It wasn’t pretty but the Colts managed to hold off the Ravens in a peculiar game. The win, combined with the Houston loss, means the Colts and Texans sit atop the AFC South standings with Thursday night’s match-up now a battle for sole possession of first place. Now, back to the Colts-Ravens game.
The Colts announced last week they were contemplating a change at center, which did in fact take place. The coaching staff benched previous starter, AQ Shipley, in favor of rookie Jonotthan Harrison. The media that covers the team tried to get an answer about the potential move, but the only reason given was something to do with flexibility. It was just odd and by the performance on the field it seems that the move was more harmful than beneficial.
Throughout yesterday’s victory, the Colts offense was able to move the ball at will, but Andrew Luck and the offense did not always look quite right. The Ravens were able to apply pressure on Luck, but the Colts had chances to score more points than they ultimately did. The Colts led 6-3 at half, but the score was not indicative of how the Colts dominated the time of possession. The Colts possessed the ball twenty of thirty minutes in the first half.
The Colts were able add 14 points in the second half – a touchdown pass from Luck to Allen and a QB scramble by Luck. From that point on, the Colts relied on their defense to secure the victory. The Ravens put up 10 points in the final quarter and had the ball driving to tie the game, but the defense shined and clinched the win, 20-13.
So, what can we take away from this game? That’s not so easy to answer because of the way the game played out, but here are the points that I jotted down after the game on twitter:
- The coaches (Pagano et. al) for some unexplained reason decided to tinker with the starting center and replace proven veteran Shipley with the rookie Harrison, and by all accounts, it wasn’t an upgrade. I don’t blame Harrison because he came in to do what the coaching staff asked of him, but the result seemed to cause problems with Luck, especially with errant snaps/counts. I’m not sure what the end game was but as many feared there seemed to be no good reason to mess with the line that has played relatively well with Shipley ranking high for centers. The whole center tinkering was unwarranted and quite frankly, plain dumb.
- The defense played arguably their best, most complete game of the season. Much discussion was heard throughout the week about the Colts lack of pass rush and if the team would be able to get to Joe Flacco. Well, the boys sacked Flacco four times, led by Bjoern Werner (2) and one sack each from Sergio Brown (more on him later) and Cory Redding. By far, yesterday was the most complete sack performance this season due to more aggressive blitz packages.
- Sergio Brown, who started in place of the suspended LaRon Landry, was awesome. Brown not only recorded a sack, but he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time while also utilizing fundamental tackling. For once, the safety unit seemed to be functioning at a high level. The question that will be a hot topic in three weeks is should Landry regain his starting spot once his suspension is over?
- Luck did not have a good game yesterday; in fact, it ranks up there as one of his worst outings in recent memory. His performance is no reason to go a jump off a bridge since one bad game isn’t earth shattering. It’s difficult to say what the cause was: the Raven’s defense, the offensive line issues, or still distressed about Stanford’s collapsing loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. Whatever the case may be, he was errant on many of his passes and made some poor decisions.
- Dwayne Allen is turning into the best red zone target in the NFL. This season has really shown how much the team missed him last year. It is becoming obvious that he is on the edge of elite status. In fact, future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez said during the half-time update that he sees Allen as one that will be great very soon.
- The officiating sucked. I don’t like to complain about referees, but to say they were bad would be an understatement. Luckily it didn’t affect the outcome today, but all I can say is – WOW!
- Griff Whalen had a tough day returning kicks & punts yesterday. He seemed undecided of when to fair-catch and even fumbled one (replay seemed to show he was down). Griff is hard worker and hopefully his roster spot is not in jeopardy.
- Werner, as mentioned earlier, had a career day with a pair of sacks and several near-misses. We have all been eagerly awaiting for his production to match the hype of his offseason and training camp this year. He has largely been relied upon to help pick up the slack for Robert Mathis‘ absence this season. Yesterday was a step forward; now let’s hope he can string a few more games together and prove that yesterday was not just a fluke.
- Vontae Davis and Greg Toler have been playing lights out this season. In fact, Davis seems to be much more consistent this season, which is something he been lacking since his days in Miami. Right now he is playing as one the best corners in the game and is justifying his big contract from the offseason. Toler has also been very good, except getting flagged a little too often for PI or illegal contacts, but nevertheless, he has been a big improvement over last season’s injury-plagued season.
- Pat McAfee has been an excellent weapon in changing the field with his Pro Bowl level punting the season. His pinpoint accuracy swayed field position multiple times yesterday. The special teams has also been very good at covering the field and not giving teams much space to operate.
Also, I wanted to give props to Ahmad Bradshaw & Trent Richardson, who combined for 105 yards against a solid Ravens defense. Bradshaw finished with 68 yards on 15 carries (4.5 average) and a fumble. T-Rich finished with 37 yards on 9 carries (4.1 average). The team has rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games now which will open up Luck’s passing game.
All in all, it was a win the team needed, but perhaps not in the manner we expected. Luck and the offense didn’t have their best game and the coaching staff didn’t do them any favors by making some questionable choices both in and out of the game. However, the defense “Balled Out” today and gave the team exactly what it needed – a complete performance! Bring on the Texans.