We've seen big games before in the city of Indianapolis, and some massively hyped ones, but Sunday's 39-33 Colts win over the Broncos had the rare combination of a game being all the rage, and then delivering the goods. The return of Peyton Manning had been highly anticipated since the day the schedule came out, something you never see for a regular season game, but came right down to the final play, even though it really didn't have to.
I was unable to watch the game live (more on this later), but many people are saying the atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic and continually loud, something I was a bit worried about this week. But if I may pat ourselves on the back and speak collectively, the fans of Indianapolis knew exactly what to do. They gave Manning the standing ovation before the game he so rightly deserved after his tribute video, then got as loud as humanly possible when he was on the field. Well done to everyone in attendance. Except if you were one of those split jersey people. You should hang your head in shame and confess your sins to Laura Quinn-Hawk.
The game itself played out much, much differently than I expected, and that's not to say I didn't think the Colts would win (in fact, I said they would win). I wasn't even that surprised the Colts had a 19 point lead in the 4th quarter. It was a shock that it was almost entirely due to how well the Defense played, and could have been even bigger had the Offense shown up. You'll see the numbers shortly, but if you had told me how well the Defense would play, this wouldn't have been a game at all in the second half. Yes, the Defense was that good.
The best moment in the game was clearly the sack/fumble/safety by Robert Mathis in the second quarter. It looked slow-motion as it was happening: Mathis getting around the tackle, Manning not feeling the pressure, Mathis jumping into the air, hitting Manning's arm, and the ball just flying into the air. It actually turned out good for the Colts that it was a safety, as they got 9 points out of the turnover rather than just 7 on a touchdown there.
While just sacking Manning had to be pretty special for Mathis (and he got to do it again later), it also tied him for an NFL record. According to Elias, it was the 39th time that Mathis had caused a fumble lost on a sack, tying the NFL record held by Jason Taylor, who played 15 seasons. Mathis is in year 11 of his career, and has already tied his career high for sacks in a season with 11.5, not even half way through. We may see the NFL record for sacks go down this year, and held by a guy who didn't have a buddy do him a solid in Week 17. Mathis will just swallow up whichever hapless Jaguar QB happens to be playing that day.
Another key moment of the game, one in which really helped calm the Colts down, was the interception by Pat Angerer midway through the 4th quarter with the Colts only up 6, and just coming on the failed 3rd down attempt that injured Reggie Wayne. How rare of a play was that from Manning? From Elias:
- Manning hadn't thrown a fourth-quarter interception with his team trailing by one score since November 21, 2010, at New England. And he hadn't done that in Indianapolis since October 8, 2006 against Tennessee at the RCA Dome.
Sadly, the Colts lost Wayne for the season on that fateful third down play, that looked like he could have walked into the end zone, much like his Super Bowl TD, had Andrew Luck had enough time to get a good pass off to him. Several streaks Wayne had going will also come to an end, including 189 straight games played. Here's how long it's been since Reggie missed a game:
The same week Reggie Wayne last missed a game, the first Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone", debuted in theaters.— Derek Schultz (@Schultz1260) October 21, 2013
It's been a while. Also gone is his streak of consecutive games with 3+ catches, which sits at an NFL record 71 straight games. He is a true Ironman, a vocal leader, and a guy the Colts will desperately miss. You can go out and find a replacement for Vick Ballard or Donald Thomas. You can't do that with Reggie Wayne. Speedy and full recovery to #87.
Why was this game so unexpected? Let's take a look and find out:
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 7:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||75.5%||6||69.4%||21||N||N||5-2|
|Avg Start Pos||32.8||5||24.9||7||Y||N||4-4|
|3 and Outs||7||27||8||1||N||N||1-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.732||11||1.411||6||Y||N||3-5|
|Ranking - Week (30)||22||7||14|
|Ranking - Season (214)||147||53||97|
Adjusted Stats for Week 7:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||67.1%||11||49.5%||11||N||N||5-2|
|Avg Start Pos||34.8||2||23.0||5||Y||N||4-4|
|3 and Outs||6.5||27||8.6||1||N||N||1-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.663||9||1.342||6||Y||N||3-5|
|Ranking - Week (30)||27||2||11|
|Ranking - Season (214)||166||3||35|
- The Colts Defense played the 3rd best game in the NFL this season, which was part 1 of the unexpected game we saw Sunday. The Broncos had been running roughshod over the first six opponents, but the Colts shut them down completely. If that is the Defense we see the rest of the year, it's Super Bowl or bust.
