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Revisiting the Colts’ phenomenal 96-yard drive in Sunday’s win over the Packers

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Indianapolis Colts v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

There was plenty to like from the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in their 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers, but the most impressive part may have been their drive to close out the first half. It was as good of a drive as you’re going to see, as the Colts went 96 yards in 15 plays and took over five and a half minutes off of the clock. The team picked up seven first downs along the way, and it gave them a 24-10 lead entering halftime.

The drive began at the four yard line, thanks to Chester Rogers calling for a fair catch. While that wasn’t too well-received by Colts fans, it also wasn’t the worst move in the world because the Packers almost surely would have downed the ball inside the four - but still, it’s probably best to force Green Bay to make the play in that scenario.

The drive had an inauspicious and unsurprising start: the Colts handed the ball to Frank Gore right up the middle for a minimal one-yard gain. On second down, the Colts went to the shotgun and Luck had time to throw, but his pass to Donte Moncrief was broken up on a nice play by Morgan Burnett, who had good coverage. All of the sudden it was 3rd and 10 from their own five yard line, and the Colts were in danger of giving the ball back to the Packers, who likely would have had good field position to try to tie the game up entering halftime.

So on 3rd and 10, Luck once again took the snap in the shotgun and looked to throw, and he stood in the pocket long enough to find Phillip Dorsett in the soft spot of the coverage for a gain of 13 for a first down and some breathing room.

Then came another Frank Gore run that was met by plenty of defenders, though he managed to gain two yards out of it. On 2nd and 8, Luck moved to the shotgun once again, stood in a collapsing pocket, and found T.Y. Hilton over the middle for a first down, and he took it a few more yards to pick up 17.

After that play the Colts handed the ball to Frank Gore and he once again gained two yards, but an offsides penalty by Julius Peppers wiped out the play and gave the Colts five free yards. So with 1st and 5 after the penalty, the Colts gave it to Gore right up the middle to gain three. They then let the clock run to the two minute warning (though they tried to get the Packers to jump offsides first), which was a smart move given the fact that the Colts were near midfield with all three timeouts left at the two minute warning and really didn’t want to give the Packers the ball back with much time.

After the break, Luck went to the shotgun and split the running back out wide, and he threw a short out route to T.Y. Hilton that was incomplete as Hilton couldn’t quite catch the ball and keep his feet in bounds in time. That brought up 3rd and 2, and Luck gave the ball out of the shotgun to Robert Turbin on what looked like a read option-type play. Turbin powered his way up the middle for a gain of seven yards, continuing to impress in short yardage situations and keeping the drive alive.

At this point the Colts were in absolutely no hurry and let some more clock run off, but Luck’s pass across the middle to a diving Jack Doyle fell incomplete. The ball went through his arms and was one that he should have caught, but it would have been a tough catch as Doyle was diving and the Packers had tight coverage (though the ball was perfectly placed by Luck for that scenario). Luck went back to Doyle on the very next play, finding him open and then letting his tight end do the rest, as Doyle split two defenders for a first down on the catch-and-run, gaining 12 and a first down.

The Colts were now at the Green Bay 36 yard line and let the clock run down just under a minute before snapping their next play. Luck dumped a short screen pass to Robert Turbin, who took it for a gain of nine and nearly got out of bounds, though the officials ruled that he came down in bounds - leading the Colts to take their first timeout with 46 seconds left and with the ball at the Packers 27 yard line.

On the next snap Luck went to an empty backfield shotgun set again, and his short pass to the left to Donte Moncrief was incomplete, as it looked like Luck couldn’t step up as he’d like due to a bit of pressure. That brought up another 3rd and 1, and this time the Colts had Frank Gore in the game. For the second time on the drive in that situation they ran a read option play, but Luck kept this one around the left side for a pickup of seven yards before sliding at the Packers 20 yard line. The Colts then took their second timeout with 37 seconds left.

On the ensuing snap, Luck was under pressure almost immediately and had guys around his feet, but he managed to get away and throw an off-balance pass to Jack Doyle across the middle of the field for a gain of 12 to the Packers eight yard line. And with the clock still ticking and a timeout remaining, the Colts made a brilliant decision: not to take the timeout. The Colts got the next snap off with 15 seconds remaining, which would have given them enough time for two or three more offensive plays (considering the timeout) and a field goal, if need be - and it helped to ensure that the Packers would have very little time to work with.

And on 1st and goal from the eight yard line, Luck took the snap and got off a quick back-shoulder pass to the left to Donte Moncrief at the pylon, and his receiver made a terrific adjustment on the ball to bring it down for the score. It was a beautiful play and one that helps show why the Colts missed Moncrief so much - he’s a big red zone threat.

It was as good of a drive as you’ll see by any team this year and definitely the Colts’ best drive of the year, as they went 96 yards in 15 plays right before the half to take a 24-10 lead, leaving almost no time left for Aaron Rodgers to do anything (he just took a knee). On the drive, the Colts converted all three third down opportunities faced and racked up seven first downs overall.

The drive was vintage Andrew Luck, as he completed 6 of 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, also adding a seven yard rush for a first down (meaning Luck accounted for 78 of the 96 yards on the drive). The drive included several great plays by the quarterback, such as his standing in the pocket from his own end zone to convert a 3rd and 10, a seven-yard rush on the read option to convert another third down, an off-balance throw to Jack Doyle for a first down, and a beautiful back-shoulder touchdown throw to Donte Moncrief.

The drive was a huge one to close out the first half, and it kept with Chuck Pagano’s emphasis on ending both halves strong. The Colts certainly did so, and you can’t get much better than the drive they had to close out the first half and take a double-digit lead into the break.