Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Super Bowl statistical sleeper: The Colts
By John McTigue, ESPN Stats & Info
Andrew CutraroAre the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl contenders?
Andrew Luck hopes he has a few fist-pumps left in the 2013 season.
The Colts’ season took an interesting turn following Reggie Wayne's ACL injury. Andrew Luck and the offense struggled despite going 6-3 over the last nine games, and the Colts were actually outscored by a point in those games.
Prior to Wayne’s injury though, the Colts beat three teams that would eventually finish with 12 wins: the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.
Although the Colts did struggle down the stretch, it’s hard to ignore the three wins against the league’s elite. Winning is one thing, but it was the manner in which the Colts won that should legitimize their status as contenders.
Week 3 at 49ers, 27-7
The 49ers have boasted one of the best rush defenses in the NFL in recent years, leading the league in yards per rush allowed since the start of 2011 (3.7). The 49ers allowed 618 rushing yards fewer than the next best rush defense during that span.
Despite this, the Colts went into San Francisco in Week 3 and rushed 40 times, gaining 184 yards (4.6 average) and scoring three rush touchdowns in the process. No team in the last three seasons has rushed for more yards or more touchdowns in a game against the 49ers. It was also the Colts’ best rushing performance of the season.
Week 5 vs Seahawks, 34-28
The Seahawks excel in pass defense like the 49ers excel in rush defense. The Seahawks’ 38.1 Total QBR the last two seasons is second in the NFL and no team has intercepted more passes (46).
Luck didn’t seem to have too much trouble passing against Seattle though.
In the first quarter, Luck connected with T.Y. Hilton for a 73-yard touchdown, the longest pass play allowed by the Seahawks since Week 16 of the 2007 season. It was the first of two touchdowns by Luck in the game that were thrown more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Luck was the first quarterback to throw multiple touchdowns on such passes against the Seahawks since Drew Brees in 2010.
Week 7 vs Broncos, 39-33
Amazingly, the 33 points scored by the Broncos were their fewest of the season at the time.
The feat pulled off by the Colts that game wasn’t holding the Broncos to 33 points, it was pressuring Peyton Manning.
Manning was sacked four times against his former team, and was put under pressure (sack or duress) on 32 percent of his dropbacks, both highs against Manning since he joined the Broncos. Manning was sacked a total of five times in the six games prior to playing the Colts.
What about Wayne?
Luck did struggle in the wake of losing Wayne, but a demotion to Darrius Heyward-Bey and the emergence of Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers has brought some stability to the receiving corps.
In the first six games after losing Wayne, Luck completed only 52 percent of his passes to wide receivers and had only three plays of 30 yards or more. In his last three games, Luck completed 69 percent of his throws to wide receivers and had three plays go at least 30 yards.
What else bodes well for the Colts?
There are other statistical factors that would seem to be positive indicators for the Colts heading into the postseason. Here are three others to keep in mind:
• The Colts have committed a league-low 14 turnovers this season. Luck threw nine interceptions this season after throwing 18 last season.
• Donald Brown has averaged 2.7 yards per rush after contact, best in the NFL.
• Robert Mathis led the NFL with a career-high 19.5 sacks this season.