A Productive Offense
In a quarterback-driven league, it all starts with the guy behind center. And the Colts have a good one.
Andrew Luck was his usual self, hitting open receivers and often extending plays with his underrated ability to elude pass rushers. He got off to a decent start by driving the team 46-yards, whereupon Adam Vinatieri kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Colts a 3-0 lead.
He threw his first touchdown two series later, when after driving 66-yards down the field he hit fullback Stanley Havili on a 3-yard TD pass to make it 10-0. He floated his second touchdown to a wide-open T.Y. Hilton in the corner of the end zone.
And he did all of this without his blindside protector, Anthony Castonzo, who left after the opening series with what has been diagnosed as a mild MCL sprain. His one interception came off a deflected pass that Browns cornerback Tashon Gipson managed to catch.
About that Improved Defense
It’s been a long time since the Colts were known for their defense. If Saturday’s performance is any indication, then they may soon have a defense to go with the offense.
“They’ve been opportunistic, they’ve been getting their hands on balls. They were a pain in the butt to go against in practice, and it’s fun to see them play this way out here,” Luck said of the starting defense.
Fun indeed. This year’s squad is certainly closer to the template Chuck Pagano imagined last when he took over as head coach last year. Now, he has the personnel to more effectively execute a physical, 3-4 defense. And it’s beginning to show.
Prior to playing Indy, the Browns had beaten the Rams and Lions by a combined 51-25. This week, they weren’t even on the scoreboard until Weeden drove them 48-yard yards to set up a 50-yard field goal by Shayne Graham. And this was against the Colts’ backups.
“We can learn a lot of things from this game. A game like this is good, because you can get an assessment of where you’re at,” Chudzinski said. “They played very well on defense, and by the same token, against good football teams, playoff-caliber teams, you just can’t make mistakes.”
After an aberrational preseason opener in which the Bills walked all over them, the Colts have since not allowed a single touchdown. When the starting unit left early in the third quarter, they had managed to hold Cleveland to just 4 first downs. Heck, the Browns made it into Indy territory just 3 times, one of which was a punt. They never got as far as the red zone. They also coughed up the ball twice, including a 48-yard interception return for a score by Larry Asante.
Robert Mathis said, “It’s very exciting to see guys humming around, having fun and getting the job done at the same time.”
Other Game Notes
Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry made his first appearance of the preseason, and looked sharp. Also performing for the first time was linebacker Pat Angerer, who was taken off the physically unable to perform list. With Landry and Angerer in the mix, Saturday’s game marked the first time the Colts had what will likely be their complete starting lineup on the field at the same time.
Weeden was just 12 of 25 for 105 yards on the night.
The one semi-bright spot for the Browns was that Trent Richardson averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry on seven attempts.
Said Chuck Pagano of the game, “They had played two really good football games and they looked impressive running the football, and Brandon Weeden had thrown the football. It’s a confidence builder, a big psychological boost for our guys.”