For the first time in the 2015 season, the Indianapolis Colts won a game by more than one score. Indy impressively defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-12 at home to improve to 6-5 on the year and stay atop the AFC South.
The Colts won this one by 13 points after outscoring opponents by just 18 combined in their previous five victories. It was a good day all around for the Colts, as their offense, defense, and special teams all stepped up and played well. The game was the Colts' third victory in a row and their fourth this season under quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has done an admirable job filling in for Andrew Luck.
It wasn't just Hasselbeck, however, as the defense shut out the Buccaneers' potent offense in the second half. Kicker Adam Vinatieri hit all four of his field goal attempts (and he made a fifth that was wiped out due to penalty). The coaching staff made some nice adjustments to put the team in a good position. In short, while it wasn't a perfect performance by any means, it was an impressive one that earned the Colts their sixth win of the season. Let's take a look at the snap counts from the game to see what stands out:
Denzelle Good had been inactive for the first ten games and had yet to play a single snap, but he got the start at right tackle on Sunday while making his debut. All things considered, it was about what you would expect from the seventh round rookie in his first game. He wasn't great, but he wasn't terrible either. He had several penalties called against him, was given quite a bit of help at times, and struggled at some points, but he also showed some promise. Hopefully Anthony Castonzo will be back soon, but if not I think the Colts will likely stick with their offensive line from Sunday. Again, it wasn't great, but it was manageable.
If there is any question left about the Colts' number two wide receiver spot, it's simply because people haven't been paying attention. There is no doubt about the fact that Donte Moncrief has passed Andre Johnson on the depth chart, and it's easy to see why. Moncrief has been the Colts' second-best receiving option all season, catching 52 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns through eleven games (on pace for a 75.6 catch, 849.5 yard, 7.3 touchdown season). On Sunday, Moncrief had a career-high eight catches for 114 yards, showing off what a dynamic receiving duo he and T.Y. Hilton can be.
In his first game back with the Colts after being claimed on waivers last week, Boom Herron played three offensive snaps. His time as the number three running back was short-lived, however, as the Colts today placed Ahmad Bradshaw on season-ending injured reserve, meaning that Herron's role will undoubtedly increase significantly.
Speaking of running backs, Frank Gore played 51 snaps (69%) but really struggled to get anything going. Gore managed just 24 yards on 19 carries, averaging 1.26 yards per rush with a long of just five yards. In 167 career games (including playoffs), Gore has only had a worse yards per carry average than 1.26 in three games. It was a miserable game overall for the Colts' run game, which finished with 23 carries for 30 yards (not including the three kneeldowns to end the game). At the same time, however, I'm not ready to pile on Gore or offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski just yet. Firstly, a 42-23 pass/run balance is very healthy, so there's nothing to complain about there. Secondly, I liked the team getting creative on third and short (where they've struggled before) by putting both Gore and Bradshaw in the backfield. Thirdly, the Colts were facing a very good run defense. Fourth, the Colts' offensive line was undergoing changes and was switched around for this game. And fifth, Matt Hasselbeck enjoyed a lot of success off of play-action passes on Sunday, something that almost certainly wouldn't have worked as well unless the Colts stuck with the run. So while the team struggled a lot on the ground on Sunday, I'm not going to freak out about it just yet.
Making his second career start and his second in as many weeks, rookie safety Clayton Geathers played 62 snaps (93%) and again impressed. He's a physical player who has played well in the role the Colts have asked him to, and he has helped make the loss of Mike Adams less noticeable.
Trent Cole deserves credit where it's due: playing in 40 snaps on Sunday, he had by far his best game as a Colt. He has had a very disappointing season in which he managed just two quarterback hits and zero sacks through the first ten games combined, but on Sunday he recorded four quarterback hits and his first sack as a Colt. It's only a one-game sample, but if he could continue to play at that level it would be a big boost to the Colts' defense.
Jerrell Freeman again had a good day before leaving with a hamstring injury, as in his 46 snaps he recorded six run stops, according to Pro Football Focus, a number which ranks second in the league this week among inside linebackers. This comes a week after he recorded five run stops in just 21 run snaps, helping to illustrate something that we've noticed clearly in the last month or so: the inside linebackers have played much, much better and have actually been a strength of the defense. Hopefully, Freeman's injury isn't serious, as it would hurt to lose him with how well he has been playing.
Pat McAfee punted only three times on Sunday, which is tied for the fewest punts of the season for Indy (he punted just once among the eight drives the Colts had until trying to run the clock out on the final two), but he still earned his money's worth as the kicking unit was on the field quite a bit, resulting in McAfee playing 17 snaps.
Rookie D'Joun Smith played only two defensive snaps this week, but he did play 16 special teams snaps as he continues to adjust to the NFL level.
Daniel Adongo, who was promoted to the active roster during the bye week, tied for the team lead by playing 21 special teams snaps.