The Indianapolis Colts knew exactly what they had to do in order to get themselves a playoff berth. Win, and move on to the Wild Card round in Houston. Lose, on the other hand, and their season is over right then and there.
The Colts came out hot, dominating time of possession, and put up touchdowns on their first two drives of the game of 12, and 16 plays respectively. But, the Colts soon made their evening a lot harder than it had to be with a couple of terrible turnovers.
In the end, the Colts were able to right the ship for the remainder of the game and pulled off a 33-17 victory to send themselves into the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season.
The Colts will head to Houston to take on the Texans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs next week.
Here are a few takeaways from the Colts big victory on Sunday night football.
Colts’ turnovers/senseless penalties cannot continue into the postseason
This is no surprise to anyone who understands how important ball control is in the postseason. To this point, they haven’t really been an issue, but in a game that isn’t against the Tennessee Titans it very well could have meant the difference in the end result.
Midway through the second quarter — just after the Colts decimated the Titans’ defense for two long scoring drives — Andrew Luck and the Colts offense were backed up against their own goal line.
On the first snap, Luck held the ball forever, then pumped twice before leaping while attempting to hit Dontrelle Inman outside the numbers. Jayon Brown undercut the pass and went easily into the end zone to put the Titans on the board and cutting the Colts’ lead in half.
On the Colts very next possession, after the Colts recovered a muffed punt inside of the Titans’ 10-yard line, Marlon Mack had a touchdown called back, then fumbled the ball away two plays later taking at least 3 more points off of the board for the Colts.
Both of these turnovers were killers. A pick-six as well as another turnover in the red zone are not plays that you would consider to be ‘winning football’ by any means. These two situations did appear to be out of the norm in this game, but they’re important for the coaching staff to address during the week nevertheless.
Additionally, the Colts committed 12 penalties for 96 yards, causing two touchdowns to be called back and countless long-yardage situations throughout the night. Mark Glowinski was flagged several times, and seemed to be getting caught at the most inopportune times for the Colts’ offense.
Two costly turnovers added to nearly 100 yards worth of penalties is not exactly a great combination for a team that will have to go on the road in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. These mistakes simply must be fixed.
Darius Leonard takes franchise single-season tackle record, breaks Jeff Herrod’s 160-tackle season from 1991
Lost in the mix of watching a win-and-in game between these divisional foes was the Colts’ rookie stud linebacker Darius Leonard breaking the franchise record for tackles in a single season.
After once being seen as the ‘worst pick’ in the 2018 draft, the Colts’ rookie second-round pick has taken everyone’s expectations and exceeded them all. Even if you were one of the few on the Leonard train following his being drafted, your expectations could not have been this high for the small-school ‘Maniac.’
Some halftime reading on Darius Leonard, who just broke the franchise record for tackles in a season:https://t.co/lfOpFlJQHL— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) December 31, 2018
Leonard finished his rookie regular season with 163 total tackles which led the Colts easily, but also the NFL. Leonard was snubbed in the voting for the Pro Bowl, but he has to be the leader for rookie defensive player of the year honors, and should even be in consideration for defensive player of the year as well.
Chris Ballard appears to have hit the jackpot with Leonard, and just as he was overlooked by several schools heading into college, he was again by analysts and other NFL teams even after being drafted. He simply cannot be overlooked any longer, and it’ll be quite interesting to see what he can do in the playoffs.
Colts put together two of their better drives of the season to start game
The Colts hadn’t started very quickly over the past few weeks. In fact, the Colts had only amassed 14 first-quarter points — before tonight — since Week 12. Tonight, the Colts got hot right away, and on their first two drives looked about as good as anyone could have hoped.
They were also shutting down the Titans’ offense — I use that term loosely — allowing only 8 total plays through their first two drives.
In their first two possessions, the Colts put together 28 plays, 192 total yards (6.8 yards per play), used up nearly 17 minutes of the clock and was piloted by Andrew Luck who went 13-of-15 for 142 passing yards and 2 touchdowns in that span of the game.
I don’t know how interesting it is, but through those two drives, the Colts ran only one play that recorded negative yardage. 26 of those plays were for positive yardage and just 1 for no gain. That’s impressive offensive football, and the Colts needed that after their slow starts as of late.
Now, this level of offensive play wasn’t exactly consistent throughout the game, but it was a nice explosion to remind Colts’ fans, as well as the rest of the NFL and their fans how good Andrew Luck and this offense can be when things are hitting on all cylinders.
- Luck finishes second in NFL with 39 touchdown passes
- Marlon Mack hits 100-yard rushing mark for fourth time this season
- Colts allow less than 100 yards on the ground for 9th time this season
- Dontrelle Inman leads Colts in receiving yardage, continues to be late-down target for Luck
- Colts don’t get a single hit on Blaine Gabbert, but are never really threatened by his play