The Colts the Chargers 26-22 yesterday, which keeps hope for a successful season alive – for now.
For the entire 60 minutes, the result of the game was in doubt, but the Colts were able to make enough plays late to claim their first win of the season.
Because every other team in the AFC South lost this week, the Colts climbed into a tie for second only one game behind the Houston Texans who lead with an unimpressive 2-1 record.
Next, the Colts play consecutive Sundays against two of the three teams that have lost all three games they have played, the Jaguars and Bears in games they will be expected to win.
Had the Colts lost, fans would be debating whether coach Chuck Pagano or general manager Ryan Grigson should be fired first. Instead, they are licking their chops looking ahead to a battle in week six between the likely-to-be 3-2 Colts and the Texans who may share that same record.
How did the Colts manage to win and ugly game yesterday. Good question! Here are nine answers:
9 – It was week three. As bad as the results have been during the first two weeks of the five seasons for the Colts under Chuck Pagano, week three has been exactly that good. The Colts have now won four straight week three games after posting seven losses in eight tries in the first two weeks.Click here to follow Kent on Twitter
8 – Jack Doyle is a more than worthy replacement for Coby Fleener. While Fleener struggles with his new employer, Doyle has thrived with the opportunity Fleener’s absence provides. Doyle ranks second on the Colts with 13 receptions (T.Y. Hilton has 18) on just 15 targets. He has quickly become Luck’s security blanket – one of the under the radar weapons that make the Colts a tough match-up. Opponents can’t take away every weapon, and Doyle is often the odd man out. Now, if he can stop committing penalties, but that’s an issue for the day after a loss.
7 – Josh Lambo missed an extra point. Math gets murky for teams when extra points fade or are tipped, as Lambo’s was by Antonio Cromartie. Instead of taking a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter, the lead remained at six. When the Colts answered the Chargers touchdown drive, they took the lead, and the game changed.
6 – Joe Haeg got healthy at the right time. With Haeg at left guard, suddenly the Colts offensive line began opening holes for Frank Gore and Luck enjoyed a mostly clean pocket. When Joe Reitz left with a balky back, Haeg slid over to right tackle, and did a very solid job there. It’s hard to imagine the Colts winning yesterday without the quality and versatility of Haeg’s play.
5 – Colts won the turnover and penalty battles. Forcing the Chargers into four fumbles – three of which the Colts recovered – were game changers. And the 10 penalties that robbed the Chargers of 80 yards were even bigger. While the Colts were penalized for nearly as many yards, 30 came on three plays during the same set of downs. Other than that, the Colts were mostly clean. Of course, Colts turnovers led to 10 Chargers points, but that means the defense was pretty damn good (today is a cup half full kind of day).
4 – San Diego dropped passes. On four crucial third downs Rivers delivered passes to receivers who could not complete the catch. Three of those drops were followed by the Chargers only punts of the game. If Travis Benjamin hauls in the two he dropped and Tyrell Williams hauls in his drop, this is a different game.
3 – Chargers DBs aren’t very good. As the game went on, and Chargers defenders left the game with a variety of injuries, more and more stress was placed on the Chargers cornerbacks and safeties. The pressure of defending speedsters Phillip Dorsett and Hilton finally caused the defense to snap late as Luck hit Hilton with the game winning 63-yard bomb with 1:17 left.
2 – T.Y. Hilton exploited matchup issues all afternoon. I thought Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano was nuts to play a bubble zone that allowed Hilton so much open space underneath until they played press against Hilton with Jason Verrett. Hilton ran a slant, and it was adios! Hilton took the game winner to the house. Last week against Aqib Talib showed the worst version of a matchup for Hilton. Yesterday was sweet revenge against the smaller cornerbacks of the Chargers.
1 – Chargers took the lead. There seem to be two versions of Luck as a quarterback. One is a sometimes shaky and not always accurate leader who plays with a lack of confidence, and the other is a dynamic, explosive, and precise pirate who steals games from unsuspecting opponents lulled into an unwise sense of confidence as Luck founders early in games. The first usually appears while the Colts lead, and the other shows up when the Colts are tied or trail.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.