The end zone might as well have been a mirage. At least that’s how it must have seemed to the Indianapolis Colts, who were unable to reach it for a majority of the game.
Playing at home versus the Tennessee Titans, not only could the Colts not reach the end zone to save their lives, they were absolutely horrible on 3rd downs, converting just 3 of 14. That’s what happens when you gain an average of just a half yard on your first two downs. And never mind the fact that they went 3-and-out on five possessions.
Luck was under constant pressure, and was sacked 5 times. That puts the total at 29 and counting. Extrapolated to the end of the season and Luck will have been sacked 38 times—barely an improvement over last year’s total of 40 sacks.
Yet despite these glaring shortcomings, they still managed to win by putting together a hard-fought, 92-yard drive that was sparked by a nice 24-yard bootleg run around the right side by Andrew Luck with just 4:51 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then Donald Brown and the run game came to life when it mattered most. Brown’s touchdown from 4 yards out with fewer than 2 minutes remaining put them up 22-14.
But while this drive was critical to pulling out a win, it was placekicker Adam Vinatieri who accounted for the lion’s share of the Colts’ offensive points. Vinatieri set of a career-high-tying five field goals from an average distance 45.2 yards.
And the Colts’ defense played a crucial role as well, indeed, perhaps the biggest role. Robert Mathis continued what has been a Pro Bowl worthy season thus far, adding yet another sack-strip to his season total, which now leads the league at 15.5.
They were also decent against the run, limiting Chris Johnson to just 69 yards on 18 carries. Versus the pass, they allowed completions into zone coverage, but intercepted the ball 3 times. Cassius Vaughn had two interceptions and Jerrell Freeman sealed the Titan’s fate with a late-game interception with just 24 seconds left.
The win moves the Colts one step closer to wining the AFC South division for the first time since 2010. One more win, or a Tennessee loss, will clinch the division. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that this team does not have the look of a division champion, but rather that of a team coasting on its early-season laurels, and destined for a one-and-done post-season fate.
The last time we saw such a sharp fall-off in performance was in 2011, when the Colts went 2-14 following a 10-6 season in 2010.
It’s hard to believe this is the same team that beat Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, the same team that had the look of a true Super Bowl contender. Did it even happen? Or was it just a mirage?