This one is simple: If the Colts win the game, they still have a (tiny, imperceivable) chance at making the playoffs. Lose and it’s all over and the players can officially make their vacation plans. To win, the Colts had to face a very good Vikings defense, a mediocre Vikings offense, and one of the greatest RBs of recent memory returning from injury. Oh, and the Colts had to start three rooking on the offensive line again. Joe Haeg at RG and Le’Raven Clark at RT. *Gulp*
Three straight runs to start the game, all runs away from the rookie side of the OLine. Some quick throws resulting in first downs for the Colts had the Colts moving. Luck wasn’t looking much deeper than 10-ish yards until a shot to the end zone that was a few steps too far for Hilton. Luck then took off on third down when he couldn’t find an open man and slid down short of the first. Vinatieri does his Vinatieri thing and connected from 48. COLTS 3-0.
Note: The Colts, when not beating themselves, haven’t had much trouble moving the ball against anyone this year. When they’re on, they’re borderline casual about moving the ball. A decent drive to open the game.
It shouldn’t be surprising considering how mediocre the Vikings offense is, but the Colts forcing a three-and-out (including holding Adrian Peterson to one carry for two yards and one catch for one yard) was the ideal start. Tack on a fantastic punt return by Chester Rogers and the Colts had all of that so-called ‘momentum’ early.
Note: The fact that the Colts seem to always have to drive the full field while their opponents continually have short fields shouldn’t be overlooked. This team tends to feel tangible effects of field position more than other teams.
Colts got into another 3rd-and-long, but Luck’s ability to move in the pocket resulted in a beautiful jump-shot pass for 31 yards to Hilton. Colts moved down to 1st and goal, but then Allen can’t complete the catch while reaching for the goal line, Luck missed Hilton on a quick out, and Hilton was blanketed and couldn’t draw the flag on third down. Moncrief being out really hurts the production of the Colts’ red zone offense. An unsportsmanlike conduct call for landing on the center while trying to leap over him on a FG attempt resulted in a Colts first and goal again. Turbin as the fullback got the touchdown for the Colts as they went two straight runs after three straight passes on their first go round. COLTS 10-0.
One first down allowed by the Colts before they return to shutting down the Vikings run game again (no Peterson here) and forcing a third down incompletion.
Note: Games like this are the most frustrating part about watching the Colts. Where is this against their own division? Injuries all over the team and the Colts just casually play well. Wild inconsistency should be frustrating for Jim Irsay, but instead he sees it as the reason to keep Pagano and Grigson around.
The next drive was a three and out for the Colts after a false start penalty on second down. The pass protection finally disintegrated on third down and the Colts were forced to punt. It remains difficult for the Colts to look good when they’re busy beating themselves with penalties.
Another three and out and the Vikings started to look away from the running game. Peterson had no luck getting anything going and the passing game couldn’t do much beyond one short completion per drive.
Note: It’s hard to feel confident in the defense’s start when the Colts have shown an insane ability to completely disappear on defense. Eventually offenses seem to figure out the Colts defense. It’s only a matter of time.
Gore had 10 carries before this drive started. Colts clearly came into the game with the plan to let Gore carry this team and take pressure off of Luck. It was working in the first half. Luck’s quick throws had the offense picking up an easy 4-6 yards every play. Luck was in that easy completion mode that Chudzinski has occasionally been able to find for him. It really helps when they don’t have to ask him to be a super hero and complete impossible passes. That way, Luck can do things like easily drop a 27-yard TD pass over Erik Swoope’s shoulder. Luck when he isn’t trying too hard is a sight to behold. COLTS 17-0.
Note: I can’t remember the Colts using this many quick slants in any game this season. There were also a lot of runs out of two TE sets. They were able to bring both TEs in tight to have their hands in the ground by the tackles to help the OL and give them more options for blocking the Vikings front.
A decent return, a penalty against the Colts, and a long completion had the Vikings close to the redzone. But a Peterson fumble forced and recovered by Mike Adams gave the ball right back to Luck and the offense.
The Colts evolved to an all TE all the time offense. Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle, and Erik Swoope were beating the Vikings linebackers like a drum. Great production from them was key because it also allowed the Colts an excuse to keep them on the field and help with blocking for the running game. It also helped that the Vikings defense kept finding ways to get penalties. Turbin finished the drive with a TD run where he absolutely refused to go down before finding the end zone. COLTS 24-0.
28 seconds left in the half and the Vikings first throw was intercepted by Mike Adams who gets hit low on the sideline and was slow to get up. Colts got yet another chance to put points on the board, sure, but Adams possibly being injured would be very bad. But he did walk off under his own power.
19 seconds left and two time outs from inside the Vikings 40 and the Colts decided to run and settle for the FG. Not sure if it was a mercy decision from Pagano, but not even trying for the end zone (or at least to get closer) was a bit strange. But when the team is up 24 in the first half and they have no business being, decisions get a little muddled. Vinny’s attempt was good from 50. COLTS 27-0.
