There would be no biceps kissing for Colin Kaepernick on Sunday. That’s because the normally mobile and elusive quarterback who helped lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl last season was under constant duress by a stifling Colts defense.
Despite playing without two ket starters, safety Laron Landry and linebacker Pat Angerer, the Colts’ defense showed up big-time, aided by more-than-solid play by backups Delano Howell and Kavell Conner.
But it didn’t look good at first.
The 49ers drove 82 yards down the field on their initial possession, mostly thanks to good running by Frank Gore. But the Indy D’ quickly settled down and proved they can hang with a quality team like the ‘Niners. When presented with opportunities they seized them. And when there were none they created them.
They secondary was on lockdown all day, which forced Kaepernick info frequent albeit unproductive scrambles. When the dust finally settled he had just 20 yards on 7 carries, and passed 13 of 27 for 150 yards. To those stats add an interception and three sacks.
One thing that really stood out from the Colts’ defensive performance was the tackling. It was done in near-textbook fashion, with defenders wrapping as they took down their man. ILB Jerrell Freeman, who led the team in tackling in 2012 took advantage of every opportunity, accounting for 8 of the Colts’ 40 tackles and even forcing a fumble which Kavell Conner managed to recover.
DE Cory Redding also had a great day, splitting a sack with OLB Robert Mathis and tipping a pass that would come down in CB Cassius Vaughn’s hands.
“It is one of those games that you look back and say, maybe five, six years down the road, that was a signature win,’’ Pagano said. “Maybe one of those wins that propel you to do great things.”
You saw it today, the type of physical team we’re trying to have,” the Colts owner said. “We know we have the rare talent with Andrew. (We had) just some incredible dynasty years; no one in the history of the National Football League won more than games (in a decade) than we did from 2000 to 2009.
“But, at the same time, when it comes to world championships, we’re trying to make a little adjustment in terms of building this thing with a physical team on defense and a running game that can really be depended on. I used to call our defense Jekyll and Hyde or psychotic. It would go down to Jacksonville and give up 375 yards on the road, then win the Super Bowl two months later.
“What we’re looking for is what we saw today.’’
A Different Look
Things certainly looked different on the offensive side of the ball, at least for anyone who’s been following the Colts for the past decade and-a-half. Absent was the high-flown aerial assault which once characterized the Peyton Manning era and which continued under the play-calling of the now-departed Bruce Arians. In its place was a hard-nosed, physical run-oriented style that was more reminiscent of an old-school Pittsburg Steelers team.
Despite a blockbuster trade that brought Trent Richardson to the Colts and even had him playing in this game, it was veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw led the way, with 95 yards on 19 carries and a TD.
Andrew Luck was efficient and made clutch plays all day long, including a 25-yard pass to Reggie Wayne, who managed to break several tackle attempts.
He also scored one of the team’s three rushing touchdowns on a fake hand-off and ran untouched into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown which was followed by an emphatic spike.
Maybe even more surprising than how well they ran the ball versus a talented ‘Niners defense was the fact that they did it with a makeshift offensive line.
“There’s nothing better for an offensive lineman,” said right guard Jeff Linkenbach, who had been listed on the roster as the 3rd-string left guard. “They know we’re going to run. We know we’re going to run. Everybody knows we’re going to run, and we still ran it effectively anyway. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Wonderful indeed. Here’s to many more wonderful performances, and hopefully, a championship or two…or three.