I can say with great certainly that I hadn't been so confident, nervous, and excited before, during, and after a Colts game in a couple of years. Honestly, it's probably the most excited I've been after a game since the Chuckstrong game against the Packers.
The Colts took it to the Broncos and, with the exception of each team's first drive, dominated from wire to wire.
I've been looking forward to writing these awards, so without further ado, here they are.
MVP - Offensive Line
In a word, the unit was brilliant. Jim Nantz mentioned that this is the first time in three months that the Colts started the exact same line in back to back games. And the unit has been fantastic in back to back games.
Against the Bengals, they allowed only one sack, and kept Andrew Luck clean for most of the game. I don't think many expected the same against a defense featuring Terrance Knighton, DeMarcus Ware, and Von Miller. And it wasn't the same. It was better.
Luck wasn't sacked once in the win. The Broncos got pressure every once and a while, but had to blitz to do so. All week I expected the Colts to win, but never did I expect the offensive line to play that well against the Broncos.
Defensive MVP - Vontae Davis
The entire defense was incredible (well maybe not LaRon Landry) against the Broncos, but again Davis stood out.
I only remember him getting beat once the entire game, and it was early. After that, Davis played fantastic, and much, much better than his counterpart in the Broncos secondary (yes I'm talking about Aqib Talib).
However, where Davis really stood out was in the tackling department. Often Davis gets overlooked when it comes to tackling. Whether it be lighting up Giovani Bernard whenever the Bengals come to town, or making open field tackles, Davis has been great.
His only missteps were the two interceptions he didn't catch. The first would have been a spectacular grab to end the first half, but he was pushed out by Demaryius Thomas. The second would have put the game away, but Davis flat out dropped the pass.
Picture Perfect Award - Luck to Coby Fleener
Last week, Luck's touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief was a spectacular pass that caught the eye of many watching. This week, that was his pass to Fleener.
It was a third and long, and it looked like the Colts might have to try a long Adam Vinatieri field goal. The Colts calling for a pass wasn't a surprise, a deep throw was.
Luck dropped the ball right into Fleener who found a hole between three defenders. It was an absolutely perfect touch pass that had almost no room for error. The play set up a Colts touchdown as well.
Slow and Steady Award - Final Offensive Drive
With 12:20 left in the game, the Colts had the ball on their own 34 yard line clinging to a 21-13 lead. They had gone three and out on their last drive and needed to chew up some time.
What ensued was a 13 play drive that took a little more than eight minutes off the clock. Out of the 13 plays, eight were runs. Outside of two Zurlon Tipton runs, his only two of the game, the Colts didn't run the ball too effectively on the drive.
However, Daniel Herron was able to churn out some positive yards, keep the clock moving, and give the Colts plenty of second and mediums and third and manageable.
Plus, a phenomenal play from Jack Doyle extended the drive into the Red Zone where Vinatieri was able to give the Colts an 11 point lead with four minutes to go.
Playoff Zone Award - Hakeem Nicks
Two catches for 24 yards and a score is not a great stat line. However, as we know, stats aren't always black and white. Through two playoff games, Nicks has been playing very well for the Colts.
To make it simple, he looks like a different player. He and Luck finally appear to be on the same page, and he is making the catches and plays that a big receiver should.
While we won't (probably) see the offense go through Nicks in the playoffs, I'm no longer worried that he will mess up. He has elevated his play in the playoffs, and it is paying dividends for the Colts offense.
Will-Power Award - C.J. Anderson
I have to give Anderson some love. On a day when his defense wasn't great, and his quarterback was off, Anderson kept Denver in the game. He finished with 80 yards on only 18 carries, although the Colts mostly held him in check.
He gets this award for his 4th and 1 play in the final period. Anderson was stopped a good three yards in the backfield by Corey Redding. Somehow, he broke away and sprinted left. First he went right past Bjorn Werner (which isn't too tough) and then plowed right through Landry's attempted tackle. Thirteen yards later, the Colts defense was able to corral him.
On what turned out to be Denver's final drive (well the last one where they had a real chance), Anderson nearly kept it alive. A puzzling play found Peyton Manning checking the ball to Anderson on a must have 4th and 8.
Despite breaking a few more tackles, Anderson came up inches short. Still, it was a great effort on a day where few Broncos had great efforts.
Bonehead Award - Josh Cribbs
Does Cribbs know he can call a fair catch? Early in the game he got drilled because he didn't call for one. I was just happy he didn't fumble.
You would think he would learn. Nope. Late in the game Cribbs again didn't call for a fair catch and got (literally) knocked out. This time, he did fumble, and it was recovered by Denver. Fortunately, the play was reversed, stopping what would have been a huge momentum shift.
This isn't a one game thing for Cribbs. We have seen him do this far too many times. Yes, he provides the possibility of an electric return, but he makes a lot of mistakes.
I'm sure you will all pounce on me for saying this, but sometimes Cribbs makes me wish Griff Whalen was still back there calling for fair catches and not being a threat.
Robert Mathis Award - Jonathan Newsome
I almost forgot about this. Newsome's sack-strip on Manning was a huge, huge, huge play in the game. Not only was is Denver's only turnover, but it gave the Colts a chance to take the lead.
While Newsome was silent for most of the game, he made one play that changed the complexion of the first half.
I know I'm not the only one who instantly drew a comparison to Mathis doing the same thing to Manning last year in the Colts' win over Denver.
LVP - LaRon Landry
If there was a downside (other than Cribbs) it was Landry. On the Broncos first drive, Landry wound up in single coverage on Julius Thomas. Uh oh. Predictably, he was torched for 30 yards and a near socre.
Then, only a couple of plays later, Landry wound up in single coverage against Demaryius Thomas. How? Predictably, again, Landry was burned for the score.
On the Broncos next drive, Anderson blew right past Landry en route to a long run. Landry's job is to be run support, which is fairly good at, but didn't offer much on that play.
And finally, the aforementioned 4th and 1 play where Anderson barreled right through Landry's attempt at a tackle.
Landry is going to be key against the Patriots this week, and will need to play better both in run support and in coverage, since he will probably be asked to cover Rob Gronkowski (uh oh).
All in all, it was a spectacular game from the Colts. Sure there were mistakes, but the team played a great game, and won when most so-called experts picked them to lose.
Now the Colts are on to New England to play in their fourth AFC Championship Game in 11 years (and the third that will be against the Patriots). The Patriots will be playing in their fourth straight AFC Championship and will be looking to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in four years.
The rivalry will be renewed on an even bigger stage this weekend, and it should be a good one.