UPON FURTHER REVIEW is brought to you by the team of Boydy, Broncofan91, Bshrout, and Kaptain Kirk.
I. Setting the stage:
The undefeated Indianapolis Colts are playing for home-field rights throughout the postseason. They lead the League in Passing Yards per game (302.8), and 2nd in points against (16.8), and they keep making history. The victory over Tennessee last week was their 21st consecutive regular-season win, matching New England's record, set from 2006-08. Indy has a chance to break it this week at home against Denver.
The Broncos are playing for a 9th win, keeping pace with division rival San Diego, and a playoff spot.
Both teams are playing well right now.
Weather and Conditions
Lucas Oil Field is a domed stadium. The weather will not factor into this game.
Injuries and external factors
NE-Ind: NE (Did not play) -- QB Hoyer, LB Seau. (Inactive) -- WR Taylor, CB Springs, RB Morris, LB Alexander, OL Ohrnberger, T Light, DL Warren, DL Green
NE-Ind: Ind (Did not play) -- QB Painter. (Inactive) -- K Vinatieri, WR Gonzalez, QB Sorgi, DB Hayden, DB Francisco, OT Ugoh, OG Pollack, TE Santi
Back up QB Jim Sorgi was placed in IR Wednesday with an injured shoulder. Curtis Painter, a rookie out of Purdue, is Mannings back up. The Colts signed OL Michael Toudouze, Indy’s fifth-round pick in 2006, to fill Sorgi’s spot. They waived QB Shane Boyd from the practice squad and signed former University of Buffalo QB Drew Willy.
The Colts list 16 players on their injury report Thursday. They are dinged up, but unless Coach Caldwell decides to rest some players for the playoffs, they should all play.WR Hank Baskett was a Non Injury - Did Not Participate and DT Daniel Muir was Limited with a Hamstring injury.
Peyton Manning is the league's best when it comes to finishing off games. He is the first player in NFL history with 25 TD passes in 12 consecutive seasons. The Colts have won 13 consecutive games when Peyton passes for 300 or more yards. He has thrown for 300 or more yards in 8 of the Colts' 11 games this season.
Manning operates primarily from the shotgun. They do almost all of their running plays when he is under center. They will run the occasional inside hand off or draw in the shotgun, but the Colts are definitely a Pass First Offense. They operate with a 3WR set, along with TE Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai as the lone setback.
Peyton is a student of the game and is extremely comfortable in the No Huddle. He will audible to get the right match-ups for his team to succeed. They can score quickly and Time Of Possession is a relative non-factor in defeating them.
On the Season -- 322/460 (70.0%) for 3685 yards; 8.0 yards/attempt, 307.1 yards/game, 25 TD's, 11 INT's, 188 1st Downs, Longest pass was 80 yards, 40 passes have gone 20+ yards, 7 passes have gone 40+ yards, sacked 10 times, has 101.9 QB rating.
NE game -- 28/44 (63.6%) for 327 yards, 4 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions, 97.4 QB rating
NE-Ind: Manning does an excellent job of making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. When watching the game film, you can see him calling out instructions to his line and receivers almost right up until the ball in snapped. He makes quick reads as he looks for the open receiver. He is calm when pressured. He was intercepted twice. NE broke up 5 passes.
Hou-Ind: 27/35, 77.1%, 244 yards, 3 TDs 2 INTs, 2 sacks.
NE-Ind: The Colts run blocking was adequate enough to allow a couple of big gains, particularly in the 4th quarter where Addai was able to burst through the middle for 13 yards to take the ball to the NE 1 yard line on the game winning drive. Though the Colts gained 91 yards on the ground, if you take away Addai (13) and Simpson's (16) longest runs, Addai only gained 28 yards on 9 carries (3.1ypc) and Simpson ended with 20 yards on 3 carries (6.0 ypc). He carried the ball 21 times for 79 yards and scored Indianapolis' first 2 TD's against the Titans. He also added 3 catches for 17 yards and had 5 carries in the 4th quarter that helped the Colts take valuable time off the clock.
In the New England game, the Colts OL did a good job of protecting Manning. Out of 28 pass plays, he was sacked only once, and hit only 4 times. He was not sacked by Tennessee. The line has given up 10 Sacks so far, this season and the average time they allow Manning is 2.25 seconds.
Charlie Johnson has given up 3 sacks. Perhaps that is why Tony Ugoh has replaced him at LT. RG Mike Pollack 2, and RB Joseph Addai, RB Donald Brown, RT Ryan Diem, LG Ryan Lilja, and C Jeff Saturday have each been responsible for giving up a sack. Ryan Diem had 3 false starts in the Tennessee game.
RB Joseph Addai has 5 rushing TD's in his past 5 games and 12 for the season. He also has 36 carries for 229 yards and one TD in 2 previous regular-season games with Denver.
