Doing these stats recaps after a Thursday night game is always a rough task, as it seems like it's been so long since the Colts played, and most people have moved on already after all the games this weekend. However, because I really like comparing how the Colts do to the rest of the league (that way we have something to compare them to), we wait until this morning to talk about the 33-28 Colts win in Houston; a game that really wasn't as close as the score indicates. You'll see how in just a bit.
After the Colts Week 1 loss to the Broncos, where we saw the Colts fall behind big, come crawling back, only to come up a bit short in the end, I had an article started about how the slow starts were becoming a trend (a really bad one), and the reason was the coaching staff did a really poor job game-planning for what their opponents were going to do. It would have been complimentary of the job they did in the second half adjusting, but it was not going to be kind to the coaching staff. I decided to give them an extra week, as the Broncos (this means Peyton Manning) had an entire offseason to figure out how to beat the Colts Defense, so it makes sense they might have some success early (at least it wasn't seven TD passes like 2013).
Since that awful first half in Denver, the Colts have played excellent in the first half of games, leading by an average score of 20-7, and have just smothered their opponents early. It was evident in Houston Thursday, scoring 24 in the first quarter, a first for the Colts franchise and only the 34th time in NFL history. The Colts have given up 24 points in the first quarter before, back in Week 13 of 2004 against the Titans. The final? 51-24 Colts (the Colts did have 17 of their own that day in Q1 too). That was actually one of only two of the 34 times where the team lost after scoring 24 in Q1. Thankfully the Colts didn't become the 3rd Thursday night. It's become clear the coaching staff has figured out how to curtail the slow starts. Hallelujah.
Another note from Elias (and verified here) on the 24-0 lead the Colts had was the 28th time a team has had a 24 or more point lead at the end of the first quarter, and every team has won. As you'd expect, Thursday's game was the smallest margin of victory for any of those 28 games, with only one other game being decided by one score. Glad to stay out of the history books there.
Josh talked about the onside kick converted perfectly by Pat McAfee as part of that spectacular first quarter, and it's amazing to me how a team could fail so bad on a kick return. After the onside kick the Colts ran against the Titans, it usually means the upcoming opponent at least has to spend 15 minutes making sure they're safe against it, which takes away valuable time from other things that happen way more often throughout a game. But the Texans clearly paid no attention, leaving a giant chasm in the middle of the field. McAfee mentioned they saw it on the opening kickoff, so he had the green light to go for it if they did it again. Some people may call that aggressive, but I call it extremely smart and a great heads-up play.
I do have one quibble with what the coaches did at the end of the first half, essentially letting 40 seconds run off the clock when they didn't have to. I don't know if it was every verified what the Coach Pagano was thinking, but some surmised he was trying for the rarely-used fair catch free kick right at the end. I have two issues with how they went about it:
- They should have called timeout with 10 or so seconds left. Enough time so that they couldn't just run a play and end the half, like they did.
- The free kick, optimistically, would have been from about 80 yards (the Colts 30). I know McAfee can boom it, but that's a really, really long way away, and prone to a return.
I would have called the last timeout right away, let the punt go where it went, then re-assess what to do. If it's within possibility to score some points, you go for it. If the Texans pinned them deep, take a knee and go into halftime (like they essentially did by running all the clock out). An extra three points would have made the final drive by the Texans a little less nerve-racking, as the Colts would have, at worst, had to go to Overtime. Really would have liked to know what the rationale was there, but it's completely been forgotten by everyone else.
One more note from Elias (man there was a lot of stuff from Thursday): Andrew Luck is now 13-2 as a starter against division opponents, tying him for the best record through 15 division games to start a career with Kurt Warner. Part great play by Luck and the Colts, part being in a really crappy division. The '99/'00 Rams played in a pretty bad division then too, so it obviously plays a part in this record. Still cool to see.
Time for stats. Let's go.
