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Final Score: Colts 24, Broncos 31

The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Denver Broncos tonight, 31-24. The theme of the game: missed opportunities.

Jeff Gross

Nobody can say that the Indianapolis Colts didn't have a chance.  Nobody can say that they didn't have the opportunities to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football on the road.  But while the opportunities were there, the Colts just didn't take advantage of them.  The theme of the night for the team has to be missed opportunities.  And a lot of them.

You could make a legitimate case that this team left 14 points on the field.  There was the missed 55-yard field goal early on that wouldn't have counted anyway due to the delay of game.  But on 4th and 1 in that situation on the road?  Go for it.  The Colts got down to the half yard line in the third quarter and were stuffed on fourth and a half-a-yard.  The Colts got to the red zone once again in the third quarter and had to settle for a field goal despite having should have scored a touchdown.  The Colts left a lot of points on the field tonight.  And they have no one to blame but themselves.

What about the Broncos fumble in the fourth quarter that three Colts had a shot at, yet the Broncos still recovered?  Or what about the opportunities for interceptions of Peyton Manning early in the game that, while they would have been nice plays, were really there for the Colts to make?  Or what about the Griff Whalen punt return touchdown that wasn't but almost was?

Yes, the Colts most certainly had a shot this game.  More than that, the door was wide open and the Colts just didn't walk through it.  Don't let the final score fool you - the game was there for the taking for the Colts.  They just didn't take it.

The defense was torched in the first half.  I mean, Peyton Manning completely lit them up.  Sure, there were some plays that showed why Manning is maybe the best of all time, but the Colts defense was completely outmatched.  Julius Thomas scored three touchdowns and the defense didn't stop Denver's offense whatsoever.  But in the second half, they stopped Manning and the Broncos offense multiple times.  In short, in the second half the Colts defense did everything they could to get the Colts back in the game.  And surprisingly, it was the offense that didn't capitalize.

Andrew Luck and offense moved the ball well.  They marched up and down the field with ease in the second half.  But when they got in the red zone, they couldn't do anything.  The red zone was one of their biggest points of emphases entering the season, and so far this year it has been one of the weakest points of the team.

Missed opportunities.  That's the theme of the game for the Colts.  They went to Denver, played the mighty Broncos, weathered an early storm, and had all the opportunities in the world to get back into the game and take it.  But they didn't.  Instead, we're left talking about all the chances the Colts missed.

Let's look at some notes from the game:

  • Firstly, I think the play calling stunk for the Colts tonight.  Especially in the red zone.  This was a very, very bad game for Pep Hamilton.  His play calling sucked and it really cost the Colts tonight.
  • Defensively, the Colts first half was terrible.  But they adjusted in the second half (and were helped out by some sloppiness by the Broncos offense).  What we really saw tonight was how much impact the absence of Robert Mathis had in this game. The Colts couldn't get pass rush on Peyton Manning whatsoever.  It's amazing how much of a difference that makes.
  • Zach Kerr saw some good time with the defensive line tonight.  Good to see the undrafted guy getting some time.
  • Speaking of the front seven, however, they weren't good tonight.
  • D'Qwell Jackson had a really, really rough night, especially in coverage.  I'll talk more about this in the next day or two, but I think the Colts should consider playing Josh McNary much more and limiting Jackson to being a one or two down guy.  Doubt they will, but they should consider it.
  • The real move they should consider, however, is to replace Trent Richardson with Ahmad Bradshaw as the starting running back.  They essentially did in the second half of this game, and the impact was huge.  Bradshaw is such a great fit for the system, easily the best back, and just brings so much more to the table.  It makes so much sense that it probably won't happen.
  • ANDREW LUCK IS FREAKING GOOD.  Yes, he made some mistakes.  But his team put him in a big hole and he brought them back in the second half to have many, many opportunities to win the game.  Luck completed 35 of 53 passes (66%) for 370 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 picks, and he also added 5 rushes for 19 yards and a score.  The stats weren't pretty for Luck and the game wasn't his best, but he showed once again why he's so good.  He almost led the Colts back.
  • Speaking of Luck not getting much help, we already talked about how Pep Hamilton stunk, but then the offensive line didn't help any, either.  The line, as was expected, had a rough night.
  • LaRon Landry stunk tonight.
  • Coby Fleener didn't have a great game, either.
  • Cam Johnson left the game with an elbow strain and didn't return, and then Jerrell Freeman left with a hamstring injury and didn't return.  Reggie Wayne had a play where he looked shaken up (his knee), but he looks like he's ok.
  • Speaking of Reggie Wayne, what a return! 9 catches for 98 yards, Andrew Luck's go-to-guy again, and really the only Colts receiver who consistently did something tonight.
  • Vontae Davis had a great game.  He made some great plays, but the Colts' put him on an island tonight and it worked out well.  Davis did a great job tonight.
  • Greg Toler, on the other hand?  He had a rough game.
  • Again, so many missed opportunities.  It's rough, but the Colts fought hard and didn't make it easy for the Broncos.
  • There's no reason to freak out about an opening loss to the Broncos.  Before you overreact, make sure you realize that.  This game doesn't change anything about what we think about the team.  Everyone expected a loss.