GIFtastic: Top 5 Plays of Week 1

Sep 8, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) attempts a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts won 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

You guys may recall a couple months back I did an “Andrew Luck’s 5 Best Throws of 2012” in a series of GIFs. It went over pretty well and we had some requests to do a similar kind of thing during the season.

As I am a man of the people (and by that I mean I live for your approval), how could I say no? Every Tuesday (Wednesday this week [it is Wednesday right?], but Tuesday from here on) I’ll be picking my personal five favorite plays from the previous game and giving them to you in GIF form along with some of my award winning commentary (the award may be homemade but it’s still real to me dammit).

Keep in mind these are my personal favorite plays, there are certainly other options to choose from. This isn’t a SportCenter style top plays list, often times the plays I’ll choose won’t be the most impactful or spectacular to look at but rather plays that I personally found interesting for one reason or another (that said, sometimes the most impactful and spectacular are the most interesting, so I reserve the right to use those as well; stop trying to put me in a box!).

So here we go, my five favorite plays from Colts vs. Raiders in ascending order.

Number 5 – Toler’s Jump Ball

After a pretty impressive opening drive from Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland offense (a drive that spanned 9 plays and took nearly 6 minutes), new starting CB Greg Toler ends it in dramatic fashion, making the first of what we hope will be many interceptions in a Colts’ uniform.

While the play itself is somewhat pedestrian (a bad throw leading to a jump ball INT), it does represent a good example of a team turnover. Toler is matched up in man coverage on the outside with Rod Streater. As soon as the ball is snapped it seems pretty clear that Pryor knows where he’s throwing this ball. Josh “The Boss” Chapman (#96) does an excellent job of pushing RG Mike Briesel (#65) right into Pryor’s lap which causes Pryor to throw off his back foot, the ball floats and it’s easily picked off by Toler who is in perfect position on the back end.

Toler shows off his athleticism and elusiveness on the subsequent return, as he makes several Raiders miss, though a kneel down and a touchback was probably the more prudent course of action (a penalty on the return pins the Colts deep in their own end zone).

Number 4 – Reggie’s TD Grab

On paper it’s a simple 12 yard completion for another run-of-the-mill Luck to Wayne touchdown, but the precision timing and degree of difficulty are anything but.  The Raiders bring a heavy rush, six players initially and a delayed blitz on the outside from safety Tyvon Branch. The o-line doesn’t hold up exactly but they do buy Luck 2 seconds, just enough time for him to drop it in the bucket as the entire Oakland defense comes crashing in, hitting Wayne, who is matched up 1-on-1 with Tracy Porter, in stride for the go ahead score.

The throw itself is brilliant, the catch seemingly effortless. Luck made a career’s worth of unorthodox throws last year while being hit, so perhaps we’ve come to take it for granted, but dropping a dime like that when you know you’re about to get smacked can’t be easy.

Number 3 – Dwayne Allen Gets Physical

I’ll keep this brief since our own Kyle Rodriguez already broke this play down better than I could in his article about the pulling guard yesterday (check that out if you haven’t yet), but I’ll just quickly note how crazy this pass was.

As Kyle mentions, Donald Thomas pulls and Satele makes an absolutely abysmal effort to slide over, nearly picking up a hold in the process, but fortunately Luck is able to release the ball right as he’s being tackled. Dwayne Allen is seemingly wide open in the middle of the field, but, just as the ball is arriving, Mike Jenkins comes flying in to knock the ball away. Allen ain’t having none of that. Dwayne tucks it, bounces off Jenkins, and strolls into the end zone for a beautiful 20 yard TD.

Number 2 – The Game Ender

I’m actually going to double dip on this because to me this sequence was really two plays in one. The Colts had pushed Pryor and the Raiders to the brink several times already on this drive, Pryor responding each time with a play to keep the drive alive (including a 4th and 9 conversion on the previous play). With Oakland in a goal to go situation and an epic home opening loss on the verge of becoming a reality, the Colts defense, much like they did in 2012, refused to allow a game winning drive.

While we know the interception (more on that in a moment) was the deciding play, it was the 16 yard sack on 1st and goal that was the true game winner. While Mathis is credited with the sack, it’s actually newly acquired utility man Ricky Jean Francois that makes this play possible. Watch RJF (#99) as he occupies the double team in the middle, which in turn allows Mathis to shoot the inside gap when his man shuffles outside to pick up the blitzing Kelvin Sheppard (unsuccessfully I might add). Mathis’ rush up the middle makes it impossible for Pryor to climb the pocket to avoid the outside pressure coming from Sheppard, his only recourse is to run backwards, but at that point it’s already too late.

After an incomplete pass on 2nd down, the Raiders face 3rd and goal from the 24. With a timeout still remaining and a full 31 seconds left on the clock, the smart play here was probably some kind of underneath route across the middle for 10-15 yards, setting up a 4th down attempt inside the 10. Fortunately for the Colts they were playing a quarterback in his second NFL start. Pryor unwisely pulls the trigger on a deep ball to a well-defended receiver (three different Colts players could have had a shot at it) and it is easily intercepted. And that, as they say, is that.

Number 1 – Luck’s Game Winning Scramble

Could there really be another play at #1? We’ve known for a while now that Luck is faster than a lot of people seem to think (though somehow this appears to be news to the national media), but this play was about more than just Luck. After Oakland drove down the field to take the lead, it looked like our boys in blue were headed towards one of the more ignominious defeats of the Andrew Luck era, but, as he’s done so many times before, Luck made plays when he needed to, picking up three crucial 3rd downs on this game winning drive, punctuated with this fantastic 19 yard scamper, to ensure yet another come from behind victory.

The play itself begins with the Colts in an empty backfield, 3 WRs and TE Coby Fleener, RB Vick Ballard split out wide. The offensive line does an excellent job of pushing their defenders wide. With the entire Raiders’ secondary in man coverage this leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the field, Luck really has no choice but to run it. Darrius Heyward-Bey, recognizing the situation immediately, sets an excellent block on rookie CB DJ Hayden, springing Luck for what would prove to be the game winning score.