- I've talked about Robert Mathis already, but Vontae Davis easily played the best game of his career, and according to ProFootballFocus, scored the highest grade ever by a Cornerback. Now, those guys do admirable work, most of which is subjective in some way, but in this case the numbers match my own two eyes. Davis was phenomenal.
- How did the Defense do it? Top three categories were 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd. Had that been an average team, they'd have allowed just 3.3 Adjusted Pass Yards per Attempt, but because it is Peyton Manning the actual number was over twice that amount. You see why adjusting makes things easier to explain?
- The Defense also did a wonderful job getting the Broncos off the field, thwarting several 3rd and 1 runs, and the ones they did give up were circus catches by Wes Welker, where all you can do is tip your hat and say "well done". But overall they got the Broncos off the field on 3rd/4th down. They also forced 8 Three and Outs. You know how many the Broncos had in their first 6 games? 13. Nicely done.
- They also did well keeping them out of the end zone on several deep drives, something nobody else they've faced has been able to do as of yet. It was a big key, and they came through yet again.
- Rush Defense was about average, worst of any stat for the Colts. You can draw your own conclusions there.
- Special teams also were very good, as you can see the Average Field Position was excellent on both sides of the ball. In fact, the Broncos starting position would have been much worse if not for the Trent Richardson fumble that set them up at the Colts 25. Pat McAfee followed up one of his worst days last week in San Diego with a great day Sunday night.
- The Offense, despite all the points, really seemed to struggle moving the ball consistently. They had 16 total drives, twice that of the Oakland game, so scoring a lot of points isn't all that surprising. Add in the very good field position, and you can see how lots of points don't necessarily line up with how the Offense played.
- All the drive-related stats are pretty hairy looking, averaging just 20 yards per drive, right at two minutes per drive, and having seven Three and Outs. It was either the Colts moved the ball and scored, or punted on three plays.
- More proof of that last statement comes from the Orange and Red Zone Efficiencies, where the Colts were pretty good Sunday night, which they had to be. They couldn't consistently get there, so they had little room for error. They took advantage.
- The Yards per Carry looks very good, thanks to Andrew Luck. On the whole, Yards per Carry went 2-4 this weekend.
Season Stats through Week 7:
|Orange Zone Eff||60.5%||8||Broncos||54.4%||16||Chiefs||37-11||0.771|
|Avg Start Pos||29.5||17||Chiefs||25.8||3||Chargers||43-11||0.796|
|3 and Outs||2.87||7||Panthers||3.70||17||49ers||29-13||0.690|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.493||1||Colts||0.796||19||Buccaneers||29-26||0.527|
- The Offense went from 2nd to 6th after this week after their second straight sub-par week, where the Offense struggled mightily moving the ball consistently. This absolutely needs to get fixed in the off week. Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton needs to look at the drives where they can move the ball, see what's different from the ones where they can't move it, and do those things.
- On the flip side, the Defense jumped from 23rd to 12th in just one week, which is what happens when you slow down the Broncos Offense. Note the Passing Defense numbers (3rd) and the Rush Defense numbers (27th, 26th). Head Coach Chuck Pagano may say he wants to stop the run, but they are showing they want to stop the pass. Thank goodness.
Due to other commitments, I have not been able to sit and watch the Colts play live four of the past five weeks. You can probably guess which one I watched live. I'm now taking suggestions and donations to get me out of the house while the Colts play. You're all welcome.
Before the season started if you had told me the Colts would be 5-2 heading into their bye week I'd have been absolutely thrilled, as it would have meant they'd have beaten at least one of the 49ers, Seahawks, or Broncos, who were pretty much the consensus best three teams in the NFL before the season started. The Colts did more than that, obviously, beating all 3 of them. The schedule isn't as difficult the second half of the season, but also isn't a cakewalk, despite the lack of top 10 QBs they will face (the answer to that is 0). I'll gladly take any schedule where Andy Dalton is the best QB. Problem is the Offense needs to get out of this funk they are in, as the Defenses they face are mostly all pretty good (six remaining games against top 10 Defenses).