The Indianapolis Colts were finally able to put together a consistent, smart game plan that gave Andrew Luck the ball in his hands on offense. On defense, we saw a laser-focused group who essentially shut down a hot running game and a respectable passing game.
The game started out perfectly. The Colts came out with a pass-heavy drive and were able to punch it in for seven points. However, the rest of the first half was filled with mistakes on the Colts’ end. They could not finish drives, shooting themselves in the foot, and just to put a cherry on top, Dan “Boom” Herron fumbled late in the half. The Cincinnati Bengals got three free points off of the turnover. Luck had 27 pass attempts in the first half, and the offense lied entirely on his shoulders, as it should. The running game had its moments, but it’s clear that the offense today lived and died on the arm of Luck.
Luck was flawless. They gave this man the ball and he came through consistently. His passes were crisp and on point. His ball placement was fantastic. His vision and scanning of the field was as good as it gets. He went 31-for-44, but if you consider all the drops the team had, he should have been at least 36-for-44. Luck made some fantastic throws with none better than his 36-yard touchdown strike to Donte Moncrief with a defender on his back. Luck was in the zone, and when you get a great player in the zone it’s very hard to stop him. The receivers needed to be better. TY Hilton had a nice day on paper but had some crucial drops early on with one at the goal line and the other on a big third down. Dwayne Allen wasn’t great either and had a few bad mistakes early on.
The biggest positive may have been the play of the offensive line. It seems as if this group is the right one. They faced a good front seven and held their own, even dominating through certain stretches in the game. Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort did extremely well on the move (on outside runs or short passes), and Khaled Holmes had a fantastic day inside. The only negative was Lance Louis had some incredibly bad plays and was torched by Geno Atkins at times. He needs to be replaced next game. Other than Louis, the offensive line had a very good game, and if they can continue their success going into next week, this offense will be fine.
The running game had its positives, but it also had its negatives. Herron had some big runs but also had two fumbles – one of which he lost. The Bengals were able to get a field goal off Herron’s fumble. He has fumbling issues, and if he doesn’t fix them immediately, then it will be hard to trust him going forward. Trent Richardson saw the field only a couple of times, and Zurlon Tipton had some nice runs and pounded the rock nicely.
Finally, the gameplan was outstanding and the offense was prepared very well. Luck was sharp and ready to go. What the Colts must learn to do is to finish drives when they’re in the red zone and not leave any points on the board. When you’re in the playoffs, if you leave points on the board, it’s going to be tough to win games against great teams.
The Colts defensively had a fantastic performance with the exception of the Bengals’ second drive. The defense played nearly perfect football with very few mistakes. Jerrell Freeman had one of the best days of his career with constant pressure on Andy Dalton and sure tackling in the running game. Cory Redding and the defensive line also had a nice game, creating a lot of penetration versus the Bengals’ offensive line.
The secondary had its best game of the season. Vontae Davis had a fantastic day, as did Greg Toler and Darius Butler. They shut down their guys in man coverage and made some great tackles. Mike Adams also did a great job of eliminating any deep passes.
The defensive gameplan worked to perfection and they were able to disguise blitzes beautifully. Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky deserve a lot of credit for this gameplan. Next are the Denver Broncos and their star quarterback, Peyton Manning. Colts fans don’t really know much about Manning, but they’ll see him next week. This should be an interesting game to watch.
Players of the Game – Andrew Luck & Jerrell Freeman
Luck (31-44 for 376 yards, TD, 0 turnovers) was outstanding with the ball in his hands, and he was the reason why the offense moved so beautifully. Freeman (15 tackles, 1.5 sacks) was all over the place on defense and made tons of big plays.