5 Things Learned: Colts Win Thriller Over Giants, Remain In Playoff Hunt
5 Things Learned: Colts Win Thriller Over Giants, Remain In Playoff Hunt
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INDIANAPOLIS – Find a way to win.
That’s the mantra in the month of December and the Colts (9-6) did just that on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Down 10 points at halftime, the Colts finally received some complementary football late for a 28-27 comeback victory over the Giants (5-10).
What did we learn from the Colts winning their 8th game in the last 9 contests?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
- Finding A Way To Stay Alive: This was nothing like the clinic we saw last week against the playoff-bound Cowboys. But it was a ‘W’ and it kept the Colts very much in-play to sneak into the postseason with a close to the season that has seen them win 8 of their last 9 games. Sunday’s first half was filled with poor execution and just some undisciplined play from playoff hungry Colts. Early on, the Colts looked like the 5-9 football team on Sunday, not the Giants. Pre-snap penalties and general confusion were all over the field for the Colts. The defense was looking like the unit we saw during the 1-5 start to the season. Offensively, the run game was ineffective, Andrew Luck threw a boneheaded pick and drives stalled out in a variety of ways. But each unit stepped up big time down the stretch. The offense found its rhythm 3 touchdown drives in 4 series to start the second half. On defense, timely stops finally occurred, in a scoreless final quarter for the Giants. And the special teams provided huge field position flips from their kicking units. In a way, it was like the win over Miami late last month. Sunday wasn’t the Colts’ A or maybe even B performance. But it was enough to get a win. That’s saying something for this team’s growth here in 2018.
- Passionate Halftime Speech From Frank Reich: The halftime clock was ticking under a minute until the start of the third quarter and the Colts were still inside of their home locker room. It was easily the longest they had stayed in there this season, as Frank Reich the pastor was being a bit more stern than usual. Reich called his team’s first half performance “embarrassing” and “pathetic” as they were down 17-7 to a team eliminated from playoff consideration. After Sunday’s comeback win, Anthony Castonzo said this about Reich’s tone at halftime: “He won’t emote that intensity unless he really feels it,” the veteran left tackle said. “That’s one of the reasons we all respect Frank so much. He’s not going to come in here and give us a ‘rah-rah’ speech just because he feels like doing it. He feels that if he comes in here and gets after us it’s because we are not playing well. That’s what he did.” That’s the type of head coach you need---a coach who isn’t screaming just to scream, but when that person does need to get tough, it has everyone’s attention. Reich did that on Sunday.
- Clutch Andrew Luck: When the offense took the field down 27-21 with 3:43 to play on Sunday, that is a situation of why you are paying Andrew Luck $140 million. Down the likes of Ryan Kelly and Eric Ebron, the Colts offense needed to lean on Luck to dial up the 21st game-winning drive of his career. Luck did just that. He found T.Y. Hilton for 7 yards. He then scrambled for 14 yards. He got out of a behind-the-chains situation by hitting Dontrelle Inman for 12 yards. And then he changed the play call on a 1st-and-Goal from the 1-yard line for the game-winning touchdown to Chester Rogers. That’s why when you have No. 12, you have a chance. After throwing what he called a “catastrophic” and “embarrassing” second quarter interception, Luck bounced back in the second half in erasing a double-digit deficit for the first time since the 2016 season finale. That’s why you pay Luck what you do.
- Depth Tested With Injuries: The losses of linebacker Anthony Walker and safety Clayton Geathers were very noticeable on Sunday, as the defense gave up 24 points before the third quarter was even over. Then you threw in Eric Ebron (concussion) and Ryan Kelly (neck) both leaving the game in the second quarter with injuries. How the Colts could handle significant injuries in 2018 was always a question for a team still needing to improve their overall depth. They withstood those losses on Sunday. These 4 Colts represent some very important players and their statuses for Week 17 should be monitored closely, with the Titans also dealing with some key injuries.
- MASSIVE Season Finale Awaits: The Colts enter Week 17 needing zero help to make the playoffs. With the Steelers losing to the Saints on Sunday evening, the Colts will be in the playoffs with a win over the Titans next Sunday night. It’s a ‘win and you are in’ contest down in Nashville between the Colts (9-6) and Titans (9-6). Despite starting 1-5, the Colts are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won 8 of 9 games and finding a variety of ways to win games in the final two months of the season. No matter the result next week, this season has been a success when talking long-term. But it feels like this team has played well enough down the stretch to have this season validated by a postseason berth. The Colts could actually still win the AFC South, too, with a win next week (vs. the Titans) and a loss by the Texans (vs. the Jaguars).
-Reich Quotable: On his passionate halftime speech, down 17-10: “It was passionate by me. It was passionate by some players. It wasn’t screaming and yelling at each other. It was, ‘This has got to be better. That was embarrassing. That was pathetic what we did out there in the first half.’”
-Player Quotable: Quarterback Andrew Luck on checking to a pass, from a run, on the game-winning touchdown pass to Chester Rogers: “Just based on some previous looks we had gotten down there in the red zone and the wideouts. And what I appreciate about all those guys is they are communicating. When he called the run, I looked at Chester and T.Y., ‘What do you think about running a little pass pattern on top of it?’ They said, ‘Let’s do it.’ So, we did it. Great execution by those two guys. Glad we could get that one obviously.”
-Injury Report: The following players were inactive on Sunday: OG/C-Josh Andrews, WR-Reece Fountain, G-Mark Glowinski, LB-Anthony Walker, S-Rolan Milligan, RB-Jonathan Williams and S-Clayton Geathers. 3 of the 7 inactives are injury related: Geathers, Walker, Glowinski. Center Ryan Kelly suffered a neck injury late in the second quarter and did not return. Tight end Eric Ebron suffered a concussion late in the first half and did not return either.
-Key Stat: If the Colts make the playoffs next week, they will become the 3rd NFL team since 1970 to start a season 1-5 and still make the postseason.
-What’s Next: The Colts (9-6) will have their season finale next weekend in Nashville, taking on the Titans (9-6) in a massive Week 17 tilt with significant playoff implications at stake. Today’s win guaranteed a winning season for the #Colts (9-6). That ends a three-year drought of non-winning seasons, the longest for the franchise since 1989-1991. — Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) December 23, 2018
Today’s win guaranteed a winning season for the #Colts (9-6).
That ends a three-year drought of non-winning seasons, the longest for the franchise since 1989-1991.
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) December 23, 2018