RB Donald Brown (chest) did not play in the Tennessee game, Don't expected him Sunday either.
NE-Ind: in this particular game, the Colts' RBs looked average at best. Chad Simpson and Addai each had one long run (13 & 16 yards respectively), but they also had a fair number of rushes that gained no yards.
Hou-Ind: Indy was behind for most of the game so they didn't run much. When they did call a run it was very effective. Addai is not a spectacular back but he can catch you by surprise. He is a very good receiver and can also pass on trick plays. He finished the game with 69 yards on 15 carries for a 4.6 average. Addai also had 3 catches for 13 yards. Donald Brown had a solid day with 27 yards on 5 carries but is unlikely that he will play on Sunday. Third stringer Chad Simpson had the only touchdown by a running back in this game.
WR Reggie Wayne, with 1,035 yards receiving, for his 6th consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season. He is aiming for his 6th game in a row with a TD.
TE Dallas Clark needs 1 more reception to pass his seasonal career-best of 77 that was set last year, and has a career high 873 receiving yards. He needs 59 yards to become the second Colts TE with 4,000 receiving yards or more. JohnMackey has the franchise record with 5,126 receiving yards. Clark has 13 receptions for 148 yards and 2 TD's in three previous regular-season games with Denver.
NE-Ind: The Colts' WRs were very good at running routes crisply when not bumped at the line. Bumping the WRs at the line, however, is a dangerous gamble, since they tend to be very quick, and Manning is capable of a very quick throw. If the bump does not completely drive theWR off the route, and/or disrupt the timing, Manning and his WRs are able to turn that bump to their advantage. They were also quick to adjust when Manning was pressured.
Hou-Ind: Rookie Austin Collie led the Colt's with 4 catches and 70 yards. He's a small receiver but is very quick and runs good routes. Indy's version of WesWelker , if you will. Pierre Garcon is a bigger type of receiver with good hands. He had 5 catches for 63 yards and a TD. Reggie Wayne had a below average game but he did have a TD.
The Colts use a 4-3 Base Defense for their front 7. They like to get a lead, and rush the opposing Offense with their DE's, and use Cover 2 with their DB's. They clog the middle with bulk and filter running plays to the LB's.
NE-Ind: Out of 29 pass plays, the Colts intercepted Tom Brady once. They sacked him twice and hit him 5 times. The Colts' defense broke up 5 passes.
NE-Ind: Mathis and Freeney were able to apply pressure on a regular basis. It became obvious that NE's blocking scheme on them was more about deflecting them away from the play, than any belief that they could consistently stop them.
DE Robert Mathis has 9.5 sacks, and is tied for 2nd in the NFL with 5 forced fumbles this season. Mathis has 35 career forced fumbles. He needs 2.5 sacks to surpass his seasonal career high of 11.5 in 2005 and 2008.
DE Dwight Freeney has 10.5 sacks this year. He has 1.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in 4 career games vs. the Broncos. Freeney (abdomen) played sparingly last week against the Titans, but managed 1 sack. They rotated rookieDT Fili Moala in on on 1st and 2nd downs and short yardage situations.
DT Keyunta Dawson (knee) did not play in the Tennessee game.
Hou-Ind: The Colt's defensive line got manhandled by Houston in the first half. Freeney did not play and Mathis got no pressure on Schaub. They were pushed away from run-plays with ease. They finished the half with no sacks. The second half wasn't much better although Mathis did finish with a sack
MLB Gary Brackett is the leader of the LB corps for the Colts. He and his 2 cohorts Clint Session(Sam) and Phillip Wheeler(Will) make most of the tackles on defense. Brackett and Session each have 4 Passes Defensed and Session has 2INT's.
They have 2 rookies at CB, Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey. Lacey is the nickel back and started the Tennessee game ahead of Kelvin Hayden, who was slowed by a knee injury. Hayden did play, but Lacey had an INT. AntoineBethea and Melvin Bullitt are the Safeties. both have over 50 solo tackles and Bethea has 4 INT's.
IV. Game progression
NE-Ind: Time of Possession -- NE dominated the T.O.P. 1st Q - 8:14-6:46; 2nd Q - 6:37-8:23; 3rd Q - 11:01-3:59; 4th Q - 9:10-5:50; TOTAL - 35:02-24:58
This is an important stat since the score was tied 7-7 at the end of the 1st Q; NE led 24-7 at one point in the 2nd Q and led 24-14 at the half; there was no scoring in the 3rd Q, despite NE's domination of the T.O.P.; in the 4th Q, NE built leads of 31-14 and 34-21. The Colts scored 14 points in the last 4:12 of the game.
