Indianapolis Colts: 2013 Week 11 IND at TEN

Luck lights fire under Colts at halftime

November, 15, 2013
Andrew LuckAP Photo/Wade PayneThe Colts saw "a different Andrew" Luck during halftime Thursday with the team trailing 17-6.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Andrew Luck's approach in dealing with his teammates is similar to how he plays the quarterback position. The Indianapolis Colts signal-caller often maintains his composure, rarely allowing anything to get under his skin.

That changed inside the walls of the locker room at LP Field at halftime Thursday.

Luck was frustrated, he was angry and he didn't hold back his feelings from his teammates.

"It was to a whole new level," punter Pat McAfee said. "Normally, he has a calming presence, meaning we know what we have to do to win the game. This was a different Andrew."

Luck had every right to clench his jaw and let loose.

The Colts, a team that has stuck together and fought through adversity on different levels the past two seasons, showed signs in the first half of cracking and possibly falling apart for the first time.

Another slow start and three straight unsportsmanlike penalties by the defense, including a childish head-butt by linebacker Erik Walden, had them looking like they'd be in a fight to hold on to first place in the AFC South.

All eyes were on Luck as he spoke, and his message sank in. The Colts got it together in the running and passing game to take complete control of the division with a 30-27 victory.

"He had that look in his eye," Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. "He basically told the team to jump on his back. He really got caught up today when he was talking to us. He challenged everybody to fight and go out there and win this game. You like to hear that from your leader."

The Colts had to win this game. They had too much on the line to lose back-to-back games for the first time with Luck quarterbacking them.

Their image took a substantial hit when they were thoroughly outplayed and embarrassed at home by the St. Louis Rams last weekend, losing 38-8. But more important, the Colts' lead in the division would have been down to a game had they lost Thursday. Now they have a three-game advantage with six games remaining.

"This speaks to their character, their mindset," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "They are resilient. They were bound and determined to try to find a way to make amends for the home loss. Everyone was embarrassed, and they wanted to do whatever they could."

You would have never known the Colts wanted to make "amends" for what happened against the Rams with the way they opened the game Thursday.

The Titans went no huddle and used a spread offense to score on their first two series, taking a 14-0 lead.

A shaky offensive line, no running game and a struggling receiving group made a two-touchdown deficit seem like it would be significant obstacle for the Colts to overcome.

Tempers started to flare and frustration took a toll on the Indianapolis defense in the second quarter. The three unsportsmanlike penalties gave the Titans 41 free yards.

"A lot of it, I believe, was instigated by them," Redding said. "They always catch the second guy. We got the mentality we're not going to be no punks. We're going to stand up to whatever is going on the field, and we just got caught in the act three times."

The Colts went into the half trailing 17-6.

And that's when Luck used words, not his arm or legs, to get his team going.

"He had fire and passion with his talk," tackle Anthony Castonzo said. "He had some powerful words behind it. It's been three weeks in row that we were down at halftime. There was some frustration. He wanted to make sure we came back and won this thing."

The Colts didn't wait until the fourth quarter to pull off the comeback. They took Luck's words to heart and jumped on the Titans at the start of the third quarter by playing the type of football Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton envisioned when the season started.

The offensive line, which took a lot of criticism for its play against the Rams, had one of its best halves of the season by opening up holes for the running backs, and Luck used the short passing game to keep drives going.

Running back Donald Brown gained 51 of his 80 yards in the second half, and Luck was 11-of-15 for 124 yards without being sacked in the final 30 minutes of the game. The Colts totaled 137 rushing yards after being held to only 18 against the Rams.

"We weren't going to crumble," Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. "If we crumbled, I was going to fight somebody. It was a matter of not getting down on yourself, no pity parties. We were just going to go out and play football."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –- In the middle of what was a career-best day for Titans tight end Delanie Walker, he found himself face to face with Colts linebacker Erik Walden.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Delanie Walker
AP Photo/Wade PayneDelanie Walker is restrained by tackle Michael Roos after an altercation with Erik Walden.
In the middle of a bad penalty stretch for Indianapolis, Walden yanked off Walker's helmet and then head butted Walker.

Walker did not take it well.

“That’s dirty play, there is no need for stuff like that in the NFL,” Walker said. “If you’re getting your butt kicked, get your butt kicked. Don’t rip somebody’s helmet off and then head butt them. I’m surprised he didn’t get ejected. ...

“Dang, this is a sport we all play with each other, we’re all family, this is a fraternity. For you to do some senseless act like that, that just tells me what type of player you are. There is no need to talk. I’m going to see him in two weeks and I’m going to whoop his butt again.”

Walden was contrite after the game.

“It was a selfish act,” he said of the play that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. “It could have cost my team bigger than I did. I lost my composure. It something that can’t happen. It wasn’t really something he did, it was ticky-tack. I can’t allow myself to take it that far.”

Locker Room Buzz: Indianapolis Colts

November, 15, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Observed in the locker room after the Indianapolis Colts30-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans

Always competing: Running back Donald Brown opened the season behind Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw on the depth chart. Then he was behind Bradshaw and Trent Richardson. But Brown has remained ready for his opportunity. He proved that Thursday night when he gained 80 yards and scored two touchdowns on 14 carries. “He’s been doing it all year,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s running as good, or better, than he has since I’ve been here. It’s a tribute to his hard work.”

Still perfect: Pagano and quarterback Andrew Luck’s run of not losing back-to-back games was on the line when they went into the half trailing 17-6. But the Colts outscored the Titans 24-10 in the second half to make sure that didn’t happen.

Heyward-Bey hurt: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed part of the second half with an ankle injury. He wanted to get back on the field, but Pagano said they decided to keep him out. Heyward-Bey finished one catch for 10 yards.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

November, 14, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts30-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field:

What it means: The Colts continue to roll the dice with slow starts. They went into the half trailing 17-6 to bring their first-half deficit over their past three games to 66-9. But instead of waiting until the fourth quarter to get back into the game, the Colts got it going in the third quarter. Indianapolis used an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with running back Donald Brown scoring from 6 yards. The Colts got the ball back seconds later when Devon Wylie fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Dan Herron recovered the ball, and they took the lead for good two plays later when quarterback Andrew Luck, seeing Titans defensive lineman Derrick Morgan jump into the passing lane, tucked the ball and ran in from 11 yards. Luck spiked the ball with force once he got into the end zone. Brown outplayed teammate Trent Richardson, finishing with 14 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Coby Fleener had eight catches for a career-high 107 yards. The Colts are in control of the AFC South now, ahead by three games with six games remaining.

Walden loses his cool: Colts linebacker Erik Walden should expect to hear from the league office after he gave a helmetless Delanie Walker a head-butt following a play in the second quarter. It was surprising that Walden wasn’t ejected because the league has taken a stand on protecting players. Walden tried to redeem himself with a sack in the third quarter, but it doesn't make up for his classless play in the first half. The league will at least fine Walden and could suspend him.

The ageless wonder: Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri nailed a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter to give him four field goals of at least 50 yards this season. He’s two shy of the Colts’ single-season record established by Dean Biasucci in 1988 and equaled by Mike Vanderjagt in 1998.

What’s next: The Colts play at the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 24. The Cardinals are coached by Bruce Arians, who coached the Colts last season while Chuck Pagano was out battling leukemia.