The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-23 on Sunday. What did we learn from the game? Here are three takeaways (and we're using the term "learn" loosely):
Up-tempo offense seems to work
All week (and actually for much longer than that) there has been a lot of talk in Indianapolis about how Andrew Luck and the Colts offense seems to do better in an up-tempo situation. The team has so far been hesitant to embrace that type of approach consistently except for when they fall behind big, but on Sunday we saw that change. For most of the first half the Colts went with an up-tempo offense, and they scored on every one of their first half possessions. That’s definitely progress. Andrew Luck seemed to like it as well.
“The full first half was not in no huddle, but we did a nice job with the no huddle,” he said after the game. “We got some tempo going. We got some rhythm. In the second half, we did maybe a little less and I don’t know if that was necessarily the reason why we weren’t playing as well as we did in the first half for that third quarter stretch. I’m sure there are a bunch [of reasons]. I’ll have to go back and watch, but it worked out in practice and it managed to do well for us.”
The up-tempo approach doesn’t solve all of the Colts issues. They still stalled too much offensively and needed to get in the end zone more than they did. But the up-tempo approach was certainly better, and it was certainly progress. Because, as Luck said, “You kick yourself a little bit in the shins [when you don’t get it in the end zone] but three points are better than no points.”
Adam Vinatieri one of team’s most valuable players?
Speaking of three points, Adam Vinatieri continued his insane level of production on Sunday by hitting five more field goal attempts, including two more from 50+ yards out. He’s only in on a few snaps per game, but he’s proved crucial this season. The team only has two wins, but Vinatieri has played a role in both of them - and in helping keep some of the other games competitive. Everybody knows that the Colts won’t win many games by settling for field goals instead of touchdowns on a consistent basis, but as they work things out offensively and try to finish drives better, it’s really nice to have Vinatieri - a guy who you know will be able to make a kick from any reasonable distance. He’s 13-for-13 this year on field goal attempts, including five from 50+ yards. He’s been really good, and on Sunday he was a crucial part of the team’s win.
“Yeah, it is [big] and you slip and sort of take it for granted, and you can’t,” Andrew Luck said of having Vinatieri. “He’s the best. Again, a great teammate. A great role model for any young guy. He just works his butt off and keeps kicking.”
Vinatieri, though, deflected the praise to long snapper Matt Overton and holder Pat McAfee for making his job easier. To Vinatieri, it’s as simple as this: “I’m just happy I made all the kicks today, went out there and helped put points on the board and it was a good day.”
It was a good day because the Colts got the win, and the Colts got the win in large part due to the leg of Adam Vinatieri.
Win doesn’t solve the team’s problems
That win, though, doesn’t erase the Colts’ problems. Not by a long shot, actually. The Colts defense gave up 522 yards and an average of 8.4 yards per play. They did a nice job on third down (the Bears were just 2-of-9) but they had trouble forcing them into those situations, allowing 25 first downs. Brian Hoyer completed 33 of 43 passes (76.7%) for 397 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 120.0. Jordan Howard rushed for 118 yards on just 16 carries (averaging 7.4 yards per rush) and also caught three passes for 45 yards and a score, totaling 163 yards and a touchdown while averaging 8.6 yards per touch. The Colts defense was so bad that the TV announcers were openly discussing how Chuck Pagano’s defense has been bad during his tenure, coming the closest I can remember hearing announcers in the course of a game criticize Pagano.
Furthermore, Andrew Luck was sacked five times, hit seven times, and the Bears also recorded six tackles for loss. That wasn’t great, either. Basically, the Colts still had plenty of issues on Sunday, and they came dangerously close to blowing another game late. But in the end, the heroics of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Adam Vinatieri were enough to pull out the win. So make no mistake: when you’re a bad team, any win shouldn’t be taken for granted, and so no win should be explained away. It was big for the Colts to get a win, and as many throughout football history have said, the win doesn’t make the issues go away but it sure makes it easier to address them the next day. That’s exactly the case with the Colts this week, as the issues are still there and they still looked bad at times. On Sunday, however, they managed to pull out a win anyway, and that’s much better than the alternative.