The Indianapolis Colts went into week two; 0-1. They were fresh off a 41-21 defeat by the Chicago Bears. Because everybody knows in the NFL, there is never any rest for the weary; the Colts were set to host the Minnesota Vikings in week two. Minnesota was coming into Lucas Oil Field 1-0, having beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars in OT in week one. Minnesota was also bringing one of the most feared pass rushes in the entire league. A pass rush featuring the NFL’s 2011 season sack leader, Jared Allen. Add in the likes of potential game breakers, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, and by any team’s standards, this game was going to be tough.
Defensively, the Indianapolis Colts started the game behind the eight ball. Their 7 time pro bowl linebacker/former defensive end, Dwight Freeney, was out due to an ankle injury. (As evidence from the Bears game, this severely affects the Colts pass rush.) On top of that, last seasons leading tackler, Pat Angerer, is still out for another 2-4 weeks with a fractured foot. Don’t forget about Brandon McKinney, who was a big body at nose tackle, is on the season ending IR. With a secondary that is still trying to gel together, the Colts had issues at all three levels of their defense (defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs). Despite all these issues, I thought as a whole the defense played very well.
In fact, throughout the first three quarters, the defense actually played exceptional. Other than the Vikings first two possessions (which resulted in two field goals), up until the 4th quarter, the Vikings offense was completely shut down. Their third possession was a sack/fumble that resulted in a turnover. Their fourth possession was a three and out, and then punt. And their fifth possession ended due to halftime.
Once the second half began, their sixth possession wasn’t until the 7:06 mark, and it resulted in just a 5 play, 23 yd drive that ended with a punt. Their seventh, and final possession before the 4th quarter, was a meager 6 play 35 yard drive that once again ended with a punt. Although, like I mentioned earlier, everything changed once the 4th quarter began (We will get to that later though).
The Colts on the other hand, were in complete control of the game until the 4th quarter. After the Vikings kicked a field goal on their first possession, Andrew Luck marched Indianapolis down the field on a 13 play, 80 yard drive for a touchdown. This put the Colts up 7-3. Two possessions later, with the score 7-6, Javell Freeman sacked Christian Ponder to force a fumble, which Cory Redding recovered. The Colts drove the ball 36 yds, and kicked a field goal to extend the lead to 10-6. What happened next was a key sequence in the game. With 1:49 remaining until halftime, Ponder hit M. Jenkins on a short 4 yard pass. The next two plays were both incompletions. Because of those two incompletions, a total of only 26 seconds ran off the clock in the entire possession. This left the Colts with 1 minute and 11 seconds to move the ball into scoring position before the half.
Not only did they move the ball into scoring position. Andrew Luck engineered a drive that went 65 yards in 8 plays, resulting in a 30 yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. This touchdown pass extended their lead to 17-6, with the Colts set to receive the ball in the second half.
The third quarter started a lot how the first half had left off. The Colts received the ball, and marched down the field 53 yards in 14 plays. The possession resulted in a field goal that put the Colts up 20-6. The key to this drive was it drained 7 minutes and 54 seconds off the clock. Until the last drive of the game, from this point on, the Vikings pretty much controlled everything.
With 10:10 remaining in the game, and down two touchdowns, Ponder and the Vikings began to go to work. A 10 play 54 yard drive ended with, what some might say as a lucky play. With the ball on the 7 yard line, Robert Mathis tipped a Christian Ponder pass intended for Kyle Rudolph. With the ball in the air, Rudolf tipped it again, and it landed in the arms of S. Burton. That touchdown brought the Vikings within 7 points, with 5:07 remaining on the clock. Indy had absolutely nothing going on the ensuing drive, and had to punt, giving the Vikings 2 minutes and 50 seconds to tie the game. Ponder and the Vikings did just that- A 9 play 42 yard drive, that was capped off by a 6 yd TD pass to Rudolph, tied the game with just 31 seconds remaining.
This is the point a cameraman caught Andrew Luck pacing up and down the sideline, pleading to whomever would listen they had enough time to win this thing.
Like a seasoned veteran, Luck led the Colts 40 yards in 4 plays down to the 36 yard line. These 4 plays lasted only 19 seconds (aided of course by 2 timeouts). Adam Vinatieri stepped up in the clutch and delivered on a 53 yard field goal. It put the Colts up 23-20 with just 12 seconds remaining. The Vikings tried what looked to be a hook and ladder on the final play, but Vontae Davis tackled D. Aromashodu immediately.
Because of the Vikings 4th quarter outburst, they actually out gained the Colts in total yardage, total plays, and first downs. Not to mention passing (232 yds to 194 yds) and rushing (95yds to 84 yds). But like the title of the article says, "When it counts, the Colts got the job done."