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 6:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||81.0%||4||75.0%||20||N||N||5-2|
|Avg Start Pos||33.2||6||24.7||11||Y||N||8-2|
|3 and Outs||1||2||3||15||N||N||4-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.622||10||1.269||6||Y||N||5-5|
|Ranking - Week (30)||6||12||6|
|Ranking - Season (182)||37||62||38|
Adjusted Stats for Week 6:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||91.8%||1||80.0%||27||N||N||5-2|
|Avg Start Pos||32.4||6||22.9||7||Y||N||8-2|
|3 and Outs||0.6||2||2.6||19||N||N||4-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.985||19||1.300||7||Y||N||5-5|
|Ranking - Week (30)||5||14||5|
|Ranking - Season (182)||22||98||46|
- I have to start on 3rd/4th Down, as both sides were spectacular on these crucial downs, but the Defense gets a little extra today. It was the third consecutive week they held their opponent to just one conversion on 3rd Down. Want to know how rare that is? From Colts Communications Asst. Brett Maikowski:
The @Colts have only allowed one 3rd down conversion in each of the last 3 games. The last @nfl team to do that was the 1992 Dallas Cowboys— Brett Maikowski (@bmaikowski) October 13, 2014
This is the main reason this Defense has made the complete turn-around: they are getting their opponent off the field. For years we were subjected to soft cushions and just bone-headed plays to extend drives. Now the expectation is they'll get them off the field. Pretty cool.
- At least for one week, the Colts figured out how to finish off drives with touchdowns, and even though we didn't know it at the time, scoring touchdowns was critical at the end of the game, or else it would have been the Colts needing a comeback drive. More of this please.
- Unfortunately the Defense was opposite of the Offense. Even though they didn't get down in scoring position often, the Texans scored 7 each time they were there, which is not good. I realize one time the special teams didn't help them out with a penalty on a field goal try, but still a disappointing performance as far as the Orange/Red Zone is concerned.
- Field Position was excellent on both sides once again. It's a big deal this season, and the Colts are cashing in.
- The turnovers are killers. I wish I could put my finger on what exactly the problem has been, but I don't think it's that easy. That's why the players and coaches are paid seven figures though, to figure that stuff out. It'll cost the Colts against a better team.
- Bad running the ball, bad stopping the run, win the game. Wash, rinse, repeat. League-wide too, as the record column indicates. Meanwhile, passing / stopping the pass went an unimpressive 7-0 this week.
Season Stats through Week 6 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||63.1%||6||Browns||66.4%||30||Ravens||27-8||0.771|
|Avg Start Pos||32.0||10||Dolphins||26.1||4||Cardinals||44-5||0.898|
|3 and Outs||2.45||2||Packers||3.75||14||Eagles||29-8||0.784|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.885||18||Saints||0.994||10||Vikings||25-20||0.556|
- This is the first week where I'm not including anything from 2013, which is why you'll see a semi-big difference from last week to this one. Most of it is good though.
- On Offense, the Colts lead the NFL in Drive Success Rate, our leading indicator of wins, so obviously an excellent sign. They sit in the top five in six other categories offensively, and rank 3rd overall. Not listed here, but they also lead the NFL in total points scored. Remember though that certain teams have played one less game.
- The Defense has not one, but two categories they led the NFL in. First is Time of Possession per Drive, and the other is the aforementioned 3rd/4th Down percentage. When was the last time we could say that about the Colts Defense? However...
- They rank dead last in Red Zone Efficiency and 30th in the Orange Zone, so while teams aren't getting into scoring position very often against the Colts, they are cashing in more than against any other team in the NFL. Needs to be cleaned up. They're also last in Yards per Carry and 29th in RB Success Rate. I don't care in the least, and you shouldn't either.
These games all look really good, and fairly consistent over the past month. With the way the schedule works out, there's a very real possibility we'll only see the Colts as underdogs once the rest of the year (@ Dallas). I think there's an outside chance they'll be dogs at Cleveland or at home to New England (I doubt it though). If they can sustain what they've done over the past month, even though it was against inferior opponents (save Baltimore), this team has a real shot at winning the Super Bowl, coming from a weak AFC.