I had pretty low expectations going into Sunday night's season opener in Denver for the Colts, so a 31-24 loss was right in line with what I was expecting. In fact, if I'd listened to the Winning Stats Predictor, I could have improved my record on the day to 6-1 had I bet the game like it said I should have, but shied away because of a whole myriad of reasons, mostly centered around Peyton Manning and revenge. So the Colts only losing by 7 was a little bit of a nice surprise.
I agree with Josh's sentiment from earlier today about the Colts season as a whole, and while the Robert Mathis news certainly puts a giant asterisk on the last 12 games, I think I'd rephrase what Josh said slightly: Nothing I saw last night made me change my opinion on the Colts. We don't really know how good the Colts Defense is because they played against a team that was one of the most prolific in NFL history a season ago. Maybe holding them to 70 yards in the second half, and just having a bad half against a ridiculously good team, is all it was. We saw a running game that had no chance to be established (even though I hate that phrase) so it's tough to evaluate, but early returns are right in line with what we thought: not very good. Andrew Luck can find ways to score points late in games to bring his team back from the dead, etc. We knew all of this stuff before last night. So it isn't quite "don't worry", it's just "more of the same" with a bit of an unknown because of the opponent.
One of the really good things from last night was a successful, expected onside kick. Want to know how rare that is? There have been 680 expected onside kicks (happening in 4th quarter) since 2000, with only 10.7% of them being successful during that time. It's really low percentage. The last time the Colts did it? The epic Tampa Bay Monday night game in 2003. Eleven years ago. The decision when down 7 to kick it deep was a long shot either way and very close, but based on the math (which I won't show you here) and a couple assumptions, it would have been slightly better to try the onside again. We're talking 4.6% chance of winning to 2.9%, which means there isn't really a good choice here. No complaining here.
I also didn't agree with the decision to try a 55 yard field goal on the first drive of the game instead of going for it on 4th and 1, even with the added distance that being a mile high gives you. You're playing an Offense that scores points at will (and did in the first half). You must score touchdowns. The rest of the decisions that Chuck Pagano made were correct though, going for it on 4th downs even when backed up inside Colts territory, going for it at the goal line, etc. I'm going to stay optimistic and hope maybe he figured things out after seeing how his first decision wasn't so good. Time will tell.
Since we are in Week 1, we can't do any adjusted stats, so we can only look at the raw numbers. Let's jump in...
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 1:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||28.6%||29||85.7%||30||N||Y||3-1|
|Avg Start Pos||29.3||12||24.8||15||N||N||10-1|
|3 and Outs||3||12||3||11||N||N||8-0|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.643||11||1.014||15||Y||N||2-6|
|Ranking - Week (32)||21||27||28|
|Ranking - Season (32)||21||27||28|
- These numbers are pretty ugly all-around. Far cry from the #1 Offense we saw last year from the Colts in Week 1. But it's about what we saw with our eyes on Sunday night.
- On Offense, the game can be entirely summed up by their Red and Orange Zone numbers, which were really, really bad. Especially after we talked on Thursday that the Colts had to exploit that mismatch, as the Broncos were ranked 31st last year in the Red Zone. You absolutely cannot leave points on the field against a team with Peyton Manning. We all know this.
- The rest of the Offensive numbers aren't all that bad, ranking above average for quite a few of them. Drive Success Rate was a pleasant surprise being that high, as it was unexpected.
- Last year the Colts dominated the Broncos on 3rd Down. This year the opposite happened. Too many missed opportunities.
- On Defense the Colts allowed the Broncos Offense to control the clock, keep extending drives, and let them score TDs at the end of them. Pretty much a recipe for disaster. The second half was much better, forcing five punts on six drives, and at most one first down on those non-TD drives, but the first half just killed them.
- The Defense also avoided giving up the long play. There were a couple >30 yard plays, but if I remember right, they were all picking on one defensive player in particular. Overall though a good day of keeping the Offense in front of them.
- If I hear a reference to the 3.2 YPC given up by the Defense and how good it was to stop the run, I may go nuts. In the first half, when the Broncos were running at full speed, they averaged 4.5 YPC. Second Half when trying to run out clock and the Colts could expect more running? 2.6 YPC.
In subsequent weeks we'll have a season totals table as well as a week to week comparison to see how the Colts do over the course of the season, as well as adjusted stats, which give us a much truer sense as to how they played.