Five Things Learned, Colts-San Diego
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts have played poised football and executed consistently in winning 15-of-21 under Chuck Pagano prior to Monday.
At San Diego, the Colts had one of their tougher outings and were not able to win many “situational” moments, according to Pagano.
While results rarely are as good or bad as they seem, there are points on which to improve as Indianapolis seeks to retain its lead pace in the AFC South.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
POSSESSION AND POINTS – After the Colts opened with a sustained scoring drive and forced two San Diego punts to start the game, it looked like it would be a night of accomplishment on the national stage. Instead, San Diego owned the ball for almost 21 minutes of the second and third quarters and beyond the first five minutes of the fourth period. Sixteen of their 19 points came from the 55 plays on those drives, while the Colts labored almost in vain. Indianapolis had a near-32-minute possession average in its first five games and produced on the scoreboard while having the ball in getting to 4-1. A sobering defeat saw San Diego control the game with a near two-to-one possession advantage and getting points to close those drives. The Colts had to be efficient when they got the ball, and they were not.
EXECUTE – Pagano is a player’s coach in every respect, including a post-game message: “I told the players, it isn’t about heart. It isn’t about toughness. It isn’t about preparation. Our guys do that week-in and week-out. They’re going to play their hearts out. We just have to play smart. We have to play better football. We didn’t play good football. We didn’t play good situational football. We’ll get that fixed.” Penalties have not been a season-long problem. Seven at Jacksonville did not hinder a 34-point win. Five at San Diego perpetuated defeat, with three coming on third downs to extend drives. Ten points came on drives where penalties hurt. Offensively, two-of-10 on third downs and about six dropped passes kept the defense on the field. Effort is not the issue. Smart effort has made this team a success – one able to avoid consecutive losses under Pagano.
FREEMAN FACTOR – Jerrell Freeman missed parts of the game Monday with a concussion, plus had a cut on his chin. Freeman has been a big factor in the club’s defensive success, and missing him for more than a half at San Diego might have proved his value in absence as much as what he has done while playing. His leadership is key to a defense that will need a solid performance Sunday, and a concussion baseline must be met in a short week.
VINNY’S GREATNESS – This is not really a lesson learned, just a citation for a Hall-worthy player being at the top of his game in an 18th season. Adam Vinatieri nailed 50- and 51-yard field goals at San Diego. Nailed – into the net. He has made 12-of-14 this year. A 49-yarder pushed a late lead against Seattle from three to six points. He kept the Colts within arm’s distance at San Diego. Vinatieri is seven-of-nine beyond 40 yards this year, with a 52-yarder that hit halfway up the upright against Miami and a 51-yard miss into the win at San Francisco. Those who dare to question of the game’s greats may have to wait a few more years.
DEFEND THE RUN – Two straight games the Colts have allowed 100-yard rushers. Marshawn Lynch and Ryan Mathews both reached 102, and this is in addition to Terrelle Pryor (112) and Russell Wilson (102). Seattle ran for 218 yards and a 6.4 average. San Diego got 147 at a 4.0 clip. It is a two-game matter that bears watching.