Turnover free football is good football
This is something that we have seen every week, except for this time, it's more positive: as Andrew Luck goes, so go the Colts. On Sunday, it was good Andrew Luck that showed up, and he helped lead the Colts to a huge victory over the previously unbeaten Broncos and their number one overall defense. Luck completed 21 of 36 passes (58.3%) for 252 yards (7 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns without an interception, also adding several key runs. Luck was hit often on Sunday and stood in there despite the pressure, looking poised and confident, and played smart football. That's something that we haven't seen often from Luck this year, as he had thrown multiple interceptions in five of his six games entering Sunday's game. In fact, Sunday was just the fourth time in the last 15 games that Luck didn't throw an interception in a game. Entering the game, we talked about how the Colts needed to avoid turnovers, and they did just that. When Andrew Luck doesn't throw an interception in the game, the Colts are now 20-3 (.870 win percentage).
Running back Frank Gore described it best after the game. "As long as we don't beat ourself, we have a great shot," Gore said, according to USA Today's Tom Pelissero. "But be real, though. Be real. When y'all watch film, we also help the other team. We (don't) suck. We're not a suck team. We just can't beat ourself." On Sunday, the Colts didn't beat themselves, and it started with their quarterback.
Offensive coordinator change provides a spark
The Indianapolis Colts decided to make a coordinator change this week, firing Pep Hamilton and replacing him with Rob Chudzinski. It was a move that many thought needed to happen, but at the same time, it came on a short week as they prepared to face the best defense in football. The biggest challenge that Chudzinski faced was getting Andrew Luck going and keeping the offense turnover free while also helping them start games early. Check, check, and check. Luck played his best game of the season, the Colts didn't turn the football over once, and they got off to a fast start, taking a 17-0 lead in the first half (and scoring the first points in the first quarter against the Broncos defense all year). It wasn't going to be possible for Chud to make many major changes on the short week, but those points of emphasis that were big driving factors behind the coordinator change were all improved. Chud, staying in the booth like normal, called a very good football game too, helping scheme players open and utilize strengths. The Colts stayed committed to the ground game, which is something that they wanted to do to help take some of the pressure off of Luck. In the end, the Colts ran the ball 40 times (though six of those were Andrew Luck), while Luck attempted the second-fewest passes in a game all season. Was it all because of Chudzinski? No, of course not. But it would also be inaccurate to suggest that he didn't have an impact at all. He provided the Colts with a spark offensively, and in turn they put up 365 yards and 27 points on the best defense in the league after making a coordinator change on a short week. Give Chud a lot of credit for that.
Season isn't over yet
The Colts have stunk this year, until they didn't on Sunday. So yes, it was only one game. But let's keep some perspective, too: the Colts improved to 4-5 on the season, re-taking a one-game lead in the AFC South race over the Houston Texans (and they hold the tiebreaker over Houston, too). It's continuing to look likely that the Colts will win the division and host a playoff game as the four seed. What Sunday's game showed us is that the Colts' season isn't over yet. Sure, there are some flaws that won't be getting better, and sure, there will still be turmoil in the front office and with the coaching staff. That's not going away anytime soon, either. But as we've seen so often in the past few years, Andrew Luck can cover over a lot of flaws, and if he's playing like he was on Sunday against the Broncos, the Colts could turn things around. At this point it's only one game, but it's a huge one. The Colts hadn't defeated a non-AFC South opponent all season but notched a 27-24 win over the previously undefeated Broncos. Instead of heading into their bye week at 3-6, in second place in the worst division in football, and on a four-game losing streak, the Colts recorded their signature win of the season. Will that carry forward for the second half of the season? Maybe, but only time will tell. What we saw on Sunday, though, is this: the Colts aren't dead yet.