For the first time since October 20th, the Colts looked like a Playoff team. Now let's hope we see this team over the next 8 weeks.
Sunday's 25-3 beatdown of the Texans by the Colts was quite enjoyable to watch, and had been forever since we could all watch the Colts play and not be either on the edge of our seats, or wanting to rip our eyeballs out over how they were playing. The Colts, especially the Defense, was locked in from the get-go and never looked back. These are the kind of wins you expect from a Playoff team against a team that, while talented, has clearly quit on the season. Credit to the Colts for stepping on their neck early and burying them before giving them any hope.
Speaking of that, I can now finally remember what scoring touchdowns in the first half looks like! After 30-some (I can't remember the exact number) straight first half possessions without a TD, the Colts took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards, capped off by a 14 yard catch by Griff Whalen (who made a great move to get wide open). The Colts followed that up with a 70 yard drive in the 2nd quarter with a brilliant play call: a shovel pass to Trent Richardson. It's a play they hadn't run all season, and was perfect for the Defense the Texans ran. The Colts had trips right, all of which were in man-to-man coverage. The Colts blocking scheme made it look like the play was designed to go that way, walling off the overloaded left-side of the Texans D-Line. Richardson just slipped underneath all those guys going after Andrew Luck, and walked in, with the only guy coming close to him being Hugh Thornton, who he had to jump over. The play-calling, especially in the first half, was one of the best of the season.
Quite a few people on Twitter criticized the fake punt the Colts ran on the first play of the 4th quarter, but I think it was a perfect time to run something like that. You're clearly dominating a game where the other team has checked out completely, the field position was right for it (around mid-field), and you hadn't run anything like that all season. It's one thing to practice something like this in practice, rather than get a real-time run-through with little-to-no consequences. Some may think it's better to not let other teams know about this and "surprise them", but I actually think the opposite is true. Now, instead of spending time on something else during practices, opposing teams know the Colts have done this, and have to prepare for it. Before, since the Colts never did it, they don't prepare. It's also better to get the crappy one out of the way now, so that on the very remote chance the Colts actually try this in a meaningful situation (it's pretty remote), they'll execute better.
I talked in my preview article that I wanted to see some new things, some wrinkles, feeling stuff out for the Playoffs, and I have to give credit to the entire coaching staff for doing just that. I've gone over two examples already, but there were several other times during the game where they tried something they hadn't before (fake punt), or something that was long overdue (a rollout by Luck, which of course was completed on a 3rd down). They need to keep doing those things this weekend. While seeding somewhat matters, the focus should be on preparing to win in January no matter the opponent or venue. In some ways I wish they had waited on the fake punt until this week against the Chiefs. Anything that takes them away from normal preparation is a good thing. More new and creative things, even if they don't work please.
Also need to point out the Colts new sack king Robert Mathis, besting both the season record (16.5) and career record (108) in Colts history over long-time terrorizer-in-crime Dwight Freeney. The sack came on strip-sack #42 of his career, an NFL record, which resulted in a safety, and the only points in the 2nd half for either team. Josh made the case for him as Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, and he's easily in the conversation. Both the Chiefs and Jaguars are middle-of-the-pack in terms of sacks allowed, so let's hope he gets 4.5 more over the final two weeks and end the speculation about whether he's the Player of the Year. Dude is awesome.
The stats look extremely good on one side of the ball, and explainable on the other. Let's jump in and find out which is which:
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 15:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||54.8%||20||42.9%||4||Y||N||6-3|
|Avg Start Pos||35.7||7||24.1||11||Y||N||12-0|
|3 and Outs||5||25||7||1||N||N||3-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.522||7||1.810||1||Y||N||4-3|
|Ranking - Week (32)||25||2||3|
|Ranking - Season (448)||292||11||41|
Adjusted Stats for Week 15:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||44.0%||28||56.2%||15||Y||N||6-3|
|Avg Start Pos||36.3||4||23.7||9||Y||N||12-0|
|3 and Outs||3.9||24||7.1||1||N||N||3-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.532||6||1.610||2||Y||N||4-3|
|Ranking - Week (32)||25||2||4|
|Ranking - Season (448)||298||18||58|
- I talked Thursday about how the Colts needed to take advantage of how bad the Texans have been in the Orange/Red Zone this year, and while the Offense struggled a bit (three FGs), the Defense decided they didn't even feel like letting them get there. The Texans only once entered that Orange Zone, and that was only to the 31 yard line. That's the closest they got to the Colts end zone Sunday. Great effort by the Defense.
- The Colts dominated our top 2 stats, Drive Success Rate and Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt defensively, which is why the score was so lopsided. Again, this is the team we saw the first half of the season. I'm glad it's still there, even if it did come against the team with the worst record in the NFL (but they aren't the worst team).
- The Colts Defense forced seven 3 and Outs, which was one of the things the Texans Offense actually did well this season. Again, just dominant from the Colts.
- I'm going to give the Offense a pass this week, mostly because they didn't have to really do anything in the second half thanks to how well the Defense was playing. A very comfortable lead will do that to you.
- In the first half the Colts scored points on four of their six drives, and those other two drives both ended in Texans territory. One was a bad interception by Luck on a ball he should have never thrown (and a good play by Jonathan Joseph), and the other was a 4th and 2 punt from the HOU 41 that went for a touchback. It ended up not mattering Sunday, but it might going forward. You had nothing to lose Coach. Get your team some experience in those situations. Plus it's the right decision to go for it, especially after you ran the ball on 3rd down, presumably making it an easier 4th down conversion. Just really conflicting thoughts on those two plays.
- Richardson had the most yards rushing as a Colt Sunday, which is good, but his runs weren't entirely successful, as the Colts ranked just 27th in RB Success rate. I know those aren't all his, but they are 80% his. Still leaving yards out there. He's great in the passing game though. More of that please.
- Check out how poor the Colts were on both sides at RB Success Rate. Guess that's why every NFL team needs to run the ball and stop the run, just like the Texans did, right?
- Field Position was huge for the Colts Sunday, as well as everywhere else around the league. Teams went 12-0 when they had above average field position on both sides of the ball.
Season Stats through Week 15 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||54.2%||16||Broncos||51.2%||13||Seahawks||82-17||0.828|
|Avg Start Pos||29.8||14||Chiefs||27.9||9||Chargers||103-23||0.817|
|3 and Outs||3.27||8||Chargers||3.35||23||49ers||60-28||0.682|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.629||4||Patriots||0.878||8||Ravens||56-53||0.514|
- The very strong Defensive performance jumped them from 26th back to 21st, and they aren't dead last in any category any more! Good to see those numbers at the top of the table getting better though. That's where you win games.
- Offense dropped to #2 in Turnovers behind the Panthers, while everything else pretty much stayed where it was before. Big opportunity to improve those numbers next week.
- Field Position is much more important this year than in previous years, winning at almost 82%. Running the ball/stopping the run is still leading to a losing record.
58th overall best game of the season, and 18th defensively of the entire NFL. That's a Playoff team, and the team envisioned by Chuck Pagano when he got here. Duplicating this kind of performance on back-to-back weeks has only happened once this season. It would be a hell-of-a-time to do that again next week.