Well, the run is over.
The Indianapolis Colts traveled to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in the wild card round of the playoffs and were defeated 24-9 in a game that was closer than the score would indicate. The Ravens move on to face Denver next Saturday while the Colts travel back to Indy, their season over. But the Colts shouldn't go home hanging their heads, and neither should their fans. This Colts team did incredible things this year and regardless of the outcome of one game, the season was still an unquestioned success. Sure, we would have loved to see the Colts pull off the win and advance in the playoffs. But when you really think about it, this team was projected to win 4-5 games by most people (I had them at 7 wins before the season, which was pretty much the highest of anyone I saw). From starting 2-3 and losing their head coach, who was battling a life-threatening disease, to finishing 9-2, making the playoffs, and setting some records along the way. And no one set more records than the Colts' rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Andrew Luck was very good this season (I will have an in-depth look at his entire season coming in the next day or two, so be looking for it). In his first playoff game (in fact the first ever playoff game started by a number one overall pick in his rookie season), Luck again played very well. But, in a game that was so indicative of the Indianapolis Colts' 2012 season, Luck got absolutely no help. And this game was perhaps the worst of them all. The offensive line was horrible. Just awful. They allowed 3 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 3 tackles for loss - and those are just the numbers that go in the score books. There were many other times that Luck was hurried and rushed throws. He couldn't settle in all day - and on the few plays where he could, he looked pretty dang good. Reggie Wayne put up big numbers and had himself a big day (no surprise there), catching 9 passes for 114 yards. But Luck's receivers did not help him out today either. Pretty much all they gave Luck were numerous drops (before you ask, I lost count of them - someone said 7, but again nothing official. All I know is that there were a lot).
Luck also rushed 4 times for 35 yards, and I know at least three of those were for first downs (perhaps all four were - I'll need to go back and watch the film to see for sure). He played a very good game, but the surrounding talent on the offensive side of the ball was terrible today. A lot of fans and "experts" will point to Luck's completion percentage right around 50% and the fact that Luck turned the ball over twice without a score and just say that he played bad. Don't listen to them. They're the ones that want to take the easy way out of analysis and just look at the stats - and if there is one thing I have learned from Andrew Luck this season, it is that traditional stats don't even begin to tell the whole story. I don't care what the stats say - Luck played well today. Too bad the rest of his offense couldn't help him out.
Here are some other notes from the game, for the final time of the season:
- Where else to start but with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Arians was taken to the hospital this morning with an illness, and while he reportedly wanted to leave and go coach, the doctors wouldn't let him. Quarterbacks coach and former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen handled the playcalling duties. It sounds like Arians is doing ok and will be fine. Good thing - because he may be getting a head coaching job pretty soon. Regardless, thanks for a magical season Coach Arians - it wouldn't have happened without you. Get better soon.
- Speaking of Christensen, today may have been a sort of job audition for him. If Arians leaves (and there is nothing decided at this point), I have thought that Christensen would be in the running to take over - it wouldn't be a huge change and he is a guy Luck has gotten familiar with this year. He called a good game and made some adjustments, but he didn't do anything spectacular. That said, look for Christensen to be in the mix to replace Arians should the current offensive coordinator leave Indianapolis.
- Is it possible that in matchups against their previous teams, both Colts' head coach Chuck Pagano's defense and Raven's offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell's offense played well? The Colts defense played well overall except for a few big plays, and at the same time Caldwell's offense played decently - getting big plays and turning them into scores. One thought I had during the game, when it had become apparant that the Colts were not going to win: I thought Jim Caldwell was done beating the Colts? I thought we were past that? I guess not...
- Vontae Davis played well today. Cassius Vaughn did not. Davis has looked very good recently and appears to be vindicating the trade made for him before the season. Vaughn was replaced by Darius Butler in the game today and it is apparent that the Colts need to go after another cornerback this offseason (but offensive line must be first priority).
- Adam Vinatieri again was incredible in the postseason. He was 3/4 today, including a 52 yarder. In his postseason career with the Colts he has gone 22/24 - with one of those misses coming today. He got off to a rough start to the season but rebounded to have a nice year, and it was capped by a nice playoff game today.
- Dwight Freeney quite possibly played his last game in the blue and white today. He has had a tremendous career but the right decision at this point is to let him walk in free agency. He went out on a quiet note - his stat line basically doesn't even exist for the game - but his impact, though not great, was greater than the stat line indicates.
- I feel like I should mention that this was also the last home game of Ray Lewis' career - a spectacular 17 year career, all with the Ravens. He will be considered among the greats of all time. He came back from injury to play today and played very well (which was actually kind of surprising - he had not been having a good season this year). He made 13 tackles, 1 for loss, and also batted down a pass.
- Overall it was a great season for the Colts. I couldn't be prouder of this team. And you know what - even if the season ended in defeat, the foundations for future success were laid. The Colts have found their general manager in Ryan Grigson. They have found their head coach in Chuck Pagano. They have certainly found their quarterback in Andrew Luck. And then numerous young players had very promising seasons - inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, running back Vick Ballard, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and punter Pat McAfee, to name a few. The Colts will be back in the postseason very soon - likely next year, even. And soon, the Colts won't just be a feel-good story. They will be a team to be reckoned with. And we can look back and say that the foundations were laid in 2012 - the playoffs were just a bonus. So to every member of this year's Indianapolis Colts, I just say thank you, for a tremendous season. "Indiana" Colts fans, as referee Mike Carey would say, are proud of you. And they have every reason to be. Congrats on a great season and we look forward to see what next year will bring. Go Colts.