If there's one takeaway I think you should have from the Colts 25-24 come-from-behind win in Cleveland, it's something I've said before (not for a while), and it certainly rang true Sunday:
All yards are not created equal.
When Boom Herron converted on 4th and short from just outside the 2 (which was a ridiculous spot and completely swept under the rug after the play "stood" on the field), it may have been the most important two yards the Colts have all season. We've (unfortunately) seen a lot of 2 or even 3 yard runs this season at various times, and we become incredulous when a particular player keeps getting the ball and not running for more than that on a carry. But on a boxscore, or when you calculate Yards per Carry, they all count the same. It's why I prefer Football Outsiders' stat RB Success Rate, as I think it paints a better picture for how a RB performs.
In terms of Herron's run Sunday, though, I'm going to use Win Percentage Added, a stat that can be found in various places, but started with Brian Burke at Advanced Football Analytics. Before the 4th down play, the Colts had just a 40% chance of winning the game. After? 85%. It was the second most important play of the entire weekend, behind the 87 yard game-winner by the Vikings in Overtime. Those two yards, which he absolutely earned with some nifty moves down the line, could be the difference between potentially heading to Denver with a Playoff win (I'll take my chances) and going to Foxboro in Round 2 (we've seen that story three times already). Just two yards. This is why when somebody states a rank and it relates to "Yards", just laugh in their face. It's the worst way possible to value a team, and you saw why Sunday.
Overall I thought Sunday the Colts were never out of it, and quite frankly had very little doubt they'd win the game in the end. At one point early in the 4th quarter, I glanced up at the scoreboard in the corner of the screen, saw it was 24-19, and thought "oh ya, the Colts are still losing. Certainly doesn't feel that way." Have I grown too accustomed to seeing this team win games in the 4th quarter? Am I numb to all the dumb plays that seemingly never matter in the end? Do the Colts just play a lot of crappy QBs so they never feel out of any game? Probably a combination of all three. The Colts struggled all day, spotted the Browns 17 points, and still won. Don't take that for granted, folks. Less than 25% of the league can do that consistently.
I'd be remiss to not mention the end of Reggie Wayne's streak of consecutive games with at least 3 catches at 82 games, in what was one of Wayne's worst games of his career. After the game we find out from Head Coach Chuck Pagano he's been playing through multiple injuries, including a torn tricep. Josh speculated Sunday that Wayne is trying to tough it out through all these injuries because it's his last season, and I've though that for most of this season now. He's been very nostalgic during his radio shows on 1260 AM here in Indianapolis (you can hear it Tuesday at 5:00 pm), and I don't remember him ever talking about his career like he has this season. It's the end of his contract, and he doesn't strike me as the type of guy who is going to go out there just to be out there. This means Sunday may be his last home game. Maybe it's too soon to be thinking about that now, but it's highly probable.
After the Colts scored to take the lead, I turned to my wife and said "The Browns are just going to chuck it deep a couple times and try to get an Interference penalty, because they have no chance of actually moving the ball," and that's exactly what we saw. Josh Gordon dropped a catchable ball on the first play that would have put them in field goal range, but the other two plays were excellent by the Colts Defense to not only ensure nobody was open, but not to interfere. It was telling on the Josh Gordy interception that the receiver flopped like he was crushed then got up looking for the flag, even though he made zero attempt to actually go for the ball. It was a nice job by the Defense to close the game out.
As you'd expect, one side of the ball played lights out, while the other played quite bad. The sides, however, aren't the ones we normally see play well / struggle. Let's jump into the numbers and find out what happened.
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 14:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||71.4%||10||35.7%||6||Y||N||4-1|
|Avg Start Pos||22.1||26||30.9||20||N||Y||11-2|
|3 and Outs||5||25||7||1||N||N||4-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.526||4||1.349||6||Y||N||4-3|
|Ranking - Week (32)||24||3||12|
|Ranking - Season (416)||356||15||154|
Adjusted Stats for Week 14:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||72.5%||8||43.7%||8||Y||N||4-1|
|Avg Start Pos||22.0||26||31.0||21||N||Y||11-2|
|3 and Outs||5.1||26||6.1||2||N||N||4-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.701||10||1.342||6||Y||N||4-3|
|Ranking - Week (32)||24||2||11|
|Ranking - Season (416)||333||47||150|
- The Colts were the worst team turning the ball over this weekend, and these stats don't even take into account two of them were touchdowns for the Browns Defense, and the third was a field goal after three plays of not going anywhere for the Browns Offense. I really can't believe it's gotten this bad.
