Ladies and Gentlemen, the Indianapolis Colts are for real. Legitimate. Whatever you want to call it. After a rather unusual 34-28 victory over the Seahawks, the Colts now sit at 4-1 as they make their way through a very tough stretch in their schedule. What ended in elation, however, began very differently.
The Colts came into this game hoping to prove they could compete against the best, hoping to take it to the 4-0 Seahawks the same way they did the 49ers in their 27-7 victory in by the Bay. Things didn’t begin well, however, as Indy came out flat on both sides of the ball.
Their first possession kicked off three straight three and outs for the Colts offense. Seattle answered back by running the ball at will against what was initially a very fired up defensive unit. Marshawn Lynch’s first carry went for 24 yards, but the Colts managed to stop him for a 9 yard gain on third and 15, setting up a field goal.
After the Colts second three and out, Seattle took over, in good field position for the second straight drive, and raced 64 yards in 8 plays for a 10-0 lead on Golden Tate’s 10-yard touchdown catch.
With things spiraling out of control quickly, the Colts offense took the field again, needing to make something good happen, but were unable to move the ball yet again. Pat McAfee and the punting unit came on the field for the third time, but McAfee’s punt was blocked by Jevon Kearse for what initially appeared to be a possible touchdown. The replay upheld the initial call that the play was a safety, and the Colts were down 12-0 in the first quarter.
Obviously, things got better. The defense, facing the very real possibility of a blowout, and tiring from spending most of the quarter on the field, came in and forced a three and out of their own after the safety.
Andrew Luck and company, who had been outgained 101-9 at this point, took the field in desperate need of some positive plays. On third and one from the 27 yard line, Andrew Luck aired it out to a wide open T.Y. Hilton, who made a safety miss near the sideline and raced the rest of the way to the endzone for a 73-yard touchdown, the longest of both Hilton’s and Luck’s career.
Suddenly, the game that was spiraling out of control was a manageable 12-7 contest. Sound like a wild contest? That was just the first quarter. The Colts defense stiffened just outside the red zone on the next drive, bringing in Seattle kicker Steven Houscka for a 48-yard try and a 15-point lead…And it was blocked. Houscka’s kick careened into the tattoo covered arm of Lawrence Guy, who was watching the games from home just a few weeks ago. Safety Delano Howell, filling in for LaRon Landry but still playing special teams (somebody get that guy some oxygen and a Gatorade) scooped up the ball for a 61 yard touchdown.
The game went from a nightmare to a 14-12 lead in two possessions, but the Seahawks exploited Indy’s exhausted defense for another touchdown, a 28-yarder to backup receiver Jermaine Kearse, who made the leaping catch just over the outstretched hand of Colts CB Vontae Davis. The difference between a touchdown and a deflection may have been less than an inch. Nevertheless, Seattle was back in control, 19-14.
The teams would trade field goals into the third quarter, as both defenses clamped down and kept the endzones empty for a while. Seattle managed one more than Indy thanks in part to a lost fumble on a questionable sack that saw Seattle’s Chris Clemons very demonstratively hit Andrew Luck in the head. In any game, calls will be missed, and that may have been one of many for this contest. Once again, however, the Colts defense held Seattle to a field goal, leaving the Colts in striking distance at 25-17.
Indianapolis came out in the hurry up offense, a welcome sight given the intelligence and talent level of their quarterback, and marched 80 yards for the touchdown. The drive featured Trent Richardson running out of a passing formation – which worked quite well, a big time third down catch by Coby Fleener (which is all the more impressive considering Seattle is one of the best at defending tight ends), Andrew Luck escaping the pressure for a nice run, and a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. Indianapolis wisely went for two on the play but failed to tie the game at 25.
The Colts defense continued to do their part – they never allowed a second half touchdown – holding Seattle to field goal after field goal despite giving up a huge number of yards. Robert Mathis sacked Russell Wilson for the second time near the end of the third, forcing the Seahawks to settle for three once again, taking a shaky 28-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
The final quarter, as it has been most of the season, was all Colts. Indianapolis has outscored their opponents now 35-7 in the fourth quarter through five games. Indy began the quarter with a methodical 14-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a Donald Brown touchdown run. That’s right, Richardson ran out of three wide and shotgun formations, and Brown plowed up the middle with six linemen on the field. It was an unusual game to say the least, but the Colts had taken the lead.
Once again, Pagano called for the two-point conversion, hoping to take a three-point lead this time. The play appeared to be broken with nobody open, but Luck extended it by rolling to his right and found Reggie Wayne in the endzone for the conversion and a 31-28 lead.
Taking the field well rested – which was unusual for much of the game, the Colts defense forced a three and out, capped off by Jerrell Freeman closing on and tackling Russell Wilson for a loss around the left side on third down.
Indy would tack on another field goal to make it 34-28, and then everyone watched as the defense, which finished the day having given up 423 yards, trotted back out to close out the game. They didn’t just close it out. They put an exclamation point on it.
On second down from the Seattle 42, Darius Butler, who had an up and down game, launched himself over the back of WR Sidney Rice for a deflection. Greg Toler, who also struggled off and on, blasted Golden Tate with a well-timed hit to force another incompletion on third down, and on fourth and 15 with time and the Seahawks’ hopes running out, Jerrell Freeman laid a savage – but legal – hit on Wilson as he threw deep for Sidney Rice. The errant pass was picked off by the ever-opportunistic Butler, and the game finished with the Andrew Luck taking a knee.
As always, there’s no football formation like the victory formation.
Some quick notes in no particular order:
- Butler may not be much of a tackler, but he can neutralize a slot receiver from time to time.
- Andrew Luck: 16/29, 229 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 107 QB rating. Who’s the best young quarterback again?
- Trent Richardson’s best runs have come in passing formations (shotgun, and single back three wide). When the defense doesn’t know what’s coming, things tend to go very well.
- Robert Mathis is just the 30th player in NFL history to amass 100 career sacks, and now has 101 for his career and 9.5 for the season. Mathis is only 5 days younger than yours truly, but he is playing as though he were in his prime and proving he can be productive without Dwight Freeney (who we all miss).
- Jerrell Freeman was another star of this game. He finished with 13 tackles – 7 solo – and a QB hit that set the games’ final pass into the waiting hands of Darius Butler.
- Reggie Wayne had a tough start, but finished with 6 catches on 9 targets for 65 yards, and the two-point conversion.
- T.Y. Hilton was a star today: 5 catches on 6 targets, 140 yards, and two crucial touchdowns. Please note that he is more beneficial than a fullback.
- They had some trouble moving the ball, but the Colts went an impressive 7/12 on third down.
- Oh, I almost forgot…#NoFlyZone
- We can complain about the things that went wrong or the weird calls all we want, but this was a win against a fantastic football team. The Colts are the real thing. And they’re 4-1. Next up, San Diego.
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