Five Things Learned, Colts-San Francisco
Intro: Indianapolis posted a dominant 27-7 win at San Francisco on Sunday. The Colts ran 12 more times than they threw and earned their most lop-sided road victory since 2009. Facing a physical defending Super Bowl team, the Colts were more physical.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts answered a tough home setback by meeting the challenge of their first road game with a 20-point victory margin over a team (San Francisco) that made the Super Bowl last year and nearly did the previous season.
The Colts met a physical opponent by being even more so. On a national television stage, Indianapolis showed a much different blueprint for victory than past seasons have had.
Colts 27, San Francisco 7.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL – Nothing is more telling than the words of an owner. In this case, Jim Irsay, “To bring in Ahmad Bradshaw and now to have Trent Richardson…You can see Trent with his lateral movement, his explosion, he’s always going forward. What we’re looking for is what we saw today.” When Irsay changed his organizational dynamic in early 2012 by bringing in Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, the new duo spoke of a different style of play. Every move since then has reflected that approach and progress made over 18 games prior to yesterday was incremental. Yesterday, it was dramatic. The Colts ran 12 more times than they threw, a first for that disparity since 2011. The Colts are 4-0 in the last 19 games when they have rushed more often than thrown, and they are 4-0 in games in that span when out-rushing opponents by 59 yards. “Run and stop the run” has been a mantra. It was reality yesterday. It is a much different feeling for long-time Colts fans. This new pair of shoes could be broken in quickly.
1-2 PUNCH, AND MORE – Ahmad Bradshaw carried 19 times for 95 yards. Trent Richardson had 13 carries for 35 yards. Bradshaw said the plan never was to ease his new buddy in, “We’ve got a one-two punch and we used it. It’s going to be tough for a lot of opponents this year.” The duo had 32 of the team’s 39 rushes. Get used to it. Pep Hamilton mentioned Friday that Donald Brown would be in the mix. Brown had 25 yards on three carries, including a 16-yarder for a first down that led to a field goal. Indianapolis has a more pronounced “hammer” look to the offense. Pagano spoke 20 months ago of the Colts having an AFC North look (like that of Pittsburgh and Baltimore). That was the look at San Francisco.
MULTI-POSITIONAL OFFENSIVE LINEMEN – The offensive line had one of its grittiest and most productive performances of recent memory. Mike McGlynn shifted to center for the injured Samson Satele (the third time he has done this in 19 games), and played well. He competed successfully while being battered all game. Jeff Linkenbach showed his versatility again by starting at right guard for McGlynn. In 29 career starts, Linkenbach has opened five times at LT, four at LG, four at RG and 16 at RT. Mixed in among stalwart veterans Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus was rookie left guard Hugh Thornton. Versatility among all linemen provides big-time currency for the offense. Often is it not acknowledged, but Sunday it was on full display. They ventured into Candlestick and shined. Well done, gents.
VALUE OF KICKERS, COVERAGE, FIELD POSITION – San Francisco started nine of its 11 possessions at or inside its 20. Pat McAfee reached the end zone on four of his six kickoffs, producing three touchbacks. The other three returns reached the 13, 11 and 12. McAfee pinned the 49ers to their eight (twice) and nine with three of his four punts. Adam Vinatieri hit clutch efforts from 43 and 41 yards, and his lone miss from 51 yards was wide while attempted into the wind. The Colts won the average field position drive start by eight yards, and three-of-five three-and-outs defensively for Indianapolis came after solid kicks. Again, a part of the game sometimes overlooked. Not today. It was probably great flights home for special teams and offensive line coaches.
BELIEVE IN COACHES – Defensive players heard it for two weeks after Terrelle Pryor ran for 112 yards. With Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson looming in the next month, getting squared away on a diverse offense was necessary. Chuck Pagano said research was done and that players would be prepared. Kaepernick rushed seven times for 20 yards, and the only TD run by a quarterback belonged to Andrew Luck. The phrase heard after Sunday’s win was “assignment football.” Assignments were sound and execution was solid. The Colts are 13-6 under the new regime, with players buying in and competing for each other. They’re coachable, and everyone enjoyed the fruits of a decisive win.