by Kent Sterling
Turnovers kill. There is no statistic in football more telling than turnover differential, and the New England Patriots won the turnover battle 3-0 over the Colts, including a pick six that helped Bill Belichick’s evil horde jump out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
So now the Patriots will either host the AFC Championship against the San Diego Chargers or fly to Denver for yet another overhyped Brady vs. Manning spectacle. The Colts will prepare for the 2014 season that is only 33 weeks away.
It wasn’t the composure and arm of future Hall of Fame Quarterback Tom Brady that led the Patriots offensive explosion. It was the reborn LeGarrette Blount, who had scored 16 touchdowns in what had been a very mediocre four season career until the last three games, during which he has scored eight times. Blount’s 24 carries for 166 yards and four touchdowns were too much to handle for a team that handed the ball to the Patriots four times.
Brady was ordinary as he completed 13-25 passes for 198 yards and zero touchdowns. The most important statistic for Brady was another zero – the number of times he threw balls to Colts.
Extolling the virtues of the Patriots isn’t going to be any more fun for me to write than you to read, so I think I’ll bail on that task and head straight for the postmortem on what has been a very solid season for the Colts despite a roster of injuries that would have crippled most teams.
Last season, quarterback Andrew Luck had an outstanding rookie season in large part because of the contributions of three weapons – Reggie Wayne, Vick Ballard, and Dwayne Allen. Allen and Ballard played one game each, and Wayne was lost for the season toward the end of the epic home win against the Broncos.
There were nearly 20 Colts who were lost for the season, and many more who missed a few games here and there, but the Colts continued to find ways to overcome their less than fertile roster. General manager made trades, found different men who had been on the street to contribute, and coach Chuck Pagano and his staff squeezed the very last bit of effort out of the players.
The Colts gave up 38 points to the Rams, 40 points to the Cardinals, and 42 to the Bengals in games between November 10 and December 8, and the media thought there was no way they could find a second wind to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Pagano had other ideas as he found combinations of players and schemes that suited them to win the last three regular season games by a combined score of 78-20, but the frost on the cake came last Saturday afternoon and night of the wild card round playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs led by 28 early in the second half, and over the next 90 minutes turned the tables so quickly and thoroughly that it was a Colts victory formation that ended the game.
The media geniuses, many of whom picked the Colts to win tonight, believed that the Colts success in 2012 had more to do with good fortune than Luck. The Colts posted an incredible 9-1 record in games determined by seven or fewer points, were outscored over the course of the season by 30 points, and featured seven fourth quarter comebacks on their way to an 11-5 record. The math whizzes said a regression to the norm would be forthcoming.
Not quite. The Colts finished 11-5 again, won the admittedly putrid AFC South, and posted the first postseason win of the Luck/Pagano era.
That’s not what the Colts hoped to hang their collective hat on when the day began, but it’s a hell of a result for a team held together by Luck, splendid play by lone Colts Pro Bowler defensive end Robert Mathis, a great coaching staff, a couple of rolls of duct tape, and some bailing wire, but it’s a step forward.
So now, the attention of fans turns to the future. Missing the first round pick that was shipped to Cleveland in exchange for Trent Richardson, the Colts might be thought to be minus the assets needed to show similar improvement next season. If those the Colts lost for the season in 2013 can return to form in 2014, it will be like having five first round picks.
Tonight sucked, but the future looks bright.