If it weren't for Andrew Luck, it's scary to think about where this Colts team would be.
The Colts' quarterback reminded fans of the days of Peyton Manning today, having to single handedly lead his team to a win. That's not the way you want to do things, but at least Luck is capable of winning games.
With just over five minutes left in a game that his team was trailing 17-14, Luck took off running up the middle on a play that he totally saw before the snap would be there. 19 yards later and the Colts had the lead for what would be the final score of the ballgame.
But that didn't mean the drama ended there. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who won the battle of a group of bad quarterbacks in training camp, was anything but bad today. And he led the Raiders on one last drive downfield. But with under 30 seconds left in the game, Pryor's pass to the end zone was picked off by Antoine Bethea.
Colts nation let out a huge exhale. They were 1-0, but it was not an impressive showing by the Colts and one that leaves us with many more questions than answers. There are a lot of things I want to address from this game, and I will do so in my typical bulleted notes format.
- This Colts defense looked really bad today. Really bad. Yeah, we absolutely must give credit to Terrelle Pryor, who played a very good ballgame. But the Colts defense really didn't put up much of a fight for much of the game. The pass rush couldn't bring Pryor down. The defenders on the backside didn't set the edge and let Pryor run wild. The secondary let too many passes complete, and uncontested at that. They looked unprepared and totally outmatched. And that's not how it should be at all, especially after all of the moves made to improve the defense this offseason.
- Bjoern Werner was bad today. I wasn't impressed. He got some pressure at times, but he never could wrap up when he did. A lot of the time, though, he wasn't even getting pressure in the first place.
- Greg Toler picked off a pass on the opening drive, but he didn't have the best coverage overall. He let too many passes be completed in front of him.
- Erik Walden, the player brought in to defend the run and set the edge, didn't do that at all today. If you remember right, he is terrible against running quarterbacks and he showed that once again today. Seriously, if the Colts had another option at the spot who could even somewhat play the run, they'd have to think about playing them against guys like Colin Kaepernick, who the Colts play in a few weeks. But the Colts don't have someone else there, so it looks like Walden's job is safe. But he played bad today and continued his bad play against running quarterbacks in his career.
- One of the few bright spots for the Colts defense today was LaRon Landry. He delivered a few Landry-type hits and he led the team with 15 tackles. He looked good all game long. He was a bright spot in an otherwise very dim defensive performance.
- The Colts' tackling today was poor as well. Numerous times they had the ballcarrier wrapped up but didn't bring him down. Have to finish.
- Offensively, it was a mixed bag for the Colts. They started off very well but cooled off in the middle of the game before ending well.
- The first two drives were great, matching great play calling with great protection with great passes from Luck. The team also ran the ball well and overall they looked very tough. Luck's first two drives both ended with touchdowns and he started 8/8 for 113 yards and 2 TDs.
- On those first two drives, the Colts actually had really good protection for Luck. On two plays he really stood in there and took a hit, and on both of them he threw touchdowns. It was impressive.
- As the game went on, however, the Colts' pass protection fell apart and Luck began to struggle. Luck didn't help the line out much like he normally does, and instead Luck was at least partly to blame for some of the sacks.
- I though Vick Ballard ran well today. He finished with 13 carries for 63 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and ran hard all game. When he was in there, the offense looked much better.
- Ahmad Bradshaw made his Colts debut today, carrying the ball 7 times for 26 yarsd (3.6 yards per carry). He looked ok, but I wasn't near as impressed with him as I was with Ballard.
- The real star of the game running the football for the Colts, though, was Andrew Luck. He ran 6 times for 38 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and scored that aforementioned 19 yard touchdown to win the game.
- Reggie Wayne is awesome. Really awesome. He's so important to this Colts' team. He caught 8 passes for 96 yards and a score today and was always the one Luck went to when he needed a big play.
- My big offensive question is why T.Y. Hilton wasn't involved more? He caught only 3 passes for 20 yards and was only targeted 5 times. I don't get it at all, after he played such a big role and was so good in both training camp and preseason. That is a huge question for Pep Hamilton. Huge.
- I hate to dwell on this, but the officials were horrific today. They missed several key calls, including (but not limited to) a missed facemask on Andrew Luck on a 4th down sack, a bunch of holds on Robert Mathis, and a terrible missed pass interference call on T.Y. Hilton. That interference call was awful, as Hilton was running deep downfield and the defender came in without even looking at the ball and hit Hilton. Before the ball got there. The officials ruled it incidental contact, but it was anything but. Chuck Pagano was mad and the fans let the refs hear it, and rightfully so. If that's incidental contact, nobody would ever complete a pass in the NFL because defenders would just do that every play.
- Terrelle Pryor looked very impressive today. He threw for 217 yards and rushed for an additional 112. In the end, he threw two interceptions (one of which cost the Raiders the game), but the lack of preparedness and play by the Colts defense was alarming. Considering the fact that they have to play both Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson soon, they absolutely have to work on defending running quarterbacks. While a good percentage of the blame has to lie with the players as well, Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky deserve blame as well because of how unprepared the defense looked.
- Andrew Luck is good. Really, really good. He led his 8th game winning drive and 5th fourth quarter comeback of his career, while completing 18 of 23 passes for 178 yards and 2 scores without a pick and rushing 6 times for 38 yards and a score.
- Dwayne Allen injured his foot and did not return. It's unknown at this point whether it is the same foot he injured in preseason. [UPDATE: During the game, it was reported that Allen's injury was to his foot. That was misreported and Allen's injury is actually a hip injury. Sorry for the confusion.]