- The Browns are now ranked the best team against the pass, and it showed on Sunday, as the Colts had all kinds of problems throwing the ball. Thankfully they were able to pick their spots, and T.Y. Hilton was able to beat Joe Haden a couple times for huge plays. He's pretty good, huh? This went about as I expected.
- There were a lot of short drives for the Colts, in Yards, Time, and Plays. I'm chalking this up to one game anomaly, and they'll have to show me several more like this to think it's a trend. Twelve games mean way more than just one. Not worried here.
- Why were the Colts in it at the end with a chance to win? Because on those drives they got close to the end zone, they scored touchdowns. They ranked 8th in Orange Zone Efficiency, and 11th in the Red Zone, which was good enough to win the game. How about that 50 yarder from still-perfect Adam Vinatieri? Questionable call from the coaches, but the Hall of Famer makes the coaches look very smart.
- In what's been a rare occurrence this season across the entire NFL, the Colts won the game despite being below average in Starting Field Position on both sides of the ball. Teams have won 85% of the time this year when doing that, so the Colts bucked a trend yesterday. Let's not have to do that again. Again, like the drives, one game doesn't trump the previous 12. They'll get things together.
- The Defense was excellent, ranking 2nd overall for the weekend, and #1 against the pass, allowing just an average of 1.5 yards per attempt. They did get some help from another poor showing from Brian Hoyer (who appears to be headed for the bench this week), but to do that without Vontae Davis is very impressive, no matter the opponent.
- I was dreading seeing Josh Gordon against this Defense without Davis, and there were times during the game Sunday where I thought to myself, "Is Gordon hurt? Where the hell is he?" Thankfully his 2 catch, 15 yard day, all in the first 7 minutes of the game, didn't hurt my fantasy team, but it was nice to see the Browns couldn't get him the ball, whether it be good coverage, or terrible overthrows.
- I don't need to single out many Defensive categories, as they did really well in almost all of them. Easily their best performance against a good team (even though they had bad QB play), and coming on the road was a big help. It gives me hope they might be able to do something in the Playoffs, but I'm not quite sold yet.
- Running the ball and stopping the run were quite effective this week, going a combined 12-2, including the Colts being above average in both this week. I've never noticed a December trend before, but we'll keep an eye on it. The Colts final three opponents aren't very good stopping the run, so we should see more games like this to finish out the season.
Season Stats through Week 14 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||58.1%||10||Broncos||56.3%||20||Rams||57-17||0.770|
|Avg Start Pos||30.0||16||Dolphins||27.3||2||Patriots||97-16||0.858|
|3 and Outs||3.68||16||Dolphins||4.86||4||Broncos||55-25||0.688|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.757||12||Jaguars||0.851||13||Redskins||54-38||0.587|
- The Offense took a couple steps back to 10th, and the only thing sticking out like a sore thumb is that 30th ranking in Turnovers, sitting ahead of only the Buccaneers and the Eagles (interesting). I'm sure the Colts will just keep to the process, taking things one day at a time, and preparing themselves to play Colts football in order to fix those problems.
- The Defense also fell a couple spots despite the strong showing, but that's more on other teams just playing well, and teams being bunched together very closely. Still very good getting opponents off the field, but struggling if they have extended drives.
This was by far the worst Offensive performance of the season, and it was nice of the Defense to bail them out. Turnovers are going to be the reason this team doesn't advance in the Playoffs. They seemingly don't care about taking care of the football. It's probably because they win in spite of being careless against bad teams. In the Playoffs, there are no bad teams. Well, other than whoever wins the NFC South, but unfortunately they don't get to play the Colts.