped the pass Sunday, allowing under five Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt. Haven't see that much this year, so great to see.
- The Colts were also excellent on Third Down, allowing right around 30%. The Bills were no slouches offensively, so seeing the Defense step up when needed was just what the doctor ordered.
- Overall an average performance, right smack dab in the middle of the league. The Colts are an average team, so it makes sense they ended up average Sunday.
Season Stats through Week 12 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||45.2%||27||Saints||62.5%||31||Bears||67-17||0.798|
|Avg Start Pos||26.7||32||Giants||28.2||5||49ers||66-20||0.767|
|3 and Outs||2.73||3||Patriots||2.93||30||Bears||58-18||0.763|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.716||6||Falcons||1.261||1||Colts||50-31||0.617|
Couple things here:
- Despite the Defense showing a marked improvement, they're still dead last in the league, just not by as much any more. A couple more weeks like Sunday, especially next week against an even better Offense in Detroit, and we should see them climb out of the basement.
- While the Offense took a step back they still rank a respectable 12th overall, with several categories in the top 10. They're also far and away the best team on 3rd and long (8+), and I'll have a separate post on that later this week.
- Much will be made about the Colts Point Differential, which is still negative despite being three games over .500, and converting in the Orange Zone is part of the issue. The other part is, on average, they have to go farther than every other team to score points, as they are dead last in Starting Position. The Colts have had this issue for a decade now, so it's nothing new. I'd really like to see this fixed eventually.
Week-to-Week Colts Comparison:
We already knew the Offense struggled Sunday, but did enough to win. It was almost as bad as the Jets game was, but the Defense and Special Teams certainly did their jobs to get the win. Honestly if the Defense can play that well going forward each week, the Colts will sneak one of those three remaining games that look like losses.