He's #Chuckstrong. Are you? (Colts Instagram Account)
4-3, second place in the AFC South, 6th in the AFC. I'll be honest, I wasn't so sure this could happen.
Tied 3-3 with a minute left in the half sounds like a defensive struggle with big, game changing plays from both defenses. What actually transpired was two teams moving the ball well through the air, with both quarterbacks averaging around 7 yards per completion; and on the ground, with the Colts getting 4.9 ypc and the Titans managing 4.2. However, nobody was able to get into the end zone until Tennessee scored on a Hasselbeck pass to the rookie Kendall Wright with 1:07 remaining in the half.
So, what caused this low-scoring affair in which both teams racked up respectable yardage on offense? Penalties. Three offensive pass interference calls among the Titans’ 7 penalties for 60 yards, and 3 drive-killing penalties for 25 yards on the Colts. The last offensive pass interference call against the Titans came on a touchdown throw by Hasselbeck in which Jerraud Powers managed to sell the penalty by going to the ground as the receiver shoved him in the end zone. The call actually may have worked against the Colts, however, as the Titans were able to run more time off the clock before they actually scored their touchdown, leaving Luck and the offense with less than a minute after the return.
Impressive players at the half: The star of the 1st half was Matt Hasselbeck, with a 120.6 QB rating on 13/16 passing and a TD in the two-minute drill. The Titans’ defensive line was also able to get good pressure on Andrew Luck, while the Colts’ offensive line continued to struggle mightily in pass protection. The line did well in the run game for the most part in the half, helping the team to gain a respectable 49 yards on the ground. Also impressive was Colts TE Dwayne Allen, with two nice catches in three targets, including an over thrown screen that the turned into a nice gain, and some bone-crushing blocks. Andrew Luck’s first half was possibly the best he has looked on the road, apart from his fumble, with 126 yards on 11/18 passing and a respectable 82.2 QB rating.
Unimpressive players at the half: Anthony Castonzo (tough time pass blocking), and Cassius Vaughn, who is giving up completions at an alarming rate. However, the back of Vaughn’s helmet made a nice play on the Titans’ first drive of the 3rd quarter with a deflection on a deep pass for Wright. Vaughn never turned for the ball, but he didn't get beaten on the play.
In the second half, Indianapolis racked up another 122 yards on the ground. The Colts managed a field goal from Vinatieri after a decent 49-yard drive to start the 3rd quarter. Then both teams traded punts for the rest of the quarter, with two failed drives apiece, and an Andrew Luck interception.
So began the 4th quarter. Two of the worst defenses in the league, including Tennessee’s 32nd ranked scoring defense (34 pts. per game coming in) had held the game score to 10-6 in favor of the Titans. If not for the Titans’ penalties, it could have been much worse. Things did not look great for Colts fans, despite the close score. Indianapolis had not scored a touchdown in an away game since the blowout loss to Chicago in the opener, and the Titans finished off a strong drive that began in the 3rd with a field goal for a 13-6 lead.
Shortly after, the Colts offense came to life. Luck orchestrated a 14-play 80-yard drive to tie the score, with some smart, short passes and some great running by Brown and Carter. Arians made a great call to go for the touchdown on 4th and 1 at the Tennessee 8-yard line. These calls can really send the right message to the team, even if they don’t convert. Arians basically told the offense the coaching staff has faith in them to go out there and try to win the game. The defense would have certainly been in a favorable position even if they didn’t convert. As we know, however, the Colts made it. Carter bulldozed ahead for 7 yards before colliding with Michael Griffin. On the next play, the middle of the offensive line came through for Carter as he leaped over the pile for the tying score, 13-13. It was nice to see the no-huddle and some short passes, as well as some lanes for the running backs.
With the score tied at 13 and 3:24 remaining, the Titans started moving the ball with ease. Again. However, thanks to some nice run stopping by Cory Redding, a deep overthrow of the tight end Cook by Hasselbeck (with the wind at his back), and a strange incompletion off Pat Angerer’s arm, Tennessee was forced to punt again.
The Colts ran a few plays with less than a minute left. Allen nearly fumbled after a 28-yard catch, and Reggie Wayne was injured on the play (He was able to return. No word on what happened yet as this was posted). The game went into overtime.
Indianapolis won the toss, and the offense continued their momentum from the end of the 4th quarter, taking the ball 76 yards in 9 plays for the touchdown. Donald Brown ran for 33 yards on the first 5 plays before losing 3 on a play broken up in the backfield. Luck, under heavy duress, managed to get off a strong 20-yard completion to Reggie Wayne, getting the team into great position to score. He then finished off the Titans with a short pass to Ballard that turned into a highlight-reel 16-yard diving touchdown (video). Colts Win, 19-13. It wasn’t pretty for much of it, but they’ll take a win however they get it.
In review, the Colts managed 30 first downs – 12 on the ground – and 19 points on the road for their first road win since Peyton Manning was in Indianapolis. They didn’t force any turnovers on defense, and struggled against the run (and the pass), but the offense controlled the pace of the game, holding the ball for 33:56 and running for 171 yards and 5 ypc.
Impressive players in the 2nd half: Donald Brown, who finished with 80 yards and 5.7 ypc, Ballard, who ran for 55 yards and 4.6 ypc and caught the winning touchdown. The offensive line had trouble with pass protection but opened up some serious holes for the running backs. Moreover, Andrew Luck, who had struggled miserably in his first two road games, had an impressive day, with 297 passing yards, 1/1, an 89.5 quarterback rating, and 68% accuracy. This was a huge win for this young Colts team, and for their rookie quarterback.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Colts, who many thought would go 2-14 this year, are 4-3. There is a great deal of hope for the future, but this team has been downright enjoyable to watch already this year. After gaining a winning record for the first time since 2010 – and doing so on the road – they should have much greater confidence moving forward. Next week, the Colts will resume 'building the monster' at home against the Dolphins.