Defense to the Rescue
The Colts defense came to the rescue in their 22-14 win over the Titans on Sunday. A big part of that was the return of solid play in the secondary. Here are some PFF stats – the highlights: Vontae Davis continues to bounce back from a rough stretch and allowed just 2 catches for 16 yards on 5 targets and a QB rating of 48.8 when he was covering the intended receiver. LaRon Landry allowed 4 catches on 5 targets, but for only 2.8 yards per reception and a 79.2 QB rating, and Cassius Vaughn, who moved into the slot, allowed 2 catches for 28 yards on 3 targets with his two interceptions, leaving Fitzpatrick with a 56.9 rating against him.
The defense played well as a whole, despite constantly following up short drives by the offense, and they capitalized on everything they could, coming up with four turnovers. “Other than the score, turnover margin is the next biggest tell in wins and losses in this league,” Chuck Pagano said of the defensive effort. “When you finish plus-three, we know historically you can go back 10, 20 years and you win probably over 93 percent of the time.
“So it was huge by our defense to come up with the turnovers. Cassius (Vaughn) playing the way that Cassius played, coming up with two interceptions, and Jerrell’s (Freeman) interception at the end of the game to seal the game for us, and the strip-sack by Robert (Mathis) was huge. There’s big swings there.”
“That’s kind of how the defense is built, create turnovers and get the ball back for our offense,” Robert Mathis added. “When we’re clicking like that, we’re pretty tough to deal with. So we just have to bring that brand of Colts football each and every week.”
Sorry Not Sorry
Sunday’s path to victory was about as graceful as a big nose tackle rumbling and stumbling into the endzone on a fumble return. It was far from pretty, but aesthetics only count in ice skating and gymnastics.
There are aspects of Sunday’s win over the Titans that don’t bode well for a playoff run. Andrew Luck, according to Pro Football Focus, saw pressure on 42.5% of his dropbacks and was sacked 5 times. The running game was nothing to get excited about until the Colts’ penultimate drive (at which time it became very excitement-worthy), and the team was just 3/14 on third down. Even so, it was a win, and Chuck Pagano, of course, is pleased.
“Again, we’re never going to apologize for winning no matter how you get it done,” he said. “Ugly, whatever you want to call it, a win is a win. It was critical. We all know the magnitude of that ball game. It was a game we had to get the win and get it done.”
Pagano was very aware of the team’s struggles but also very pleased with the offensive linemen, running backs, and tight ends coming through late in the game. “To be able to put together an 11-play, 92-yard drive, take the time off the clock, score a touchdown at the end, go up eight was a testament to those guys,” he said.
“Because it was tough sledding for a long, long time,” the coach added. “Again, we moved the ball. We got down in the high red zone and then we find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot. We get a turnover, sudden change, couldn’t capitalize. Again, we had to rely on Adam’s (Vinatieri) foot to score the majority of the points.”
The Colts players and coaches know things didn’t go well for the offense for most of Sunday’s game, and they’re still looking for answers. They have far fewer questions to worry about, however, than, say, Oakland, Atlanta, or Jacksonville. Meanwhile, they’re not sorry about being 8-4.
Donald Brown on what it meant to him to start on Sunday: “Honestly, not much. I’m very grateful for it but I’m more concerned with finishing strong and playing well. It doesn’t matter who starts the game, it’s how you finish.”
Robert Mathis on people’s perception coming into the season that he couldn’t play at a high level without Dwight Freeney on the other side: “People feel what they feel. I really can’t change how or why they think that, I guess. But control what I can and that’s when the play’s there to be made, just make the play. Let them think what they want to think and just play football.”
Mathis on Donald Brown: “Probably one of the greatest teammates you ever want to have. You can’t ask for more out of a guy. He clocks in, does his job, doesn’t get in trouble. Really just the ultimate professional and a guy that you like to have on your side.”
Brown sounding quite a bit like Peyton Manning after being asked about what he’s done to play so well this season: “Just staying the course. Knock on wood, staying healthy, staying strong. Just obviously studying the game plan inside and out. Knowing what everybody else is doing and then obviously knowing what the defense is going to do. Studying, staying healthy and just staying patient.”
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.