On Saturday night, I watched my college football team come out guns blazing against one of the top teams in the country. The offense looked great, and the defense was holding a top notch QB mostly in-check.
After watching the away team march down the field for a field goal to end the half, and would receive to start the second, I was a bit concerned, but scoring 21 first half points was a good omen. In the second half, the offense for the team I was rooting for sputtered, as the other team began to pull away.
That was the Iowa State - TCU game on Saturday night. When I was watching the Colts game on Sunday night, I felt like I was watching almost an identical game unfolding before my eyes.
The Colts came out firing, looking like the team we hoped they would be. Then the Patriots adjusted, and the Colts offense mostly floundered the rest of the way.
It's always hard to find positives in a loss, but this game definitely had them. I'll get to those, as well as the negatives, in this week's awards.
MVP - Donte Moncrief
Typically, when the Patriots play the Colts, T.Y. Hilton is taken away and the Colts normally don't have someone else step up. Granted, Hilton wasn't taken away as much, but that was in large part to Moncrief.
The second year receiver was all over the place, especially in the first half. Moncrief was getting open, and making catches. The best of those being his grab on the 4th and 1 fade route in the end zone. That wasn't the first time Moncrief has come through on a fade, and (as much as I hate the fade route in general) expect to see it a lot more in the future.
Moncrief's production forced the Patriots to adjust, which allowed Hilton to finally have some success against the Patriots defense.
Not So Balanced Award - Colts Offense
Maybe I'm nitpicking here, actually I probably am. While the Colts offense was greatly balanced in the first half, with great success, they went away from that in the second half.
In the first half, the offense was firing on all cylinders as Andrew Luck was throwing the ball well, with good protection, and Frank Gore had already churned out nearly 60 yards. Yet, Gore only finished with 13 carries and 78 yards while Luck threw the ball 50 times.
Yes, the passing game was working just fine. However, I think it could have worked better had the Colts tried to run a bit more, especially with the score only 27-21 when they got the ball back in the third quarter.
Shouldering the Load Award - Andrew Luck
Speaking of Luck, he looked like he was in good form last night. If I had told you coming into the game that Luck would throw for 312 yards, three scores, and no turnovers, you would have taken that. Especially against the Patriots.
While Chris Collinsworth gave us a play-by-play update on how Luck's shoulder was, it didn't take an expert to see that Luck seemed more comfortable. It helped that the play calling helped Luck get the ball out quickly as well.
If Luck plays this well moving forward, the Colts will be just fine.
Aggressor Award - Chuck Pagano
Not only did the Colts come out on point, Pagano was very aggressive in his decisions. And I loved it (with one notable exception).
The decision to go for it on fourth down on the first drive was exactly the correct call. The play call itself wasn't the best (even though it worked), but going for it was the correct decision.
After the pick-six from Mike Adams, the onside kick was also a brilliant call. The Colts were going with the wave of momentum, and caught the Patriots in a bad formation. While they didn't recover (although I think Moncrief did actually recover it...but they didn't ask me) it was a great decision. The Patriots got the ball on the 35, which essentially equals a good return if Pat McAfee didn't boom it out of the end zone.
For a while, many of us have criticized Pagano for not being aggressive and for his teams having slow starts. Neither of those were the case last night, and I give Pagano credit for that.
Bottom Line Award - Al Michaels
Michaels is one of my favorite, and probably one of the best, announcers of all-time. If you haven't read his autobiography, it's definitely a good read.
In that book, Michaels mentions he always pays attention to the various bets, lines, and over/unders going into the game. He said lots of times he factors them into the broadcast at some point in the game, but that very few people notice.
Last night, Michaels did this in great fashion. Coming out of a commercial, Michaels mentioned that there was an over/under on how many times he and Collinsworth would say "Deflategate" during the broadcast. Michaels proceeded to rattle off this line,
"There's a bet on how many times we'll say Deflategate tonight. So deflategate, deflategate, deflategate, deflategate. For those of you who took the over, congrats, you just won."
Awesome moment, as I'm sure Michaels knew exactly what the over/under was.
LVP - The Fake Punt
When you think of the worst plays in NFL history, there are a few that come to mind. The Buttfumble, Jim Marshall running the wrong way, and Garo Yepremian's "pass" in the Super Bowl. Those plays all have something in common, though, they weren't designed. They were all spur of the moment plays, if you will.
The Fake Punt was a deliberate play that the Colts had designed and practiced. In any situation I'm not sure if it's applicable to call that play. When you're only down six to the Patriots, I have no idea why you call that play. No idea.
I know Griff Whalen probably wasn't supposed to snap that ball (obviously). However, he shouldn't have been put into that situation as the play should never have been called. Pagano tried to out trick Bill Belichick, and it had disastrous consequences. The Colts had a chance to win the game going into this play, those chances went way, way down after this call.
There's no excuse for this. Whether it was Pagano's decision or not (I think it probably was) he'll take the blame for it. And as much as I hate to say this, ESPN's Skip Bayliss may have a point in saying that this play could have sunk Pagano into an even deeper hole when it comes to being brought back after this season. It was a play that no coach, and any level, should ever call.
Oh, and let's not forget they didn't even line up correctly and were flagged for an illegal formation. Embarrassing.
If you had told me the Colts would lose by 7 to the Patriots, I would have considered that not too bad, especially considering the recent history. And truthfully, the Colts finally looked like a team that could compete with the rest of the AFC in the playoffs.
The Patriots were the better team last night, but it finally looked like Luck and the Colts closed the gap. Too bad it will all be overshadowed by a horrendous decision on a fake punt.
The Colts return to action next week as they take on the Saints for the second time (and the first in Indy) after losing the Super Bowl in 2009.