Coming into the 2012 season, I had absolutely zero expectations for the Colts. They were 2-14 last year, have basically a brand new team, and no rookie QB chosen #1 overall has ever taken his team to the playoffs. Having no expectations has certainly helped the blood pressure this season, even when the Colts haven't played well at all. Even last year I got more upset than I have this year.
Right after Andrew Luck threw interception #3 yesterday, with 6:40 left in the game and trailing 33-21, I had packed it in, and wasn't upset. Turnovers on the road once again would be the story, and the Colts would continue their woeful play on the road. Sure I want the Colts to win every game, but every game is a step in the learning process of Luck, as well as all the other rookies that play significant roles for the Colts. They'd put it behind them, and be ready to take on the Titans at home next week.
What happened in that last 6:40, or more accurately 4:02, which is when the Colts got the ball back, still down 12, was something not often seen. In fact, I can only find four games since 2000 where a team was down by at least 12, starting a drive right around the four minute mark, and won the game. Two of them needed an onside kick to accomplish this (here and here, both from 2001), and two others you know quite well: Colts in Tampa in 2003, and 4th and 2. The 160 combined yards of the two drives yesterday were the most of any of these four games, barely besting the 143 from that game in Tampa. The 35-33 Colts win over the Lions Sunday be talked about for years to come, because we don't see this kind of comeback very often, and we don't see it by any other team but the Colts since 2001.
It also explained the sheer joy I had when Donnie Avery crossed the goal line, as I hadn't really been yelling excited about anything yet this season. Again, no expectations, so I've never been too high or too low, but yesterday brought it all out of me. It felt like the Colts had no business winning that game (but I'll argue later they absolutely did), and it was great to see a team fight and claw all the way back, and get over the mountain at the end.
If you haven't seen this article from ESPN Stats and Info yet, you definitely need to see everything Luck did yesterday. A sampling:
- Luck is the fourth rookie since 1970 to throw a game-winning touchdown pass with no time left in game (Tim Couch, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson).
- The win was Luck’s eighth as a starter this season. That’s the most wins by a rookie starting quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in the Common Draft Era (which began in 1967).
- Luck's completion percentage (44.4%) was the lowest for any quarterback that threw at least four touchdown passes and had at least 30 attempts in a game since the merger.
There's a whole lot more in that article, including some stuff on QBR that I can't summarize. Go see it. One other note from Elias: Luck is now the first rookie to throw two game-winning TD passes inside of two minutes in league history. I know Luck is going to break some of the counting stat rookie records, but this one is way more meaningful.
Did the stats tell the story of Sunday? Let's find out where the Colts struggled, and where the Colts blew away a season-long trend:
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 13:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||100.0%||1||61.9%||22||N||N||6-1|
|Avg Start Pos||21.1||27||31.8||25||N||Y||6-3|
|3 and Outs||8||30||4||10||N||N||2-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.486||7||0.813||18||N||N||5-2|
|Ranking - Week (32)||19||17||23|
|Ranking - Season (384)||243||167||222|
Adjusted Stats for Week 13:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||100.1%||1||60.4%||20||N||N||6-1|
|Avg Start Pos||22.4||29||32.8||25||N||Y||6-3|
|3 and Outs||7.9||31||3.9||16||N||N||2-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.511||9||0.784||20||N||N||5-2|
|Ranking - Week (32)||19||8||12|
|Ranking - Season (384)||253||135||192|
- We've talked a great length this season about the lack of points scored by the points once they get inside the 35 (Orange Zone), and inside the 20 (Red Zone). On Sunday, the Colts were a perfect 4/4 scoring TDs, against one of the best Defenses in the league when it comes to these stats, which is why you see the adjusted number over 100%. The Colts might not have had as many opportunities to score, but they certainly took advantage of the ones they got.
- Why did it take a once-every-couple-of-years type comeback to win? Turnovers once again reared its ugly head, with three. I commented during the game that I think Luck knows he has to go and win games, and he's trying to do too much too early. He can't win a game on one throw in the 2nd Quarter, and he needs to play like it. His coaches need to tell him that.
- The Colts have been excellent at not going 3 and Out this season, ranking in the top 5, but you wouldn't have known it Sunday, where they went 8 drives without gaining a first down. Basically it was either a 3 and Out or a TD. You can see this from Time of Possession per Drive and Plays/Drive as well.
- The Running game was pretty good, ranking 4th in RB Success Rate and 10th in Yards per Carry. Makes you wonder why the Colts completely abandoned the run in the second half after the first drive. I believe it is somebody standing up to Bruce Arians and telling him to not forget to run, especially when it is effective.
- Even though the Defense gave up 33 points, it actually played really well, as you can see by the 8th best overall game this weekend. Again why looking at just a single stat, even scoring, can be misleading.
- It starts at the top, where the Colts had their best games of the season at Drive Success Rate, holding the Lions well below league average. That's now two weeks in a row the Defense has had their season best game in DSR. Maybe it's a sign they're finally starting to feel comfortable in the Defense? We'll see.
- The Colts did get a Turnover, Robert Mathis's first career interception, which just happened to appear right in his gut after a nice play design had him fake a rush and float back in front of the Tight End.
- The rest of the drive stats were above average, which we haven't seen much of this year either. All good signs.
- The biggest key in my opinion was forcing the Lions into kicking four field goals, which is the complete opposite of what the numbers said coming into the game, when you couple it with the Colts success at scoring TDs Sunday. Football's a funny game sometimes. Just one of those FGs turned into a TD and the Colts don't win.
- I'm impressed with the Run Defense, especially late, as you can determine from a very good RB Success Rate but poor YPC that the Lions had a few big runs, and a lot of duds. I like the lots of duds.
Season Stats through Week 13 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||49.8%||25||Saints||62.9%||32||Bears||73-18||0.802|
|Avg Start Pos||26.5||32||Bears||28.9||7||49ers||72-23||0.758|
|3 and Outs||3.18||8||Patriots||3.05||29||Cardinals||60-20||0.750|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.676||3||Falcons||1.217||1||Colts||55-33||0.625|
A couple things:
- The Colts moved up one spot overall Offensively, but it still wasn't the type of game where you'll see lots of moving up. The Drive stats are still really good, but they've actually regressed a touch over the past two weeks. Need to clean that up.
- The Colts are dead last in field position, which is the product of two things: Lack of Turnovers by the Defense, and poor special teams play, save one punt return, which doesn't count into this because he scored. Luck and the Offense have to work harder, on average, than every other team in the NFL.
- The Defense is still last, by a considerable margin, but it isn't as big as it was two weeks ago. Some of these things were so bad it'll take multiple weeks to come out of it. I will say they are stopping the run quite well.
That's two weeks in a row where the Defense easily out-played the Offense, so eventually the two units will meet in the middle and have a well-rounded game, like the Packers and 2nd Jaguars games. The Colts are 4-0 when the Defense plays well, and 3-0 when the Offense has been outstanding. If, and it's a big if for such a young team, they can put together a complete game, these guys could actually compete against the big boys of the conference, and not just get blown away like a majority of people believe. I think we'll have to see it at least once before the season ends for that to be a possibility though.