The Indianapolis Colts 2013 season is officially over, and so that means it's time for my second annual end of season Colts awards. 2013 was a good year in which the Colts won 11 games plus a playoff game and won the AFC South. They had some great wins - most notably over the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos - and took strides forward toward their ultimate goal of winning a Lombardi Trophy. Let's look at some of the key players and moments for the Colts in the 2013 season.
Most Valuable Player: Robert Mathis, Outside Linebacker
It is scary to think of where this team would have been without Robert Mathis. Mathis had incredible individual success in 2013, being named the AFC Player of the Month twice, being named to the Pro Bowl, and winning the inaugural Deacon Jones award, given to the league leader in sacks. Mathis led the league with 19.5 sacks, setting a new Colts single-season record by 3.5 sacks and surpassing his previous career high by 8 sacks. He notched a career high 10 forced fumbles and added to his NFL record of most career strip/sacks. He also set the Colts franchise career record for most sacks and moved into the top 20 of all time in that category. His significance to the Colts was even more impressive, as he accounted for 46.43% of his team's sacks - an insane amount. Only six other players in the league accounted for more than 30% of their team's sacks, and the next closest to Mathis was still 10.49% behind him. The Colts had trouble pressuring the quarterback outside of Mathis, and he was more disruptive than he has ever been. At the age of 32, Mathis was better than ever and more important to the Colts than ever. He's my Indianapolis Colts MVP for 2013.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck, quarterback
Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, Quarterback
The Colts franchise quarterback has a strong case for being the team MVP but I gave it to Mathis instead. Luck, however, is the team's Offensive Player of the Year, and it's not really close. Luck completed 60.2% of his passes for 3,822 yards, 23 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions, while also running 63 times for 377 yards and 4 touchdowns. He protected the football this year and guided the offense to 24.4 points per game and 3 comeback wins in the regular season. Also, he lost several key offensive players and had to adjust to having his second offensive coordinator in two years, but he improved and played really well. He was easily the Colts Offensive Player of the Year. Easily.
Honorable Mention: T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver
Defensive Player of the Year: Robert Mathis, outside linebacker
See Most Valuable Player above.
Honorable Mention: Jerrell Freeman, inside linebacker
Rookie of the Year: Bjoern Werner, outside linebacker
Can I just not vote for this one and leave it open? Please? I don't really think that any Colts rookie this year was that impressive. Werner gets the nod here because he produced the most, but I still don't think he had that great of a year. He recorded 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks, as well as 3 pass deflections. He was brought in as a pass rusher and began to show that in the final weeks of the season, but overall he still wasn't great. The problem is that he was still the most productive rookie from last season.
Most Improved: Donald Brown, running back
Entering the season, Donald Brown was third on the depth chart, was labeled as a former first round bust, and was best known as "Dammit Donald." This year, he changed that. He rushed 102 times for 537 yards and 6 touchdowns (his 5.3 yards per carry ranked tied for second in the league among players who qualified), as well as caught 27 passes for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns. Throughout the season, three different running backs started ahead of Brown, but he stuck with it and ended the season as the starting running back. There isn't a harder working guy than Brown, and that paid off this year as Brown was both the most improved player for the Colts and the biggest surprise of the season.
Honorable Mention: T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver
Biggest Surprise: Donald Brown, running back
See Most Improved above.
Biggest Disappointment: Trent Richardson, running back
After week two, the Colts made a huge trade, sending the Cleveland Browns their first round pick in exchange for running back Trent Richardson - the third round pick in the NFL draft just a year earlier. And in his time with the Colts, Trent Richardson flat out stunk. He earned the nickname "Trent 3.0" because his yards per carry average hovered right around 3.0 yards per carry for the entire season. In fact, his season yards per carry number ended up being just 2.9 yards per attempt and he only scored 3 touchdowns on the ground and fumbled twice. He contributed much more in the passing game (28 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown) and as a blocker on passing plays, but there is no way around it: Trent Ricahrdson stunk in 2013 and he was easily the biggest disappointment, although there were a few.
Best Individual Performance: T.Y. Hilton in wild card game vs. Chiefs
In the wild card game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had arguably the greatest single-game receiving performance in NFL postseason history. He caught 13 passes for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Colts 28-point come-from-behind win over the Chiefs, including the game winning 64-yard touchdown. Hilton was constantly getting open and on that day proved to be uncoverable.
Best Team Performance: Week 3 at San Francisco 49ers
The Colts started the season 1-1, and a shaky 1-1 at that. They traveled to San Francisco in week three to take on the defending NFC Champion 49ers. And the Colts dominated, from start to finish. The Colts ran the ball 40 times for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns, with Ahmad Bradshaw leading the way with 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. The Colts dominated the time of possession (36:25 to 23:35) and held the 49ers to just 254 yards on 53 plays (4.8 yards per play). The Colts notched 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 5 pass deflections, and forced two turnovers (a fumble by Colin Kaepernick and an interception thrown by Colin Kaepernick). The Colts came away with a statement 27-7 road win and their best overall performance of the year over a team playing in the NFC Championship game this weekend and the third time in the past three years.
Honorable Mention: week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs
Best Play: Robert Mathis strip/sack of Peyton Manning
There were quite a few options for this one, but the decision for me was really pretty easy, and I think most Colts fans will agree with it. Robert Mathis notches his third award on the list for his strip sack of Broncos Peyton Manning in week 7's Sunday Night Football contest in Indianapolis, and the play resulted in a safety and two points for the Colts. The real significance of the play comes from the backstory, and that was that Peyton Manning is the greatest player in Colts history and still an incredibly beloved figure in the city. Robert Mathis had never gotten a chance to sack Manning, however, as he had always been on the same team and wasn't allowed to hit the quarterback. Well this year Peyton Manning returned to Indianapolis to Lucas Oil Stadium to play his former team, and Mathis was finally able to sack his former quarterback. In front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football and in front of an electric home crowd, Mathis finally did just that. He got to Peyton Manning, crushing him as he hit him and forcing a fumble as Peyton was throwing. The ball came out and went out the end zone, ending up in a safety for the Colts. Lucas Oil Stadium went nuts and erupted. As Manning was walking off the field, the cameras caught him watching the replay on the jumbotron and he had a smirk on his face after his friend and former teammate finally got to him in the stadium where he called home for so long. That said it all.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck game-winning touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton in wild card game vs. Chiefs; Andrew Luck 5-yard fumble recovery touchdown in wild card game vs. Chiefs
Best Moment: Peyton Manning's Return to Indianapolis
No matter how long you have been a fan, there is nothing that can prepare you for a day like October 20, 2012. Peyton Manning came home to Indianapolis to the "House that Peyton Built" to play in front of a fanbase and a city that still loved him. And, when Manning got emotional as he waved to the crowd, it was clear that he still felt a connection to Indianapolis too. As the Broncos ran out and took the sideline before the game, the Colts played a short video tribute to Manning on the jumbotron. After the video, they showed Peyton, who had come onto the field a bit and waved to the crowd. The entire stadium gave him a thunderous standing ovation that lasted quite a while, until Peyton eventually walked off the field and onto the sidelines and the cheers died down a few moments after that. That was special. Really special. And it was made even better by what followed: a great football game with a lot of significant backstories in front of a national TV audience and a home crowd that was incredibly loud. The Colts beat the Broncos 39-33 in Peyton's return to Indianapolis, and that made it pretty much the perfect night for any Colts fan - they honored Peyton well and it was emotional, but the Colts still won. Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis was clearly the best moment of 2013.
Honorable Mention: Colts 28-point come-from-behind victory in wild card round vs. Chiefs