The Indianapolis Colts (1-1) rebounded from their shaky opening-day performance to beat the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener, 23-20. It was a finish a bit too close for comfort for the Colts, who entered the 4th quarter with a 14-point lead. Conservative play calling that prevented the Colts offense from moving the ball until the last drive of the game kept a shaky, inconsistent defense on the field for too long.
On offense, Luck was dominant, using his arm and legs to carry the Colts offense. The Colts offensive line once again provided little protection to the rookie signal caller, but unlike a week ago, Luck was able to keep his legs moving and his eyes up-field to pick apart the Vikings defense. And perhaps that was the biggest difference between a week ago and today: the Bears field one of the best defenses, able to attack a QB with their front-4 while maintaining excellent back-end coverage. The Vikings? They were able to generate pressure today, but whereas a week ago Luck found tight windows in coverage, today he found gaping canyons.
The defense again put up the kind of incosistent performance Colts fans should come to expect from the unit. They have the ability to put together a good series or two, they will occasionally force a 3-and-out, but they lack the pass rush and dynamic secondary required to shut teams down for an entire game. These inconsistencies, combined with an embarrassingly conservative 2nd-half offensive game plan, conspired to allow the Vikings back into the game.
At the end of the day, it was a good win over a bad team, the kind of win you need to be able to pick up as you look to improve as a young team. The Colts face off against their rivals from Jacksonville next week, and, if they can win that game, will head into their BYE week with a respectable 2-1 record and the ability to get some key players back from injury.
Quick Thoughts, The Good
– While he may not have been perfect, Andrew Luck delivered the perfect response to his opening day performance. Luck was calm and poised under pressure, used his mobility to extend plays and pick up tough yards, and was accurate on his down field throws. And, proving that he’s a quick learner, he put more zip on passes that, just a week ago, wound up as interceptions. The Vikings defense is a far cry from the Bears, but it was still a dominating performance from the Colts rookie QB.
– The Colts game winning drive was a thing of beauty. It was gut check time for Luck and the Colts offense, and they answered the bell and delivered the knock out blow.
– Donnie Avery had a good game. While many will remember the down field catches from Avery, his most important work came in the form of some tough 3rd-down conversions. Luck is still being hurried due to poor play from the offensive line, so his pass catchers are going to have to make the occasional tough catch. Avery was able to do that today, and was a big part of the Colts offensive success.
– Reggie Wayne’s day wasn’t as spectacular as his 9 catch outing against the Bears a week ago, but it was still impressive, nonetheless. His 30-yd touchdown at the end of the first half was a thing of beauty and shows that, while Wayne may have lost a step, his days as a down field weapon aren’t over.
– Jerrell Freeman is quickly earning himself a permanent role on this defense. On the heels of a good day in Chicago which included his first half pick-6 of Jay Cutler, Freeman notched double-digit tackles and a sack-fumble of Christian Ponder.
– Jerraud Powers wasn’t spectacular in coverage today, but he made up for it with a great tackling performance. Powers has been giving more of a pre-snap cushion than his counterpart, Vontae Davis, but he’s used that cushion to keep the play in front of him, and he’s made quick, sure tackles, preventing big games. The good news? Powers will continue to improve as he grows in the new defensive scheme.
– The defensive line wasn’t great, especially against the run, but they were far more active and disruptive for 4 quarters than they were last week.
– Antoine Bethea had another good day in the Colts defensive backfield.
– Pat McAfee bailed the Colts out multiple times on Sunday with his deep, booming kicks. The Colts coverage teams regressed after a good showing in week 1, but if McAfee continues to perform as he did today, it will go a long way towards masking those issues.
Quick Thoughts, The Bad
– The Colts offensive line still isn’t good. If you were curious, however, losing Samson Satele to injury DOES actually make it worse. Not only was the blocking worse after Satele’s injury, but every shotgun snap after his exit was an adventure. McGlynn will likely improve with a week full of practice, should Satele’s injury require that he miss significant time, but this is a blow an already-thin offensive line can’t afford to absorb.
– The Colts defensive performance, over all, was inconsistent. Gashed on the run and by Harvin in the first half, and then again in the 4th quarter, they continue to remind you that, while they are capable of stringing together successful plays, they are a long way from helping the Colts contend for the playoffs.
– The Colts special teams coverages were reminiscent of the past decade. Grigson has said that fixing the special teams is a priority. And while it seemed as though his efforts had paid off after week 1, today’s performance shows us that there’s still some work to be done there.
– Bruce Arians called nearly 10 empty-backfield plays this afternoon. As I wrote earlier this week, with an OL as bad as the Colts, these plays are just daring opposing defenses to hit Luck. The worst part is, the Colts lead for much of today’s game, so the number of aggressive formations were not only dangerous, but largely unnecessary.
– The replacement refs started off slow, missing an early face mask and blow to Luck’s head, but finished strong, calling a decent game. More important than getting every call right, is getting every call ‘consistent’, and I think that, as the refs get more experience, they’ll get close to that.
– Through 2 games, I’m not sure what the Colts offensive identity is. Are they a running team? A dynamic passing team? I’m not sure. More concerning: I don’t think Arians knows, either.
Quick Thoughts, The Ugly
– I was going to leave this spot empty, after all, the Colts got their first win, what could possibly be ugly? The coaching. Gutless, play-to-not-lose play calling and coaching decisions were the predominant reasons the Colts saw their 14-point 4th-quarter lead evaporate. The Vikings attempted to give the game away multiple times, and each time, the Colts declined the invitation. Young teams have to learn how to win. The same can be said for young coaching staffs. The Colts won, so no harm, and hopefully they can use today as a learning experience moving forward.