Mondays always seem better after a Colts win, don't they? Yesterday, the Colts pulled the upset and defeated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 24-13 in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs, advancing to the AFC title game.
It was a huge win and one that will be remembered for a long time, as the Colts defeated their former quarterback in a game in which their current quarterback played great. Andrew Luck led the Colts offense, but he's most certainly not the only one who deserves credit. I wanted to get a post up immediately after the game, which I did, but because of that I didn't offer my typical notes on the Colts, so I'm coming back to do that here. I think it's a good way to highlight some things from the game that I might not otherwise get to hit on, so here's my Colts notebook from their win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
- Andrew Luck is really good. Just looking at his statline (27 of 43 for 265 yards and two touchdowns with two picks for a 76.2 passer rating) doesn't come close to telling the whole story. The two picks? Yeah, they were bad throws, but they weren't killers. Not all picks are created equal. Those picks both came on third down when Luck just threw the ball deep - so when it was picked, it was a similar result of a punt. That doesn't make them good throws, but it makes the picks less meaningful. Aside from those couple of throws, however, Luck played a great football game on the road against the Broncos on the biggest stage of his career. He outplayed Peyton Manning by a mile and in doing so showed that he's not just the NFL's future - he's the NFL's present, too.
- I don't think we can say enough good things about Boom Herron and his impact on the offense - his emergence recently has been huge for the Colts. On Sunday he rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown and caught 8 passes for 32 yards - as he had 31 combined touches and 95 total yards for Indy, plus he made some key blocks in pass protection. He injured his shoulder early on and then reinjured it on the touchdown run (it sounds like he's ok, though) but he didn't come out of the game and he once again showed why he's such a key part to the Colts' offense. If nothing else, Andrew Luck seems comfortable checking the ball down to Herron in the passing game, which has been huge in him not forcing passes in recent weeks.
- Last offseason, the Broncos signed corner Aqib Talib to a six-year, $57 million contract, and he had a good season. But on Sunday, T.Y. Hilton owned Talib. Credit goes to Hilton, absolutely for his performance, but also to Pep Hamilton for moving his best wide receiver around, including playing him in the slot to create matchup problems.
- Eight different Colts caught a pass in the game, but Reggie Wayne wasn't one of them. In fact, he only had one target. It's sad to see, but at this point that's really who he is - but at the same time, let's not ignore his impact entirely. He made some key blocks in the game, and I think it's a testament to Wayne that, even when he's not racking up the receiving stats, he's still playing and doing whatever he can and is asked to do to help the Colts win.
- The offensive line was tremendous. It was easily their best performance of the year, and it's the second week in a row that I'm saying that. They finally were able to start the same offensive line combination in two consecutive weeks and that surely helped, but the line did a great job of keeping Andrew Luck upright. It was just the third game of the season in which the Colts didn't allow a sack and the first since week four.
- The defense was fantastic this game, and it was easily their best performance of the season. Vontae Davis played arguably his best game of a great season, and Greg Toler and Darius Butler both stepped up as well. Jonathan Newsome made some plays, none bigger than his Robert Mathis-like strip sack of Peyton Manning that helped turn the game around. The tackling all around as a team was phenomenal (aside from that one fourth down play). And the gameplan was a very good one from Chuck Pagano, Greg Manusky and the coaching staff. Altogether, it was a great showing from a unit that hadn't looked good against a good offense all season long.
- Seriously - Vontae Davis is incredible. He was absolutely great on Sunday.
- It was nice to see Dwayne Allen get involved again after a few rough weeks, as he caught 4 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
- Hakeem Nicks had another impressive day on Sunday, catching 2 passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. Honestly, he's been playing some good football recently and it's to the point now where I wonder if the Colts might bring him back next season. Obviously there's a long way to go before we have that discussion and the conversation is now focused on New England, but Nicks has really impressed recently.
- Josh Cribbs absolutely MUST learn to fair catch. I mean, the coaches have to sit him down this week and tell him that it's ok to fair catch a football. He's definitely been a boost in the return game for the Colts, but on Sunday he made a couple of really stupid decisions when returning the ball - one of which almost was a fumble and Broncos football. The fair catch is not a hard concept and it's one that Cribbs must learn to use.
- He's only had a limited amount of work, but I continue to like what I see from Zurlon Tipton. I liked him entering training camp and I was impressed with him in camp, and now that he's getting a chance he's making some plays. On Sunday he received just three touches total (two rushes and one reception) but gained 26 yards.
- I think that we might have seen the last of Trent Richardson in a Colts jersey when he played for them against the Bengals. Maybe he'll be active and playing on special teams next week, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him inactive again either. He was inactive for such a huge game and the Colts didn't really miss him.
- There's also no reason for Bjoern Werner to see more snaps than Jonathan Newsome anymore. He didn't on Sunday and I don't think he should moving forward either.