Sunday afternoon the Colts did something they almost never did while Chuck Pagano was leading the team. They pummeled an inferior opponent. Over the past several years, the Colts have typically been in the habit of letting teams hang around who they should beat handily. That changed against the Bills yesterday.
The Colts offense dominated one of the better defensive units in football both in the air and on the ground. The defense was smothering, generating turnovers and stops against a miserable Bills offense. With a game against the Raiders ahead of them before the bye week, this was the performance this Colts team needed to get things back on track.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers for this week.
How could Mack not be the first person mentioned? Mack rushed for 126 yards on 19 carries. He had both a rushing and receiving touchdown. He nearly matched Andrew Luck’s production in terms of yards. That is a huge lift against a very good defense.
The Colts have been desperately missing a rushing attack and it appears that with a healthy Marlon Mack behind an offensive line that has Anthony Castonzo back, this team is beginning to create a more balanced offensive attack.
The impact on a defense of a running back who is able to make big gains is apparent. Receivers were more open, and pass rushers were slowed down or negated. If the Colts can start to get this kind of weekly production from Mack, they’re offense is going to start looking very good very quickly.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate how good this offensive line has been. In the past two games, they have allowed zero sacks. That was not a typo. At this point last season, the Colts have allowed 29 sacks. The offensive line wasn’t blocking opponents so much as asking them “pretty please” not to sack their quarterback.
That hasn’t been the case this year. Despite a rash of injuries along the line, rookies Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith have stepped into meaningful roles on the line and suddenly this looks like a good unit that is trending up. The holes that the running backs were getting were such that the lowest yards per carry average belonged to Marlon Mack, who only managed to scrape a 6.6 YPC average. This is a unit that should continue to improve as they get more reps together, but this was an outright dominant performance against a very good defense.
Luck had an incredible game. The pressure wasn’t on him to carry the load because of so many other great contributions, but one of the most impressive aspects to Luck’s game remains one that has been a constant for him. Luck has some of the best pocket movement of any quarterback in the NFL. He avoided being touched so many times in this game by quickly and smoothly evading pressure to step up and make a throw.
His decisions were smart, he didn’t try to dive in for a touchdown on his scramble near the end zone, saving himself an unnecessary hit. Across the board he made good throws and took what the defense gave him. Statistically a 156 yard performance might not seem all that great. However, watching it you could see just how well Luck played. We are so lucky to have had such a run of great quarterback play in this city.
Kemoko Turay has slowly but surely been proving himself a good pick by Chris Ballard. He has been close to the ball and getting consistent pressure for much of the season, but hasn’t quite gotten home with consistency. Today was no different. Turay was in Anderson’s face often and was able to make a big play, causing a strip sack which was recovered by the Colts.
Given the impotence of this Bills offense I won’t harp on his performance all that much, but he deserves credit for his steady improvement throughout the season. It is clear that Turay is a player who is growing under the tutelage of Robert Mathis, and I expect we will continue to see him showing out as a part of this defense.
On the whole I did not think much of the signing of Mitchell when it happened. Since joining the Colts though, Mitchell has proven to be a big factor on this defense. In just two weeks on the team, Mitchell has racked up 14 tackles, 2 passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble.
Mitchell was a force on defense against the Bills. The Colts really needed a solid role player to fill the void left by Matthias Farley and Clayton Geathers’ injuries. It probably doesn’t hurt to inject a veteran presence into the secondary for a very young team either. Right now, he is looking like a fantastic signing.
Take these “losers” with a grain of salt. Vinny has never really been much of a loser, but he gets listed that way here because something was obviously up with him. He has been listed with a groin injury, and it was apparent that he was impacted by it Sunday as he missed two extra points.
Hopefully there is not a lingering problem, because we’d all like to see him get the career points record. I’m not sure how long we can expect to see him continue kicking, but it would be a shame to miss time and miss out on the opportunity to clinch that record because of a groin issue.
It was a really lousy week to be a running back who had to miss time. The Colts running backs ran roughshod over the Bills’ defense, and Robert Turbin was held out with a shoulder injury. As a 28-year-old running back who missed 4 games due to suspension, missing this game allowed the two rookie backs to make an impression and likely damaged Turbin’s opportunity to get carries going forward.
Turbin will be a free agent this offseason, and with 3 promising running backs, it seems unlikely that the Colts will look to re-sign Turbin without him putting a really strong showing together. If injury holds him out for long, he won’t get the opportunity to have that showing.