The first of the Colts' two scoring drives began at the Ind 21 yard line with 4:07 left on the clock. The Colts ran a no huddle offense. Manning operated out of the shotgun, theOL gave great protection. Manning was very cool under what little pressure was generated. Manning had passes of 12, 6 and 17 yards before missing a pass. On the in-completion, a defensive pass interference was called, resulting in the Colts picking up 31 yards. The interference call came when the defender had turned to look back for the ball, theWR slowed down and the DB hit him in the middle of the back with his shoulder (the DB was still turned around looking for the ball). A 9 yard pass followed up by an in-completion set up Addai's 4 yard touchdown run between theRG and RT.
The game winning drive began after NE failed to convert on a 4th and 2 at their own 29 yard line.
An interesting footnote to that play is that Kevin Faulk appeared to have caught the ball beyond the first down marker, but was driven back by a Colt defender. Head Linesman TomStabile, who had both Faulk's body and the body of the Colts Strong Safety Melvin Bullitt ruled that Faulk had been juggling the ball prior to being driven back. The replay angles offered by NFL Rewind, did not appear to support the call. It looked as if Faulk had the ball in both hands against his chest with one foot well past the 30 yard line prior to the hit.
Manning drove the Colts on a 4 play drive that included 2 passes and 2 runs. The first pass went for 15 yards. This was followed by 2 runs, one for 13 yards up the middle and the second for no gain at the NE 1 yard line. Manning completed the drive with a fast ball pass to Reggie Wayne on the left side of the end zone for the touchdown. Wayne was well-covered by NE CB Wilhite -- in fact, during the first part of the play, Wilhite had his left arm wrapped around the waist of Wayne.
Last week, Indy out-muscled the Titans 27 - 17, to record their 21st consecutive regular-season win, tying the mark set by the Patriots in 2006-08. In the process, they extended their own NFL record of consecutive 12-win seasons to seven.
Joseph Addai ran for a season-high 79 yards and two TD's. Manning was 24 of 37 for 270 yards and one TD.
Indy needed just 1:58 to take a 7-0 lead, on Addai's 8-yard run. After Rob Bironas' short field goal, Addai scored on a 1-yard run to make it 14-3. And when Young was picked off by Jacob Lacey, Manning hooked up with Austin Collie on a 4-yard TD pass to make it 21-3 with 1:55 left in the 1st half.
Young answered with a 6-yard TD pass to Kenny Britt, but left Manning 20 seconds and 2 timeouts. Way too much time.
The teams traded time-consuming drives in the 3rd quarter. After a missed FG, Young led the Titans down the field. They had the ball at the 1 with a 1st down. A fumbled snap and a Holding call helped prevent Tennessee from making a serious threat. They went for the TD on 4th and Goal at the 1, and a fade to Kenny Britt was overthrown.
Then Manning burned up almost half of the 4th quarter with a drive that led to Stover's 36-yard FG, giving the Colts a 27-10 lead with 3:14 remaining.
Twice in the 2nd half, the Titans went for it on 4th down deep in Colts' territory and failed both times. Tennessee also recovered an onside kick after scoring a late TD, then turned the ball over on downs.
Tennessee could have won this game. They were competitive enough, but kept making mistakes. They owned the TOP 32:56 to 27:01, and had the edge in Starting Field Position, 31.3 to 28.6. The problem was, they did not make plays at the critical times. On 3rd Downs, the Titans were 8-15 (53%) and the Colts were 9-14 (60%). But worse that that, 3 of those misses, they went for it on 4th down, and didn't convert any of them. The Titans were also 2-5 (40%) in the Red zone, and 0-2 with Goal-to-go. They even failed miserably at an onside kick near the end of the game that was as poor as the Broncos attempt vs. San Diego. They had 2TO's, 1 Fumble that was a non-factor and Lacey's INT, which the Colts turned into 7 points.
NE-Ind: Belicheck took a lot of flack in the media for choosing to go for it on 4th and 2 at his own 29 yard line. With 2:08 left in the game, and having had the Colts march 79 yards in 1:49 to close the score to 34-28, the decision makes sense. If NE makes the first down the game is most likely over, since at that point, Indianapolis was down to 1 time out.
Jim Caldwell is the only NFL rookie head coach to win his first 12 games in a regular-season. Caldwell also has the most consecutive wins to start an NFL head coaching career.
VI. Special Teams
NE-Ind: Kickoffs -- Indianapolis kicked off 6 times. 1 was caught at the goal line, 2 went 2 yards deep, 2 went 4 yards deep, and 1 went 8 yards deep. 3 were touch-backs. The other 3 were returns of 29, 31 and 22 yards.
NE-Ind: Kickoff returns -- Indianapolis had 7 kickoff returns opportunities. 3 started 1 yard deep in the end zone, 2 started 5 yards deep, 1 started 8 yards deep, and 1 was caught at the 2 yard line. 3 were touch-backs. 4 were returned for 24, 25, 22 and 19 yards. The shortest return was the one that started at the 2 yard line.
