For the seventh time in 2015, the Colts fell behind by double digits, and for the second time they found a way to come all the way back to win, this time 24-21 in Atlanta against the Falcons. It's become commonplace over the past four years to see the Colts fall behind early in the game that at this point we all just expect them to make a comeback. How big was this comeback though? With 5:26 left in the 3rd quarter, with the Colts trailing 21-7 and with the ball started at the Falcons 10 after the Daniel Adongo penalty, the Colts had just a 2.2% chance of winning (hey, that's almost as low as their Super Bowl odds last week. There's a chance!). Here's the complete graph from ProFootballReference.
Sunday's win closely resembled the other game they had a big comeback and won, Week 3 against the Titans, as it wasn't just the Offense that helped put points on the board. Earlier in the year, Dwight Lowery intercepted a pass that he returned to the Titans 6 yard line, where the Colts scored on the next play. On Sunday, D'Qwell Jackson decided he wanted to score himself, walking in from six yards out to tie the game with ten minutes left in the game. Why were the Falcons backed up so deep? A spectacular play by Donte Moncrief on Special Teams, downing a Pat McAfee punt at the one yard line so nonchalantly it looked like he'd been doing that all year. I love guys who want to be out on the field, and on one of those punts where McAfee just booms it sky high, it's a perfect job for a speedy WR.
We'll get into quite a few specifics in a bit, but overall I think Sunday is what we should expect with Matt Hasselbeck at QB: two, maybe three decent-to-good drives, some missed receivers (open and covered), and a couple of turnovers. In all honesty, getting two to three drives like the Colts had Sunday is a luxury with a backup QB in today's NFL, so this isn't to rip Hasselbeck at all. I think the expectations being placed on him are a lot higher than what they should be, but if you/we expect what we saw Sunday, things will seem a lot better. It's crazy talk to say he should play over a healthy Andrew Luck. Crazy.
I have but one qualm with the coaching decisions, and it happened on the last offensive play of the game. The game was tied with 1:43 left, and the Colts were facing a 3rd and 5. They decided to run the ball with Ahmad Bradshaw, settling for a GW field goal try from Adam Vinatieri right then, rather than trying to get a first down, running the clock all the way down, and kicking with no time left for the Falcons. The Colts went for the win back against the Texans, and Hasselbeck found T.Y. Hilton to end the game on a 3rd down, but didn't on Sunday. I think they could have done a "safe" pass (maybe a rollout to a TE), and even if he got sacked, they weren't going to be out of field goal range. As we saw, Julio Jones can catch almost anything, and I just don't trust the Colts secondary against a monster WR who had 160 receiving on the day. Glad it worked out, but boy was it close.
How did the numbers look Sunday? One side had an excellent day (I'm sure you can guess which one).
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 11:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||60.7%||9||60.0%||17||N||N||4-2|
|Avg Start Pos||27.4||12||22.7||8||N||N||4-2|
|3 and Outs||5||22||5||4||N||N||4-4|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.689||10||0.972||11||Y||N||4-4|
|Ranking - Week (28)||18||12||17|
|Ranking - Season (320)||244||82||162|
Adjusted Stats for Week 11:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||53.1%||13||56.4%||19||N||N||4-2|
|Avg Start Pos||24.1||18||22.7||8||N||N||4-2|
|3 and Outs||5.1||25||5.0||4||N||N||4-4|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.924||18||0.991||13||Y||N||4-4|
|Ranking - Week (28)||22||7||13|
|Ranking - Season (320)||265||59||162|
- As you (correctly) guessed, the Defense had themselves a really nice game, capped off by the Jackson INT for a touchdown. A top 25% performance on the season.
- In particular, even though it seemed Julio Jones couldn't be stopped, the Colts had the 5th best passing defense day in the league. I think it was assumed Jones would get his yards, and the Falcons targeted Roddy White much more than they have previously this season, but overall the Colts did a really nice job against the pass Sunday. I think this is where a step back and see the forest through the trees approach is best, because I'm guessing most would have missed how good they were.
- The Colts also got the Falcons off the field quickly, under two minutes per drive, which went hand-in-hand with 5 Three and Outs. They play better when they aren't on the field all the time. Novel concept, eh?
- The other big factor in the Colts Defensive success is that Devonta Freeman was lost early on to a concussion, and their rushing stats suffered. Freeman had that long 39 yard run, which is why you see their Yards per Carry number so high, but their RB Success rate tanked after he left the game. I know a few of you might be Tevin Coleman fans from his IU days, but he's been a pretty big disappointment this season, and it worked in the Colts favor Sunday.
- The Offense, as a whole, struggled, like we pointed out earlier and you saw while watching. The Turnovers, especially one in the red zone (I couldn't get away from those Saturday or Sunday), are just killers. They also couldn't get any semblance of a running game going against one of the best rushing Defenses in the NFL. I'm not going to lose sleep over that.
- It was mostly a dink-and-dunk Offense, which I'm not surprised by at all. Also not surprised by the poor numbers in the other drive stats. Like I said above, I expect only two or three good-to-decent drives a game with Hasselbeck. But when those happen...
- They have to convert them into points, and they got 17 points on those three drives. The Falcons were one of the worst teams in the NFL giving up points in the Orange/Red Zone, and they didn't disappoint.
- The one big area of success was on 3rd/4th down, something they've (quietly) been good at all season. The Colts converted on 50% of their attempts, and actually missed a couple of 3rd and shorts in there as well.
Season Stats through Week 11 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||61.3%||6||Packers||56.8%||22||Redskins||53-15||0.779|
|Avg Start Pos||27.9||26||Patriots||29.9||19||Bengals||59-15||0.797|
|3 and Outs||4.16||26||Bengals||3.55||19||Panthers||44-20||0.688|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.780||15||Jets||1.117||2||Cardinals||40-36||0.526|
- Both sides of the ball look pretty even as they move up several spots this weekend, but they do have a couple differences.
- On Offense, we have some really good stats (Orange/Red Zone Efficiency and 3rd/4th Downs), while they have some that are really bad (Turnovers, Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt), giving them their "average" ranking.
- Meanwhile, on Defense, they are pretty steady over all categories, not really standing out in any particular stat but not being seriously deficient anywhere either. They're getting better forcing teams off the field earlier, but are still susceptible to the big play and giving up points in the Orange/Red Zone.
If you take out the Saints game, five of the past six games for the Colts have been pretty good performances, with Sunday being the "worst" of the five, and they found a way to win. Because of their inconsistency I expect them to hiccup at least once more this season, but overall you can see the Colts are starting to play better football. It's good to see.
It may have been a game where the comeback was helped by some highly questionable decisions by the Falcons, but the win counts all the same. At 5-5, the Colts stay atop the AFC South (thanks to a tie-breaker), and it would be really nice if they could get one of the next two (TB, @PIT) before they take on the divisional teams again. It's still virtually a lock to win the division with a 3-0 finish in the AFC South, but getting a win in the next two weeks will give them some cushion in winning the division, as well as helping with a (potential) wild card, which is strangely still attainable as well.