Ever since Chuck Pagano took over as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he has been talking about building a monster. He wants his team to be tough and physical and a force to be reckoned with on the field.
We've seen this defense play like a "monster" for spurts throughout the 20 game tenure of Chuck Pagano so far, but never like this. Never have we seen a defensive performance like this and never have we seen it for an entire game, that's for sure.
Today, the Colts defense really looked like the "monster" that Chuck Pagano wanted it to become.
I've said that the Colts won't win any game without Luck playing well. Today, though, it was the defense that won the ball game. I said that the Colts wouldn't win against the 49ers. Today, though, the defense propelled them to a win.
Honestly, this was the football that Chuck Pagano wanted to implement in Indianapolis. The Colts played dominant defense. They ran the ball well. And they won a huge game on the road against the defending NFC Champions.
That was the story of the game. And it was a huge, statement win by the Colts. Huge.
Last year, the Colts played a Super Bowl contender early in the season when the team wasn't looking impressive and needed a boost. Nobody gave them a chance against the Green Bay Packers, but the Colts made a massive comeback in the "ChuckStrong Game" and beat the Packers 30-27 in an instant classic. It completely turned around the Colts' season and propelled them on towards their playoff run.
This win could be just as big. Entering the game, the Colts hadn't looked good and nobody was giving them a chance on the road against a very good 49ers team. And the Colts completely dominated the tough, physical 49ers for 60 minutes with tough, physical football.
Give massive credit to Chuck Pagano. There were people beginning to speculate about his job security. Not anymore. People were talking about how his defense hadn't looked good in the first two games. It was phenomenal today.
People have been criticisng the run defense. That was what Pagano placed the emphasis on. Outside of one 91 yard drive where the 49ers gashed the Colts defense with 78 yards on the ground, the 49ers got nothing. But it was the Colts secondary that stole the show.
Sure, Pagano has placed the emphasis on the run game, but keep in mind - he was a secondary coach. I always thought that we would see signs of that unit improving first. And today, without LaRon Landry and with an injured Antoine Bethea, the secondary played the most impressive game I've seen them play in a long time. Delano Howell had a HUGE game. Antoine Bethea played great also and very tough. The 49ers didn't have anybody open all day, and the Colts actually got pressure on Colin Kaepernick.
When Kaepernick was forced to run, the Colts kept containment very well. They filled the lanes and didn't let Kaepernick run all over them. Again, that's great discipline and that starts with Chuck Pagano.
The defense played phenomenal. The offense also played good too, especially in the run game. Newly acquired running back Trent Richardson didn't have a great game, but Ahmad Bradshaw wanted to let us all know that the Colts have another good running back on the team. Bradshaw carried the ball 19 times for 95 yards and a score, averaging 5 yards per carry. When the Colts needed it the most, they ran the ball to milk the clock and ended an 80 yard drive with a score. That's power running. That's a run game emphasiss. And today, for at least one game, it worked beautifully.
That's stunning as well. The 49ers front seven is among the league's best, and the Colts' offensive line handled them all day. They came into the game as the league's best run blocking offensive line. And today, they certainly proved that. The numbers look like Stanford numbers - 39 carries for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Bradshaw, Richardson, and Andrew Luck on a bootleg all ran in touchdowns.
Run the ball. Play good defense. Win big ballgames. That's what Chuck Pagano wanted to do. And today, the Colts did just that, in incredibly impressive fashion.
Building a monster. That's what the Colts are doing, and today, we saw that monster in action. For the first time under Pagano, we really saw this team play that way. They were disciplined, tough, physical, and overwhelmed the 49ers.
It was a statement win, and it's impact can't really be overstated.
Other game notes:
- Andrew Luck looked good today but misfired on some passes that he usually wouldn't. There still are some issues that I think he has that he needs to work through. Mainly, I think sometimes he hangs onto the ball too long. Also, he throws high much more often than last year, it seems. But while I'm mentioning what he needs to work on, he still played well and the two best things about this game in terms of Luck: 1) the line protected him; 2) he didn't have to do everything and didn't have to win the game by himself. Both of those were much welcomed changes.
- Trent Richardson didn't look that great today, but I'm not worried one bit. He started off the game by having his first carry go for a one yard score, but overall he rushed just 13 times for 35 yards. He also dropped a couple of passes and had a few other plays that weren't great, either. It wasn't a good game from him, but again, I'm not worried and also, Ahmad Bradshaw stepped up in a huge way.
- I was impressed with Pep Hamilton's play calling today. I really was. Sure, there were still plays I wish he would have changed, but overall I think Hamilton's play calling was much better today.
- Delano Howell. I don't think I can say enough about how impressive he was today.
- Pat McAfee had a huge game today too. He punted great, all day. The Boomstick really played a big role today, consistently pinning the 49ers deep and the Colts totally won the field position battle.
- Erik Walden didn't have a very good game today, but it was primarily when he got burned on running plays (the very reason he was brought in was to stop those plays). I still don't like the signing. On that touchdown drive by the 49ers, they ran almost every play to Walden's side and broke some really big runs. It was the best example we've had so far as to how disappointing he really is.
- Kelvin Sheppard played terrible today too. But that wasn't really surprising, either.
- Robert Mathis had nice pressure today. He was officially credited for two sacks, although only one was a legitimate one. But he had some nice pressure today.
- For the second straight week, Jerrell Freeman had a sack and forced fumble that the Colts recovered. He has three sacks on the year.
I scouted #Colts LB Jarrell Freeman in the cfl, liked him...but never thought he'd be this good on D— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) September 22, 2013
- The offensive line today played great. The run blocking continued to be tremendous and the pass blocking was very good today. Anthony Castonzo deserves a ton of credit, as he did great against Justin Smith all game. Great job by the line overall, especially Castonzo. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the line today was that despite having three new starters in different places (Hugh Thornton at left guard, Mike McGlynn at center, and Jeff Linkenbach at right guard), the line played together as a unit very well - probably as well as the line has played together all year.
- Mike McGlynn played better at center today than he has at right guard. The move to shift him over to center looks really smart, now.
- Reggie Wayne moved into ninth place in NFL history in career receptions today, passing Randy Moss. He also extended his streak of 3+ reception games to 67.
- Coby Fleener was invisible today. Granted, the 49ers are the best in the league at covering tight ends, but Fleener couldn't do anything and couldn't get separation. Even when Patrick Willis went out with an injury, Fleener didn't do anything. They didn't need him today, but still - he was invisible. I'll give him a pass because of playing the 49ers defense, but it's something to keep an eye on going forward.
- I was impressed with Dominique Jones today, though. I thought he played well.
- I also thought Stanley Havili played well today. It was his best game as a Colt so far.
- The 49ers might want to call up the Browns and see what they want for Josh Gordon. They need wide receiver help. Badly.
- Adam Vinatieri has now made a field goal in 39 different stadiums, as he hit two today at Candlestick. He was two for three kicking today, with both makes coming from over 40 yards and the miss coming from 51 yards out on a kick that it looked like the win took.
- The Colts stayed relatively injury free today, too, it seemed. Ricky Jean Francois had a groin injury. Ahmad Bradshaw was injured early in the game but played the rest of the game. Matt Taylor (1070 the Fan's sideline assistant) reported that Mike McGlynn looked injured early but toughed it out the rest of the game. Other than that, it sounds like the Colts escaped injury free. That's huge too.
- Huge, HUGE, HUGE win for the Colts. It's hard to overstate how big of a win this is. Like the Packers game last year, this could be a turning point in the season. We're all hoping it is.