Week 5 is in the books and the Colts managed to scrape out a win at home, despite their best efforts to give it away late. There were plenty of winners and losers on the day, including all Colts fans getting to see some familiar faces in town for the weekend to honor Peyton Manning and unveil his statue. Let's jump into them:
Winner – Marlon Mack
The big story coming out of a too-close-for-comfort win over the 49ers was Marlon Mack. In a season so far where big plays have been few and far between, this is exactly the potential of a guy like Mack. He breaks games open. Having sat out with a shoulder injury since week one, he announced his return in a big way. He had 9 rushes for 91 yards, with one being the 35-yard scamper that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. Mack is responsible for 2 of the 3 second-half touchdowns this season as he got one and nearly a second in this outing. And before you ask, yes, there really are just 3.
While he is very good, Mack is not an every down back yet. He might not ever be that exactly. What he is, is an opportunity for a big play every time the ball is in his hands. We saw his tendency to bounce the ball outside on display yesterday, and he will need to be careful with that because teams who keep good contain won’t get burned there. However, as a change of pace back who is a killer in space, it doesn’t get much better.
Loser – Special Team’s Coordinator Tom McMahon’s Trick Play
Fake punt anyone? This lateral pass on a punt just seemed needlessly risky and poorly thought out. It was obviously something they practiced, and which was dictated by the way the 49ers played the directional punt, but it never seemed to have any real chance. A very risky throw that nearly went back for a touchdown was all that resulted from their efforts, and it marred an otherwise admirable effort by the special teams unit. These kinds of mind-bogglingly stupid plays have become the status quo for the Colts.
Winner – T.Y. Hilton
T.Y. Hilton feasted on another bad team this week, to the tune of 177 yards on 7 receptions. That doesn’t account for the pretty 41-yard drop in the bucket that Brissett gave him that Hilton let slip right through his fingers. I’ve been down on Hilton a lot this year, and this game doesn’t exactly change that for me. Maybe it is just my problem and he is fine.
Watching a game like this makes you realize how good this guy is. He is borderline uncoverable when he shows up to play. Putting up these kinds of yards with the backup quarterback is insane as well. With Jack Doyle sidelined, the Colts needed Hilton to be the guy, and he stepped up to the challenge. The question is, will he continue to do so down the stretch and against tougher opponents?
Loser – Frank Gore
This might confuse you a bit. Gore, a loser? The guy just passed Eric Dickerson on the all-time rushing yards list. That is great, and I really like Frank Gore, but hear me out.
While Gore was breaking records, he also had a pretty pedestrian game. 14 carries, 48 yards. 3.4 yards per carry average. He did have 38 yards receiving, and on many downs looked like he had a lot more burst than we saw out of him last year. So why the loser ranking?
He also had 2 false start penalties and 2 fumbles. I know that one of the fumbles was due to a direct snap. I also know that both of those fumbles were recovered by the Colts. But when was the last time you saw a running back called for one false start, let alone two? Those kinds of things are mental errors. You aren’t allowed those when you are a veteran running back.
Frank may have shown more burst this season than last season, but when Marlon Mack hits the corner and turns on the afterburners, it makes Gore look like he is wearing cement blocks on his feet. What he has going for him is that he is a reliable guy. He doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t cost his team, and is a great guy in the locker room and the huddle. If mistakes like these become a trend, and I don’t think they will, Gore will likely see his role reduced.
Winner - Adam Vinatieri
Mr. Clutch was just as reliable as ever and was perfect on his 4 field goals, including the one from 51 yards out to win the game. When you watch teams like the Buccaneers struggle through their season with terrible kickers, it really makes you appreciate how good Adam Vinatieri is and how lucky this franchise is to have had him around so long. He may be getting pretty gray-haired, but his leg is still gold.
Loser – 4th Quarter Defense
With the exception of their game against the Rams, this 49ers team did not score a touchdown in 3 of its first 4 games. Let that sink in a bit before you realize that the Colts let that same offense score two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to get right back in and nearly win the game. Bonus points if you can guess what type of defense they did it with?
Call it a coaching problem, call it a player problem. I don’t think you’d be wrong either way. What I do think is that you can’t let a bad offense beat you because you collapse late. Zak Keefer pointed out the point differential in the second half of the Colts games and how bad it has been. This was the first game where it was positive, which was more a function of offensive production than defensive stops. That needs to be fixed yesterday.
Colts scoring differential vs. opponents in the 2nd half/OT this season:— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 9, 2017
Push – Jacoby Brissett
Stephen Holder of the Indy Star put his finger on exactly how I feel about Jacoby Brissett.
I have never seen a QB make so many impressive throws and so many horrific throws in the same game. Brissett defies explanation.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) October 8, 2017
The guy makes some insane throws. T.Y. Hilton didn’t get to 177 receiving yards without some help.
And then there are those other throws. There is the sack because he didn’t see the guy coming right at him from the right side. There is the holding the ball too long. It is almost like the guy is a very young backup quarterback. Oh. Right.
So, all in all, I think Brissett has been good. However, this is the second week where he has thrown a back-breaking interception. Thankfully it was against an incompetent offense and the defense held, but Marlon Mack and Adam Vinatieri are the only reason he isn’t on this list as a loser.