As halftime was winding down Sunday night, I told my wife, who was getting ready for bed, that I was giving the Colts one more series to score points, and as long as they kept scoring points I'd keep watching. How close was I to turning the game off? With about two minutes left in the third quarter the Colts had a 3rd and 10 around their own 40. I shut my computer and had the remote in my hand when Andrew Luck found T.Y. Hilton for 16 yards (a great catch), keeping the drive alive. The rest, as we know, is history.
I don't bring win probabilities up too often here, but Sunday night's 27-24 Colts win over Houston is one of those games where you see just how improbable a comeback that was. With 12:11 left in the game, the Colts trailed 24-12, and Case Keenum ran for 7 yards on first down to the Colts 25 yard line. According to Pro-Football-Reference, the Texans had a 99.5% chance of winning the game after that play. That's just about as close to a mortal lock as you can get. In betting terms, that would be +20000, or you'd win $20,000 on a $100 bet. Even after the Colts took the lead (and Coby Fleener's unreal catch on the two-pointer upped the win percentage by nearly 19%), the Texans were actually more likely to win after Andre Johnson's catch down to the 37 with 14 seconds left, 53%. Thankfully the Texans don't have a league-average kicker, and the Colts finished their amazing comeback win.
It took about two and a half quarters, but the Colts passing game adjusted to playing their first game since December 27, 1998 without Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne in uniform, a span of 251 games. Talk about longevity. We certainly saw a glimpse of the future with Hilton scoring three TDs, including that 58 yard bomb dropped just perfectly by Luck, in stride and over double coverage. It's one of those plays you just smile and nod to yourself, thanking whichever deity you choose that this guy plays for your favorite team.
The other thing I want to mention, and I had some good back-and-forth on Twitter after it happened, but I love that Chuck Pagano went for two after their first touchdown, scored with five seconds left in the 3rd quarter. In order to maximize points / limit possessions, when you're down 18 you have to go for two at some point in the game. It is always better to have the most information available to you, with the most time remaining, in order to make proper decisions later on. Going for 2 right away allowed the Colts to know right away they needed two TDs. I realize in this case it would not have mattered, as the Colts scored again with 9:30 remaining (where they would have gone for 2 if they didn't the first time). But what happens if you wait, you score a TD with 10 seconds left, and now must make the 2 pointer to stay in game. You miss, game over. You miss with 15 minutes left, there is plenty of time to make up for it. I've criticized Coach Pagano for other decisions like this earlier this season, so I'm thrilled he may be coming around, even just a little bit.
The stats don't look all that great for the Colts, but let's jump in and see where we can find the bright spots, and where they need work still.
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 9:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||57.1%||16||28.6%||1||Y||N||4-0|
|Avg Start Pos||29.8||9||26.5||14||N||N||5-2|
|3 and Outs||4||19||0||25||N||Y||2-4|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.259||3||1.265||3||Y||N||4-1|
|Ranking - Week (26)||19||18||23|
|Ranking - Season (266)||158||195||203|
Adjusted Stats for Week 9:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||51.9%||18||43.2%||6||Y||N||4-0|
|Avg Start Pos||30.5||3||25.0||8||N||N||5-2|
|3 and Outs||2.9||13||1.4||23||N||Y||2-4|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.183||1||1.141||4||Y||N||4-1|
|Ranking - Week (26)||17||20||21|
|Ranking - Season (266)||126||197||183|
- As you'd expect from a game where they looked like they were alive for only the final 1/3 of the game, the numbers aren't that great. But there are a couple spots that tell the story.
As I said in the preview, the Texans have been bitten hard in the Orange/Red Zone all season, being pretty bad on both sides of the ball, and thankfully for the Colts that continued Sunday. A lot of that can be placed on Kicker Randy Bullock, who I'm surprised is still employed at this point. But the Offense took full advantage of their opportunities as well, as both the Colts Offense and Defense were above average in both stats.
- Another game with no turnovers for the Offense. It's obviously a combination of a lower risk passing scheme than last year and Luck's maturation as a QB, and I don't really care which one is more important. The Colts aren't beating themselves, which is huge in the NFL. Defense didn't force a turnover, but the Special Teams "did" force one, only to have it taken away from them. Here I thought replay reviews were getting better...
- Field Position was a nice positive, especially against a Defense that doesn't give up drives easily. The Defense couldn't force a Three and Out on the Texans, and the Offense had four, which was expected. Texans Defense was #1 in the NFL in forcing them. Once the drive got rolling, the Colts were good though. I'll wait until after next week to draw any conclusions on this, as the inconsistency this week was more due to the Defense than the Colts Offense.
- The Colts ran the ball well in the first half, and couldn't move the ball at all. They completely abandoned the run in the 2nd half (just one run until final drive), and scored 24 points. Then ran it three times into the backs of their linemen on the last drive, where it would have been safer to just take three kneel downs. The run game is at its most importance at "winning time", and they didn't even try. What gives?
- The passing stat on Defense is atrocious, and dropped the Colts from 4th overall in the league to 14th, as you'll see in a minute. It's easy to say in hindsight, but usually backup QBs will look for the big-time receivers to help them out, and it might have been in the Colts best interest to gameplan for that. Some of what happening you can chalk up to "Andre Johnson is very good", but some of them were just bad plays by the secondary. They can make up for it next week against Kellen Clemens.
- Coming into the weekend Drive Success Rate was 45-2 when both Off. and Def. were above average, but was 3-4 this weekend, the weirdest anomaly I see for the week. The Dolphins, Chiefs, Jets, and Colts all won despite being below average on both sides in DSR. Just a weird weekend.
Season Stats through Week 9 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||56.3%||16||Broncos||51.3%||12||Chiefs||49-11||0.817|
|Avg Start Pos||29.3||16||Seahawks||27.1||5||Chiefs||55-15||0.786|
|3 and Outs||2.99||7||Chargers||3.53||18||Texans||36-18||0.667|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.474||1||Colts||0.831||16||Rams||36-31||0.537|
- The Offense stayed at 6th overall, which is a good thing after the first two and a half quarters Sunday. Let's hope it doesn't take them that long to get going this Sunday. Still leading the NFL in Turnovers and fewest Penalty Yards per Play, meaning teams have to actually beat the Colts, as they won't beat themselves.
- I also want to point out that Field Position is better than it's been in years as well. Usually the Colts are well into the 20s in terms of rank, and they are hovering right in the middle of the league. Just one first down less that is needed on each drive is a huge advantage to have.
- The Defense fell a couple spots to 19th overall, and continue to be one of the league's best on 3rd and 4th down, ranking 5th in the NFL. I can't complain too much with how the Defense is playing, as it's a big improvement from what we saw last year.
The Offense didn't struggle quite like it did in the two previous games, but still not at the level they had in the first five games. It's nice to steal a win like this, since by the numbers they clearly didn't deserve it. Every year there is one game that falls this way, and there will most likely be a game where the opposite happens, so it evens out in the end.
Tomorrow I'm going to have a mid-season review for the whole NFL, complete with best/worst games, Power Rankings, Consistency (the Colts aren't that), and a few other nuggets.