Whenever something good happens on Colts’ Special Teams, especially the coverage units, Sergio Brown is nearly always there. The NFL doesn’t keep official stats for who downs the most punts inside the 20 yard line (He had two inside the 5 on Sunday), or Brown’s athletic endzone leaps to bat the ball back into play for another player to down it near the goal line.
They don’t track the times he beats his man and draws a block in the back or blows up the last blocker so Mario Harvey, Josh Gordy, or another teammate can make a play on the returner. What they do choose to track looks like this: 9 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, one blocked field goal, one punt return after a muff (I can’t believe that’s the term) by Chris Rainey. Such is the NFL life of a Special Teams star.
“He’s playing at Pro Bowl caliber right now,” Chuck Pagano said of Brown. “Very high level. Again, made two great plays. Pat (McAfee) kicking the heck out of the football and putting it in position for our guys to make plays. It doesn’t matter. Nobody singles him. He draws the double all the time and they still can’t block him. He’s a big, physical, fast guy that loves his job, loves doing what he does. He’s got a great knack for it.”
Pagano later called Brown a “big, fast, athletic guy,” while talking about his versatility. Brown has seen some time at safety and nickel corner during his time in Indianapolis, but the coach also wanted to touch on Sergio’s toughness, since he did break a hand three weeks ago.
“He’s doing it with a club on his hand,” Pagano added. “Here’s a guy that, normal you and I, if you had that surgery, they opened your hand up and put a plate in your hand and put four screws in there and then sutured it back up, you’d be down four to five weeks. He had it on Tuesday and played the next Sunday and didn’t miss a beat.”
If you haven’t yet, next time the punt team trots out on the field for their usual human demolition derby, skip going to the refrigerator for a snack, and watch for number 38 instead. You will be entertained.
What positives does one take from a blowout loss? (Well, a two score loss that could have gone much differently if not for a certain referee awarding the home team a phantom touchdown on 4th and goal)
Well, one positive was (wait for it) the offensive line. Yes, the offensive line, ravaged by injuries so badly that I’m pretty sure I saw an orange Gatorade cooler on the depth chart, had a fine game in pass protection.
Pro Football Focus even graded them well. LT Anthony Castonzo earned a +1.8, LG Joe Reitz +3.3, C Samson Satele -0.8 (his best grade since earning a 2.8 in Week 11), RG Mike McGlynn +4.3 (responded well to being benched), and RT Gosder Cherilus +3.8. The group gave up 3 QB hits, 2 hurries, only 10 pressures on the day (PFF), and zero sacks.
While that didn’t turn out to be enough against an elite defense on the road, a performance of that caliber against a 2-10 divisional opponent at home this week would be both hard to beat and a joy to watch.
Another area that provided a bright spot was the play of a couple backup wide receivers. They have waited behind Darrius Heyward-Bey most of the season, one of them on the practice squad, but their time finally came.
Lavon Brazill and Da’Rick Rogers had 42 and 41 offensive snaps respectively while Heyward-Bey saw the field just 24 times. Message sent, even if it was a byproduct of being down three scores.
Each player shined in their extended roles, earning Andrew Luck’s trust by catching tough passes over the middle. Rogers caught 6 passes on 9 targets for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of them a 69 yarder on a short slant.
“Well, I think we all knew from a talent standpoint what was there,” Pagano said of Rogers. “I think it was just a matter of learning what to do from an offensive standpoint, getting comfortable in the offense, terminology, all those things.”
Brazill reeled in 3 big catches on just 4 targets for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns of his own. He broke 6 tackles on one touchdown and beat single coverage deep for a beautiful 29-yarder as well.
If Rogers and Brazill can continue to play at a level anywhere near what they did in the second half on Sunday, it should open things up for top receiver T.Y. Hilton and help the overall passing game immensely.
NT Josh Chapman on making the play on BenJarvus Green-Ellis and having it overturned: “It is. You get through there, make a play, you get hyped, celebrate about it. But at the same time, I look at it this way: the guy should have never been down there. We should’ve handled our business from the beginning. But when they get in the red zone, our job is to keep them out of the red zone.”
T.Y. Hilton on whether he’s been frustrated, toiling away in double coverage the past couple games: “Oh no, you can’t get frustrated. When it’s my time to make a play, I’ll make a play. But I’m seeing double teams. Sometimes they roll the coverage my way. It just means guys got to step up, which they did last game, so we’re moving in the right direction with that. (LaVon) Brazill, DHB (Darrius Heyward-Bey) made a big play and Da’Rick (Rogers) making plays, so as long as they continue to keep doing that, we should be fine.”
Andrew Luck on Da’Rick Rogers: “I think he’s really learned that practice pays dividends. He comes to practice with great energy, great enthusiasm, whether he’s running scout team stuff or in there with the guys getting the reps. He’s always done a great job. It does pay dividends. That’s something I learned. It took me a while to learn too. I think he’s done a great job of that. I’m really happy for him and the opportunity he’s getting and the chance he’s making.”