The Colts came into this game as the underdogs for many reasons, but by the game’s end they somehow found a way to walk out of the A-T-L with a win and one that took the entire team to obtain. The scoreboard at the end read 24-21 in favor of the Colts, but this was one of those wins that was really needed to stay in the driver’s seat of the AFC South, especially with the Texans beating the New York Jets.
The game started out like most of the games we’ve seen this season where the Colts dig themselves into a hole early. They were down by 14 points after an early interception by Matt Hasselbeck and Falcons QB Matt Ryan found his FB Pat DiMarco on a wide open 15 yarder. Seriously, no one even knew on defense he was in the end zone until the ball was in his hands. Ryan orchestrated another 80 yard drive ending in another TD to DiMarco in the second quarter for 1 yard. However, Hasselbeck and the team regrouped resulting in a 80 yard drive with Ahmad Bradshaw receiving an 8 yard shovel TD pass narrowing the lead to 14-7.
The Falcons got on the scoreboard again in the third quarter on yet another 80 yard march down the field ending with a Matt Ryan to Leonard Hankerson 1 yard TD reception, pushing the lead up to 21-7. But the Colts answered the score with one of their own putting together a 90 yard drive resulting in another Bradshaw TD cutting the lead to 21-14 after the PAT.
With the lead cut to one score the Colts tied up the game in the 4th quarter with a 6 yard pick-six by D’Qwell Jackson of Matt Ryan resulting in the 21-21 score that was set up by a gorgeous kick to the 1 yard line by Pat McAfee. The Colts finally took control by having Adam Vinatieri punch through an 43 yard field goal. Colts win 24-21.
So there’s the recap of a gutty team win, here are my takeaways from the game.
Ahmad Bradshaw is continuing to be a red zone target by bringing in two more TD’s against the Falcons. Since rejoining the team Bradshaw has brought in 3 TD’s in two games. Last year Bradshaw played a similar role bringing in 6 TD’s (which led the league) before his season ended 10 games in. Look for this role to continue as Bradshaw is especially good at pass catching/blocking and he has a nose for the end zone.
Matt Hasselbeck played well enough against a tough team and one that is probably considered to be a good match up against the Colts. Although he finished with 2 INT’s he played well enough to find the open man and put the ball in the right place. Sure he made a few bad throws, but all-in-all the veteran showed he has a few good game left and the Colts will need those if they hope to reach the playoffs.
Coach Rob “Chud” Chudzinski has continued to find the right mix of run to passe ratio while still finding the right play to compliment the selection. I mentioned in the last win that the team suddenly seemed to find it’s identity and the game against the Falcons continued that and even elevating it due to Hasselbeck’s penchant for the command of the West Coast Offense. Chud has a quarterback who will get the ball out quick and to whomever is open even if it is a short pass in the hopes that blocking and evasion can lead to extra yardage.
The defense (yes it was shaky at times) turned it on when it mattered the most. They were able to answer the call with Vontae Davis leaving early and missing key pieces like Henry Anderson and Mike Adams. Look, I’ve said it before and will continue to say it, the defense is flawed. It by no means is top tier among the elite defenses in the league, but as a whole if the offense can give them some latitude they can perform just well enough. The defense needs the offense and the last couple of games they have done just that. Teams will move the ball on the Colts, but the team will also find that spot that can change the game (like DQ’s pick-six and Dwight Lowery‘s interception in the end zone) if they can can get some time to regroup.
The bottom line is the Colts are now sitting at 5-5 and in first place in the AFC South with the tie-breaker favoring the Colts over the Texans right now. It will be a fight the rest of the way, but the important thing is that right now it seems they are trending the right direction with quality wins over their last two opponents: Denver and Atlanta.