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Colts Eke Out 21-17 Win, Raise Concerns

The good news is that they won. The bad news is that they looked just average in doing so against an opponent widely considered to be one of the worst teams in the league. But as Andrew Luck said, “A win is a win is a win.”

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The Colts eked out a 21-17 win following a familiar script on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in which they fell behind late, only to see Andrew Luck work his mojo late in the fourth quarter.

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For the Colts offense, things got off to a decent start, with Luck completing his first eight passes for 113 yards and two TDs.

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After that the results were mixed. On the one hand, the Colts ran 26 times for 127 yards and a respectable 4.9 yards/carry average. On the other hand, Luck was sacked 4 times and pressured many more. It brought flashbacks of last year, when the offensive line couldn’t protect Luck to save its life. It was a problem the Colts tried to address in the off-season, with the addition of 2 free agents and 2 draft picks.

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Perhaps most disturbing was the lack of pass rush. The defense just couldn’t get off the field in the second half, allowing the Raiders to convert 7 of 13 third downs. Still, they did just enough to win.

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Greg Toler intercepted a deep pass by Pryor in the end zone in the first quarter. And Colts safety Antoine Bethea intercepted another Pryor pass just two plays later, effectively ending the game for Oakland.

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Chuck Pagano wasn’t particularly pleased. “We didn’t go into a shell. It was either a penalty, negative play, a sack that took us out of (it),” he “We still drove the ball. We still got it to midfield. We were still on their side of the 50. But then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said after the game.

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The many errors kept the game much closer than it should have been, and even had the Colts trailing late in the fourth quarter with 11:09 remaining when he hit Denarius Moore for a 5-yard touchdown.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the game was that Raiders quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, was allowed to run with wild abandon. The young quarterback had just two career starts prior to this game. But he finished the game with 13 carries for 112 yards, and 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards. His rushing total set a Raiders club record for yards rushing by a quarterback.

But as good as he was at times, Pryor made more mistakes than Luck, throwing two interceptions in the red zone and getting sacked for a 16-yard loss with just 68 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The final straw was getting picked off by Antoine Bethea just two plays later.

One thing is for sure: The Colts need work—lots of work—on defending the read option. With games against the and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) on the horizon, they will need can’t afford to make the same mistakes.

For Colts fans it has to be disappointing. Fortunately, one game does not constitute a trend, so it would be premature to arrive at any sweeping conclusions about the season. But after what they were able to do last year, and considering all the work done in the off-season to improve the team, expectations are high. Sunday’s performance was far from convincing.

The will have a chance to redeem themselves next Sunday, which as always, cannot get here soon enough.