The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Cleveland Browns 25-24 on Sunday. What did we learn from the game? Here are three takeaways (and we're using the team "learn" loosely):
The Best Offensive Line isn't the Starting Offensive Line
At the beginning of the game, Andrew Luck wasn't getting any time to throw. It seemed like on every drop back he had someone in his face almost immediately. The Browns were sending blitzes, and to nobody's surprise they were attacking the interior of the line and center Jonotthan Harrison. And the rookie center looked awful. He was doing terrible, and he eventually left the game in the first half with a "burner." He didn't return. In his place stepped in A.Q. Shipley, who started the first four games of the season for the Colts. As it was earlier in the year, it wasn't even close on Sunday: Shipley easily outplayed Harrison. That was the single biggest thing that changed as it pertained to the pass protection, which was improved as the game went on. Also, Joe Reitz (the team's starting right guard with Hugh Thornton out) went down with an injury that appeared serious (he was carted off the field with an ankle injury), so Khaled Holmes came in and played right guard. He played well also. Reitz is better than starter Hugh Thornton, and Holmes looked like it in the action he saw today. One thing was pretty clear, however: the five players technically listed as "starters" by the Colts when healthy aren't the five best linemen the Colts have. And if Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson are serious about protecting Andrew Luck and providing the best chance to win games, then they'll adjust accordingly.
Maybe the Defense without Davis isn't Doomed (but let's hope it's not tested anymore)
The Colts' defense was playing without Vontae Davis, their best player, as he recovers from a concussion. Josh Gordy, in his place, has been terrible this season. Since the Colts were going up against one of the best receivers in the NFL in Josh Gordon, it seemed like certain doom for the Colts' defense. In actuality, Gordon caught just two passes for 15 yards all game on seven targets. The Browns racked up just 140 yards passing while completing 14 of 31 attempts. Of course, let's be certain to give a lot of credit to Brian Hoyer, who certainly helped the Colts' secondary out big-time, but at the same time let's not take all the credit away from the secondary either. Without one of the best corners in football this season and without their best and most important defensive player, they still showed up, limited Cleveland to just 140 yards passing and 248 total yards, and ten offensive points. That's an impressive game regardless of who the opposing quarterback is.
T.Y. Hilton is Awesome
Ok, ok, I don't think anybody learned this for the first time on Sunday, but it was hard to miss: T.Y. Hilton is awesome. He caught 10 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts' win, accounting for over half of the team's yards through the air. Seriously, Andrew Luck threw for 294 yards (and the team had 269 net passing yards), and Hilton recorded 150 of them. Every other true receiver for the Colts combined? Four catches for 38 yards on fourteen targets. In fact, between both the Colts and the Browns, all true wide receivers combined for 13 catches, 134 yards, and zero touchdowns on 37 targets. T.Y. Hilton by himself caught 10 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 19 targets. His 42-yard score sparked a Colts' rally, and his one-yard score capped it. Hilton was fantastic on Sunday, and while it's not really something we "learned," I'd be remiss not to include it.
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