It wasn’t the prettiest, but the Indianapolis Colts started the 2013 season with a win, 21-17 over the Oakland Raiders. In a game that, on paper, shouldn’t have been very close, the Colts came out of the gate on fire. They ran and stopped the run as they had intended (except, of course, for a certain quarterback), and more importantly, it didn’t come at the expense of passing and stopping the pass.
The Raiders’ first drive moved decently but ended with a Greg Toler interception. It may have been a bad pass, but a good corner should be able to get his hands on a bad throw when it comes his way. (more after the jump)
The Colts’ first possession of 2013 began with a 12 yard run up the middle from Vick Ballard. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Reggie Wayne chipped in a couple crowd pleasing catches of 16 and 25 yards respectively to help set up Luck’s 12 yard touchdown to none other than Wayne.
After the defense forced an Oakland punt, thanks in part to a solid 3rd down tackle by Antoine Bethea, the Colts marched right down field for another touchdown, this one a 20-yarder to TE Dwayne Allen, who flattened a Raider defensive back on his way into the endzone.
Just as the game began to resemble a blowout (14-0 early in the second quarter), the Raiders came to life. QB Terrelle Pryor escaped pressure to throw a first down to RB Darren McFadden, and shortly after began the scrambling. Pryor for 9 yards. Pryor for 29 yards. Pryor for 13 yards. McFadden eventually finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7, Colts.
The Colts’ pass protection problems began to plague them after that, as the teams exchanged punts a couple times before Oakland ended the first half with a missed 48-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.
The Colts began the third quarter with more protection problems, and their first drive ended shortly after Andrew Luck was sacked for an 8-yard loss by defensive back Terry Porter.
The Raiders answered back with more Terrelle Pryor – 42 more yards worth, eventually kicking a field goal to draw to within four points.
After sacking Andrew Luck to end another Colts drive, the Raiders finally took the lead 17-14 on a 5-yard pass from Pryor to Moore in the fourth quarter. 17 unanswered points. The Colts were in trouble, and at risk of losing to a team that everyone expected them to trounce.
With 11:09 left in the game, Luck and the offense did what they did all last season when they were 9-1 in close games. They played with the poise of 10-year veterans. The young quarterback shook off constant pressure and some shaky play to lead the team on a 71-yard march to take the lead. On the touchdown play, Luck escaped a collapsing pocket, then took off and rambled 19 yards for the go-ahead score.
When the Raiders took over with 5:20 left in the game, Pryor quickly moved them to the Indy 30 yard line, thanks in part to a blown coverage and a 41-yard pass to TE Jeron Mastrud (who?), who was injured on the play.
After a 12 men on the field penalty against Oakland (yes, too many men against the offense), the defense bottled up Pryor, forcing him to stay in the pocket, where he eventually threw another ill-advised pass, this one intended for Rod Streater near the end zone. Antoine Bethea read the play beautifully, saw the mistake, and came in for the interception to ice the game for Indianapolis.
Victory formation. Game over. 21-17.
Several things certainly could have gone better. The offensive line had some great moments at times in the run game, but Luck took four sacks against a team that has struggled mightily with their pass rush, and the defense needs to be able to handle elusive running quarterbacks.
Although Terrelle Pryor looked like Colin Kaepernick 2.0 at times, running for 112 yards on 13 carries (8.63 ypc), the Colts did manage to bottle up a healthy Darren McFadden, holding the Raiders’ top running back to 17 carries for 48 yards and just 2.8 yards per rush.
They had trouble with the pass rush at times, getting into the backfield, only to be eluded by the speedy Pryor, but Robert Mathis did come up with a sack on the final drive that helped decide the game, and the defensive backs did a great job getting their hands on the football.
Vick Ballard had 13 rushes for 63 yards and a healthy 4.8 ypc, but Andrew Luck put this team on his shoulders in the first and fourth quarters, going 18/23 for 178 yards, 2 passing touchdowns and a 127.9 QB rating and carrying the ball 6 times for 38 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
At one point, he slipped out of a collapsing pocket, pushed a defender to the ground, and sped away for a first down. Luck struggled through the middle, but he reminded us (as though we needed to be reminded) just how good he can be.
It wasn’t quite the game fans or the team wanted to see against a rebuilding team, but there were some bright spots to build on. And, more importantly, they found a way to win, as good teams tend to do. They will be looking for improvement, but let’s not get too caught up in the negatives. Enjoy the win. Next up, the Miami Dolphins at home on September 15.