The Indianapolis Colts defeated the New York Giants 40-24 last night, and in doing so looked impressive. Here's a look at five things we learned from the game (and note we're using the word "learned" pretty loosely).
Vontae Davis' impact on the defense can't be overstated
I wrote a couple of weeks ago how the key to the Colts' defensive success this year are the cornerbacks, and specifically Vontae Davis, and we saw that very clearly on Monday night. After Davis went out against the Steelers early in the first quarter, things went from bad to disastrous. Davis' impact on the defense goes far beyond just the coverage aspect of things, though even there he's fantastic and playing like a truly elite cornerback this season. Last night the Giants tried to test him and, well, it didn't work out too well for New York. His being there is a huge boost to the secondary and to the defense as a whole, and I don't think it's any surprise that with Davis' return to the lineup came a defense much more like the one during the five-game win streak than the one last weekend in Pittsburgh.
Pep Hamilton really has changed his approach
The Colts opened up the game passing and they kept passing. In fact, it wasn't until the team had scored 40 points and had what was at that point a 30-point lead that the Colts started to run the ball. They threw it at a furious pace, and Andrew Luck passed the ball 46 times total on the game - while both starting running backs received just 7 carries each all game. The passing attack worked for them, and it was perhaps the most striking picture of something we've been seeing all year - that Pep Hamilton has changed his approach. This isn't a "power running team" by any means. The result of the change has been the league's number one offense and the league's number one passer. In fact, Andrew Luck became just the third quarterback in NFL history to have six straight games with at least 40 passing attempts, and he's on pace to throw 699 times this season. That mark would be the second most in NFL history and would break the franchise record by 20 attempts. The Colts have fully turned into the passing offense we hoped they'd be and that they're equipped to be, and Monday night's game showed that as clear as any game.
Even when he's a bit off, Andrew Luck is still great
Andrew Luck wasn't on the top of his game last night. Mind you, it wasn't a negative game (I'm looking at you, PFF), but it wasn't his best game. He missed some passes and looked out of sync some in the first half. And nonetheless, he completed 25 of 46 passes for 354 yards (7.7 yards per attempt), 4 touchdowns, and no picks for a quarterback rating of 108.4 - all on a night where he looked a bit off. This is where we've come now with Andrew Luck, when a 354 yard, four touchdown game is considered a bit off for the quarterback. He's having such a terrific season that even when he puts up numbers like that we still notice that he wasn't on the top of his game. For most quarterbacks in the league, those numbers would qualify for their best game of the year. For Luck, the yardage was just the sixth most in a game he's thrown this year and the four touchdowns is something he has done in two other games this year. That tells you everything you need to know about Luck - even on a good but not great night, he put up great numbers. Andrew Luck was good on Monday night, but in the reaction from many after the game we see just how incredible he has been this year.
Rookies are already producing
The Colts had just five draft picks in this year's draft, but they made them count. Four of the five played last night (and the other, Ulrick John, is on injured reserve). Jack Mewhort started once again at left guard, playing all 75 of the offensive snaps. Donte Moncrief saw 25 snaps on offense (33%) as well as 20 on special teams (50%) and caught 1 pass for 2 yards. Jonathan Newsome saw 46 snaps on defense (61%) and also 8 on special teams (20%) and had his best game as a pro, notching two sacks and a forced fumble to go along with 7 tackles (two for loss) and a quarterback hit. Andrew Jackson even got in on the action, though playing only one defensive snap - but 24 on special teams (60%). Additionally, undrafted rookies Jonotthan Harrison started at center once again (playing every snap on offense) and Zach Kerr was once again a factor along the defensive line (seeing 31 snaps - 41% of the defense's snaps). Undrafted rookie defensive backs Dewey McDonald and Loucheiz Purifoy also made a significant impact on special teams. The rookies were producing for the Colts last night, and that was good to see.
The Colts are fine
There were plenty of overreactions last week after the Colts lost to the Steelers, with many saying that the Colts weren't good enough to compete for a title. News flash: yeah, they are. Look, the Colts have their weaknesses, but overall this season they've been impressive. Last week was the aberration, not a representation of what the team actually is. Powered by a top offense and an elite quarterback, the Colts are fully capable of contending. The Colts are fine.
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