The first half was utter domination by the Colts. The offense moved the ball with ease and any mistake they made seemed to immediately get nullified by a bigger mistake by the Vikings defense. You have to imagine the fact that the Colts dominated the time of possession added to the Vikings’ defensive problems. Their defense was on the field for a long time and, even with Donte Moncrief out, the Colts have so many skill players that they can rotate easily and keep players fresh. The plan not to ask Luck to drop back too far too much worked well to make the OLine look capable. On the defensive end, the Vikings weren’t able to do anything against the Colts. Two Mike Adams turnovers (forced fumble, INT) led directly to 10 points for the offense. The Colts getting turnovers while not committing them is a rare occurrence. But when it happens, the Colts look fantastic.
The Vikings opened the second half re-dedicated to running with Peterson, but it was their passing game that started making plays and getting first downs. The Colts were leaving short crossing routes wide open. But a MASSIVE strip sack from the one and only Bobby Mathis got the Colts the ball back when the Vikings were threatening to ruin their shutout.
Note: Mathis hasn’t been Mathis this season…but man, that looked like old school Mathis right there. Vintage strip sack.
The Colts decided to do nothing with the turnover and go three and out. Two runs for very little gain and then a Jack Doyle catch on third down where he didn’t run deep enough to get the first down.
Note: It’s one of the most frustrating things in the NFL when a QB throws short of the first down marker on third down. But, their pass catchers have to help by getting past the first down. Doyle’s route made no sense there.
Kerr read a screen perfectly and got an INT, but it was negated by a low hit on the QB by Henry Anderson. The Colts of old returned full force for this drive. Giving up any pass play and negating good plays with penalties. The Vikings proceeded to drive down the field with little resistance, but a sack by Walden grounded their drive. But the shutout was over. COLTS 27-3.
The Colts started their next drive deep in their own territory after an odd looking meandering kickoff return. But Luck and Gore refused to let that keep them down. And Phillip Dorsett finally made his presence known on a 50-yard TD catch to open the 4th quarter. The speed that the Colts love was on full display on Dorsett’s first catch (and first target) of the game. COLTS 34-3.
Note: Dorsett has struggled this season. In the games where Moncrief has been out and Dorsett expected to step up, Chester Rogers has done much more. Today seemed to be the same story until that catch.
The Vikings started their next drive moving easily with passes that the Colts couldn’t seem to get anywhere near. Their drive ended abruptly just outside of the red zone after a great inside move and sack by TY McGill. The 50-yard FG made the score COLTS 34-6.
Pagano used a challenge well to get a spot changed to a first down to the dismay of the Vikings fans who probably felt much like the unhappy Jets fans of two weeks ago. The Colts were content to run three straight times and then punt though, so it was all just to run more time off the clock which, you know, should have made the Vikings fans happy so they could go home.
The next Vikings drive saw Walden pick up his second sack of the day and 10th on the season. 10th. On the season. Walden. Those words are just very strange to say together, despite their truth. The Vikings, also unable to pass the ball past the marker, turn the ball over on downs.
Luck, Gore, and many other starters’ days officially ended and Scott Tolzien and Todman took over the offense. Colts didn’t even give Tolzien a chance to throw as they tried to wind the clock as low as possible. The result was a turnover on downs of their own and the two minute warning.
Garbage time. Yards on yards. None of them meaningful to anyone except fantasy football players.
FINAL: COLTS 34 VIKINGS 6
The Colts completed what was possibly the most frustrating three game stretch of the season. A blowout against the Jets, a no show against the Texans, and a blowout against the Vikings. They’re at 7-7 with two games to play and still have an outside chance of making the playoffs. However, in order to do so, they’ll need to beat a very good Raiders team next week.
If this week’s team shows up, they’ll have a chance. On the road, the Colts didn’t turn the ball over (I’m not counting the turnover on downs because that was simply to run clock and didn’t really matter), weren’t heavily penalized, and were very effective on third down. The defense wasn’t great in pass coverage and their pass rush wasn’t that inspiring and was more prevalent because the Vikings OLine is pretty bad, but they had a pretty solid tackling day and their run defense held up very well.
Games like this where the Colts can stop the run early while the Colts O scores a bunch and forces a mediocre QB to beat them are what the Colts want. It’s exactly what they weren’t able to do against the Texans. This defense is a different monster when the other team is trying to outscore a fiery Andrew Luck. But how will this team perform with their season again on the line. Colts need to win out and a lot of help to have a chance at the playoffs.
UP NEXT: @ Oakland Raiders (10-3)
The Raiders aren’t perfect, but they are very good. There are still those clamoring for Derek Carr for MVP and there’s that Khalil Mack guy who is decent at football.
HOU (8-6): Vs CIN ; @ TEN
TEN (8-6): @ JAX ; Vs HOU
The Colts are hoping they can win out while their cohorts lose at least one. Today’s games showed that neither of next week’s games are guaranteed, but the Colts will still be relying a lot on others to try to sneak into the playoffs as the AFCS champion.
Andrew Luck 21/28 75% 250 yards 2 TDs 0 INT
Frank Gore 26 carries 101 yards
Phillip Dorsett 1 catch 50 yards 1 TD
Erik Swoope 3 catches 50 yards 1 TD