Quotes and information in today’s Colts Notebook are provided courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
Playing to Win
Let’s start out near the two-minute warning on Sunday. Vick Ballard, who was injured on the previous drive, had just run for 13 yards and a crucial first down, followed by a dive play for no gain. On 2nd and 10, their last available running back playing hurt, the Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians called a pass play.
A first down would win the game. An incompletion would stop the clock. A turnover would give Tennessee one more crack against Indy’s tired defense. His quarterback had only 15 completions to that point. Was Arians, a proprietor of gambling, vertical offenses, nervous at all? Was he holding his breath? “No, it’s a matter of trust,” the coach said of calling a pass in that situation. “I really thought we’d have Reggie (Wayne) on the curl and they doubled it and he came right back to Dwayne (Allen) and Dwayne made a great play and stretched it and made the first down.”
“The first down was going to be the game,” Arians continued. “At that point in time, I didn’t have a lot of confidence that we could run it two more times because Vick (Ballard) was so beat up. He had a stinger earlier in an earlier drive and I was afraid of the ball popping out. So I was going to get that first down and kneel. I didn’t want to put our defense back out there in that situation.”
“He’s not afraid to win the game,” added Tight End Dwayne Allen, who caught the game-icing 11-yard pass. “I think he showed that the first time we played the Titans when we took the ball right off the bat and marched right down the field. He noticed a tendency of ours to run out of that formation and decided to take a chance to throw a pass. We did and we completed that and the game was over.”
Since league rules tend to favor offenses, they’re typically the best unit to have on the field to close out a game. The Colts offense, maligned for much of the game, managed to close it out with two first downs, both by rookies, no more time outs for Tennessee, and on to the Victory Formation. Still, it took some guts, so to speak, to call a pass in that situation, though the Tennessee defense loading up against the run probably made the decision a little easier.
A Big Second Half from the Cornerbacks
The defense held the Titans to 86 yards in the second half in a spectacular team effort. They absolutely stonewalled Running Back Chris Johnson, holding the elusive back to 19 carries for 44 yards – 2.3 per carry – for the game, and what arguably could have been ruled a fumble.
An integral part of that monster second half from the Colts defense was the improved play of their cornerbacks. That’s right, the cornerbacks. The unit has struggled all season, and the first half looked like more of the same, with Titans Quarterback Jake Locker picking apart the Indianapolis secondary. But something happened in the second half. The Colts corners came back out playing smart, sound football and made a few huge plays when it mattered most.
Cassius Vaughn had 8 tackles, 3 passes defended, and game-changing pick-six. Vontae Davis added a pass deflection in the end zone and his second career sack to go along with 8 tackles, three of which were for a loss, and Darius Butler, playing the nickel corner position, added a pair of tackles and picked off Locker in the fourth quarter to help secure the win.
Of course, Vaughn’s interception came with the risk of the receiver breaking for a deeper pass. “It’s always taking a big risk,” Vaughn Said. “Once he’s off and behind you, it’s always a risk. We believe in what we do. No matter what, we believe in what we do. In the beginning of the game, they were getting us on a couple deep balls, a couple come-backs. We turned it up in the second half.”
A Few Good Quotes: Pleased but not Satisfied
Bruce Arians on the missed call in which Luck was down but threw a pick six that was upheld upon review: “Are you trying to get me fined? It’s up to the referees. As he tells me, ‘They’ve got HD in there.’”
Andrew Luck, discussing that same play: “I saw it on the jumbotron. I was hoping they would call me down but they probably deserved a pick-six for trying to throw a football in that position going down right at a defender. You learn from it and don’t do it again hopefully.”
Luck on the big game from the special teams and defensive units: “It’s a lot of fun to play on this team, just because guys play football. No matter what the score, they’re out there playing football. If we put the defense in a bad position, they’ll hold them to a field goal instead of a touchdown. You see a great punt by Pat McAfee and the next play, six points for us. We try and hold up our end of the bargain as well every now and then, but it’s a real fun team to play on.”
Arians on Vontae Davis: “I think Vontae is coming on like gang busters. He’s starting to get healthy and I wish he had made that other interception down there in the end zone. He lost it in the lights.”
RB Vick Ballard on whether they worried about being down 20-7: “No because 13 points, if you score two touchdowns, you got the lead, just like we did. We came out and scored two touchdowns, kicked a couple of field goals, defense made a couple big stops and we came out with the win.”
FS Antoine Bethea on being 9-4 after the 2-14 season last year: “It feels good. As everybody knows, it was a long year for us. For us to come in here and do the things that we’ve done so far, we still have three games left and still can possibly get a 12-win season. That means a lot to the vets and even to the newcomers.”
OLB Dwight Freeney on the improvement over last year, and summing up the team’s attitude toward their success: “It feels great. Obviously, night and day compared to last year. The feeling around the locker room is tremendous but that being said, by no means am I, or we, satisfied of where we are. I’m not saying it’s a disappointment if we don’t win it all but that’s our mentality. We go out there thinking win it all and that’s it.”
Notes and Milestones: Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck is now 260 yards away from breaking the rookie record for most yards thrown in a season (4,051 by Cam Newton in 2011) and has passed Peyton Manning’s team record of 3,739 yards. Despite struggling for much of the day, Luck still had a fourth quarter drive to take the lead, his 6th of the season, an NFL rookie record, previously held by Ben Roethlisberger and Vince Young (5 each).
As for the records, Luck's focus is exactly where one might expect it to be. “I’m glad we got the win," he said when asked about Manning's record. "Again, I don’t think I deserve to look back doing anything. It would be dishonest to my teammates and I have to keep focus. I guess it’s good to get good records, not interception records.”
It’s worth noting that the record for most interceptions in a rookie season belongs to none other than Peyton Manning with 28, who also holds the record (26) for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie quarterback. Luck is currently on pace for around 22 or 23 touchdowns as well as interceptions.
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