PowerObservations: Colts vs Broncos

If you know me know this ain't my Feng Shui,

Certified everywhere ain't gotta print my resume.

Although the Colts have finished three consecutive regular seasons with an 11-5 record, their success in the playoffs has steadily improved from year to year. They lost to the eventual super bowl champions in the 2012 wildcard round, made it to the divisional round in 2013, and are now preparing for their first appearance in the AFC championship game since the 2009 season. This team has improved, perhaps not as dramatically as some would like, but when your baseline is 11-5 you only need to get so much better before you can start contending. The Colts are still a flawed team, but they are also a very hot team. Luck and the defense appear to have elevated their respective games and the results have been consecutive dominating performances against two strong rosters. Can they beat the Patriots for the first time in the Luck/Pagano/Grigson era? Maybe. If both teams play as well as they can, then New England runs away (literally, if history has taught us anything) with another victory. However, the Patriots just gave up 31 points to Joe Flacco and Luck is so hot right now his girlfriend has to wear oven mitts when she

  • So the Broncos were obviously a nightmare for this Colts defense. Their good pass catchers outnumbered our quality defenders, plus they had a scary new running back and a quarterback who was more than capable of taking advantage of these weapons. Many thought that in order for the Colts to win, Davis and Toler would have to lock down Thomas and Sanders, the linebackers and safeties would have to contain Julius Thomas, and the pass rush would have to knock Manning around. Did they accomplish these tasks? Eh, kinda.
  • Vontae and Greg certainly did their part. Davis turned in yet another career performance against the Broncos, and although his pass deflections garner the most attention, his tackling has also been very impressive. He's one of the league's top cornerbacks and undoubtedly Indy's best defensive player. Toler was on camera quite a bit, which is usually a bad indicator of a defensive back's performance and almost always an indicator that he will be criticized by fans after the game, but he looked good to me. Sanders got a step on him on a couple of those sideline plays, but it wasn't anything egregious and Emmanuel Sanders is what the kids call "hella fast."
  • I've been saying for a while now that these cornerbacks are the reason this defense works, well, occasionally. This roster's lack of a competent coverage linebacker and deficiency at safety makes them even more important, and it also makes stuff like this unacceptable in my eyes:1012964_616110138519781_3844222587911862695_n.0.jpg
  • As you can see, Vontae is covering the split receiver, and Landry, God help us all, is covering Sanders in the slot. Toler, with no wide receiver on his side of the field, will likely be in run support on this play unless one of the two tight ends on the right side of the formation runs a route. You could argue that this is a good thing, but I would prefer to see Toler follow Sanders to the bottom half of the screen, because as scary a matchup Julius Thomas is for the safeties and linebackers, a Landry/Sanders matchup is scarier. Ideally, the Colts would play nickel against in this formation, or even just replace Landry with Darius Butler. Their refusal to move their two best coverage players across the formation cost them dearly in the opening series, and especially on this play: 10301298_616110528519742_5530098624418204680_n.0.jpg
  • Demaryius Freaking Thomas on an island with LaRon "facepalm" Landry while Toler is again babysitting tight ends and running backs on the top of the formation. VONTAE ISN'T EVEN ON THE FIELD. VONTAE SHOULD ALWAYS BE ON THE FIELD HE'S A BETTER TACKLER THAN LANDRY ANYWAYS.
  • One more: 10933986_616110281853100_5465713101812484523_n.0.jpgThis one is my favorite because the only guy on Vontae's side of the field is an extra offensive lineman. At least we don't have to worry about that fullback rolling out into the flat because Davis has that shit locked down. Meanwhile Denver's best receivers are matched up against our #2 cornerback and a 33 year old safety.
  • Thankfully, Manusky follows me on Twitter (probably) and he eventually started moving Davis to the left side on a few plays. In this example, Davis covers the Y receiver, Butler takes the H, and Toler the X.
  • 10408639_616119128518882_3070126030184189349_n.0.jpg
  • This makes sense, you see, because the receivers are all on the same side of the field, so our best coverage players probably should be too. Good? Great.
  • The pass rush was, predictably, not terribly effective. Manusky made full usage of his quiver of stunts and blitzes, but Manning was kept fairly clean for most of the night, the notable exception being when Jonathan Newsome came unblocked around the edge and forced what might have been a game changing strip-sack. I don't know what was causing Peyton's inaccuracy, but I don't think it was us.
  • One thing you might have noticed from the previous pictures is the prevalence of Cover 1. It's pretty badass to play such aggressive defense against an offense as dangerous as Denver's and that's why I enjoy watching the Colts play in coverage despite some head scratching moments. Good man coverage is a treat to watch, especially with a guy like Vontae.
  • On offense, the playcalling was a bit odd but not to a game-losing degree. The screens are still terrible and hopefully their inefficacy will discourage Pep from calling them next week. The "punterceptions" were something that we haven't really seen this season, and I'm not a fan. The second one was designed almost like a hail mary. Luck didn't have any viable options underneath. It seemed like part of the gameplan, and frankly I don't like that the coaches feel compelled to simply give up on 3rd and long when they have such an explosive offense. It's also a small shame that Luck had to finish with two INTs on a day where he otherwise made good decisions. The 2012/2013 edition of Andrew probably tries to force a deep pass on that flea-flicker, but the new Andrew checked down for a painfully boring four yard gain. His decision making has hurt him as well as the team in the past, so it's good to see some maturity in that area.
  • The offensive line was accredited with much of the offensive success on Sunday, and while I think they did a decent job of protecting Luck from Ware and Miller, Luck made them look a bit better than they were. His pocket movement is so excellent and natural that it can be easy to overlook. The Broncos relied primarily on four pass rushers to get to him, which, unlike in previous games against the Colts, was not effective. They started blitzing in the fourth quarter and got much better results, forcing a three-and-out on a series that featured three straight pass deflections. This team's ability to protect Andrew will be a deciding factor against New England.
  • The pass rush was once again lackluster and that is by far the biggest reason to doubt this team's prospects against any of the other three remaining playoff quarterbacks. Wilson, Rodgers, and Brady will not fail to take advantage of clean pockets in the way that Andy Dalton and a hobbled Peyton Manning did. Well, Brady might have a bad day. And Rodgers is on one calf. And Wilson doesn't really have much of a deep threat with Paul Richardson hurt...
  • You know what? Forget what I said. We got this.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors.