by Kent Sterling
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of discipline, it was the age of foolish penalties, it was the epoch of passiveness, it was the epoch of aggression, it was the game of Light, it was the game of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had the AFC South crown before us, we had a potential collapse before us, we were all going direct to the Super Bowl, we were all going direct to the NFL Draft–in short, the first half was so far like the Sunday against the Rams, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Okay, I’m not Charles Dickens, but this was a Tale of Two Halves.
The Indianapolis Colts were thoroughly outplayed and outclassed in the first half, but got hot early in the second half, and the Tennessee Titans wilted under the weight and speed of the onslaught.
The Colts didn’t just make Titans running back Chris Johnson like like the 2009 version of himself in the first half, they made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like John Elway, or for Colts fans of a more youthful vintage, how about Kellen Clemens. In the second half, both looked like who they are.
It was Donald Brown and Andrew Luck who took over in the second half after being all but inert during the first.
Not only were the Colts bad during the first half, they were unusually undisciplined. The team that averaged a hair over three penalties per game coming into tonight’s game, picked up personal fouls on three successive plays in the second quarter. It was after those penalties that the Colts found their mojo.
The Titans drive stalled, and a Rob Bironas field goal made the score 17-3. The Colts responded with a drive that ended the half with a field goal to make the score 17-6, and then the march back fully blossomed. Dominating the ball for all but five plays of the third quarter, the Colts put up 17 unanswered, and led 23-17 when the quarter ended.
What a strange game professional football is, and what a bizarre team the Colts are. Mediocre, bad, and terrible are followed by excellent, suburb, and magical. There is no doubt Reggie Wayne, Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Dwayne Allen, but I wonder whether the results of any of the games they have played would have been any different.
Whether the Colts win or lose seems to be preordained before the opening kickoff, and then it’s just a matter of how. It’s like seeing the parts that are used to make a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series laying on the garage floor, knowing that eventually they will be assembled into a beautiful car.
Not sure from where the magic comes. Is it luck? Is it coach Chuck Pagano? Is it defensive coordinator Greg Manusky? Maybe it’s the collective will of the defense. I can’t tell. There is no doubt that Luck has a strong presence, otherworldly escapablity, and a penchant for improvisation.
Luck followed up a poor first half by completing 9-11 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter. He ran for another TD on a neat little unplanned – I assume – scramble.
Donald Brown wrapped up a drive of almost five minutes up three with an 11-yard touchdown run to move the score to 30-20. The Colts finished with 137 rushing, and the resurgent Brown accounted for 80 of them on 14 carries. How many times do the Colts have to draft, trade, or sign over the top of Brown before they realize that he’s a pretty special back?
A late Titans touchdown did nothing but alter the cosmetics of the final score. The Colts move to 7-3 and the Titans are 4-6. The tale of two halves belongs to the Colts.