In 2011 it took the Indianapolis Colts 15 weeks to win their first game of the season. By then “Suck For Luck” was the only rally cry one could hear throughout the state of Indiana. We got our wish. Thank God. This season, with Andrew Luck, it only took two.
Behind an offensive line that has to be the worst in the NFL, and getting worse (injuries), Luck remained calm and cool while dodging the Minnesota defense all day long. And when it counted the most, at the end of the first half and at the end of the game, he looked like he’d been there before. Many times. With a little over a minute left in the first half he marched the offense down the field and threw a perfect pass to Reggie Wayne for a touchdown to take a 20-6 lead into the locker room. That shows everyone that head coach Chuck Pagano had every bit of confidence a coach could have with a 10 year veteran, let alone a 23 year old rookie.
Then, in the beginning of the second half, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians went total conservation. Running up the middle on nearly every play the Colts went 3 and out time after time. Pagano witnessed the success of this approach from his time in Baltimore, who actually have an offensive line, and Arians did it in Pittsburgh. They could just hand the ball off to Ray Rice (in Baltimore) and any Steeler running back and they’d go for 4-5 yards every time. He doesn’t have that luxury in Indianapolis. The Vikings defensive linemen were in the Colts backfield all day. Luck should have had the opportunity to increase the lead that the Colts held at the half. Instead he gave Minnesota every opportunity to come back and make a game of it. With 5 minutes left in the game that’s exactly what they did. What should have been a mini blowout turned into a nail biter.
After Minnesota scored two unanswered touchdowns the, Colts found themselves in a 20-20 tie with 31 seconds to play. Enter Andrew Luck. Two 20 yard passes to Donnie Avery and Reggie Wayne respectively, and then a 5 yard penalty (one of many) against the Vikings, Luck handed the keys to “Mr. Clutch” Adam Venatieri, who promptly put the ball right down the middle for a 53 yd field goal to win the game. 30 seconds. Let me say that again, 30 seconds.
After the last Minnesota touchdown the sideline cameras caught Luck yelling ,“30 seconds, we can do this”!! (may not be verbatim). To me, that’s leadership. As a Marine, I would have followed that guy anywhere. Two last minute drives, two last minute scores. Impressive.
The defense played fairly well. Adrian Peterson, in the beginning was grinding 5 and 6 yards per carry. That was somewhat bothersome. But he never busted a long one and the Colts pretty much held him in check for only 60 yards. They sacked Christian Ponder 4 times, by 4 different defenders. I liked that. Up until the last two drives, the secondary held there own. Jerraud Powers and Antoine Bethea looked great. Vontae Davis looks like he may be getting his legs and the linebackers played solid all day. Justin King, on the other hand, is killing the Colts. When King comes in (on nickle situations) opposing teams just target his receiver. He fails time and time again. If he’s not getting beat, he’s getting pass interference penalties. I fail to mention Tom Zibikowski because I really didn’t see him at all. He had no impact, as usual.
All Pro Canal Swimmer Pat McAfee booted a 64 yard punt that saved the backed up Colts from giving the Vikings great field position. Punters, some times overlooked, can have huge impacts on the strategy of a game. Field position is big and he kicked well throughout.
Though this was a good win for Indianapolis, there are still a lot of holes that need addressed. Minnesota is a bad and undisciplined team, and Indy should have won this game. With all the penalties the Vikings committed, they helped beat themselves. It should not have been as close as it was. That being said, I see a bright future for this franchise. Maybe not this year (we may see a few games like the Bears game), but not too far off either.
About the Author
Written by Rich Marchione
I have lived in Indiana most of my life with the exception a stint in the Marine Corps in the early 80's. I currently live in Anderson, IN, where the Colts camp out for the summer. I have followed the Colts since the Jeff George days. Back then you had to go to the game to watch them because they weren't very good and around Indiana basketball was king, so they were never on television. Then Peyton showed up and the rest was history. Now he's gone and we start a new era. I am excited about all the new changes and will be following them closely. I am married to Cynthia Marchione, I have one daughter, Kaylee and three step-children, Jason, Autumn and Nikki. I also have eight grandchildren.