NE-Ind: Punts -- Indianapolis punted 7 times. The shortest punt was 40 yards, the longest (and there were 2 of them) was 55 yards. Only 2 (a fair catch and one that was downed by the Colts) were not returned. The other 5 had returns of 13, 10, 16, 9 and 69 yards.
NE-Ind: Punt returns -- Indianapolis had 4 punt return opportunities. 3 resulted in fair catches at, or inside the Indianapolis 25 yard line. One was downed by NE at the Colts' 24.
Matt Stover is Indy's FG kicker while Adam Vinatieri is out with a right knee injury. Matt is 9/11 in 7 games, with a long of 43. He missed a 52 yarder in the Tennessee game.
Punter Pat McAfee takes care of the Kickoffs. Against Tennessee, McAfee kicked off 5 times, putting the ball from 3 to 7 yards deep in the end zone consistently. The kick coverage unit is a weak link. Kenny Britt was able to average 35 yards and returned one kick for 56.
McAfee punted 3 times in the Titans game. 2 of them were dropped inside the 20, one of which was fair caught. The 3rd was a 42 yarder that was returned 9 yards by Tenn PR Kevin Kaesviharn. the Colts are better in Punt coverage than Kick coverage.
Rookie LB Ramon Humber, Phillip Wheeler and Cody Glenn stand out on their ST coverage units. TJ Rushings and Tim Jennings are the Gunners for Indy.
KR Chad Simpson had 2 KR's in the game. One for 25 and one for 33 yards.
Gijon Robinson returned a short kick 10 yards.
TJ Rushing is the PR. He did not have any returns during the game with the Titans.
NE-Ind: RLB Session and MLB Brackett can be induced to bite on the run in a well-executed play action pass, opening up the middle of the defense for a medium range pass over the middle.
NE-Ind: Mathis bears watching since he has the speed to chase down a running back even after his blocker has driven him 3-5 yards deep into the backfield.
NE-Ind: Reggie Wayne vs LBs. Wayne repeatedly was able to outrun and out-catch NE's LBs.
LB Andra Davis could see some extra playing time this week. The Broncos don't plan to substitute often against Peyton Manning, who likes to go without a huddle when teams try to swap players in and out. Davis usually comes off the field on passing downs.
Colts S Melvin Bullitt vs. RB's Knowshon Moreno and Corell Buckhalter. Moreno is the Bronco's leading rusher with 774 yards. Indianapolis' defense gave up 113 yards to Titans RB Chris Johnson last week.Bullitt is the Colts' strong safety who will have to lead the Indianapolis' defense in trying to slow down these two.
Colts Receivers vs. Broncos DBs. Last week, the Titans concentrated on shutting down Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. CB Cortland Finnegan held Reggie Wayne to 4 catches. This forced Manning to look elsewhere. Instead, he and Pierre Garcon picked on Nick Harper, to the tune of 6 passes for 136 yards. Garcon and Austin Collie accounted for 10 of Peyton Manning's 24 completions. Andre' Goodman (4INT's) and Ty Law will have the task of handling the 2 Rookie wide outs. Ty has had success against the Colts. He has a sack and 4 INT's, 2 of them for TD's.
Reggie Wayne vs. Champ Bailey. Wayne has 22 catches for 290 yards and 5 TD's in six previous regular-season games with the Broncos. Champ is playing well. He limited Chiefs receiver Chris Chambers to 11 yards last week. And while Manning respects Bailey, he won't ignore his side of the field, which will give Bailey a chance to make some plays. He continues to be one of the best cover men in the NFL. This will be an interesting match-up.
Broncos OT's Ryan Clady and Tyler Polumbus vs. Colts DE's Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Clady is the best LT in the league. Polumbus is taking over for injured starter Ryan Harris. He will need to step up. Freeney (abdomen) and Mathis (quad) are both nicked up a bit but still provide a pretty good pass rush from the outside. Mathis remains hopeful of playing Sunday. He was hurt in the Tennessee game.
Colts Pass Blocking vs. Broncos OLB Elvis Dumervil. Joseph Addai will be a key pass blocker for Indy since Dumervil can line up at DE or at OLB in Denver's 3-4 defensive package. He leads the League with 15 sacks this season. Doom needs to have a big game.
Eddie Royal vs. Indy ST Coverage Units. Last week Kenny Britt ripped off a 56 yard kick return against the Colts. Royal and the return unit has started to click, and he has 2 returnTD's this year. Spencer Larsen and Peyton Hillis are setting the blocks at the first level for Eddie.
Daniel Graham and Peyton Hillis --Graham has 16 catches for 133 yards and 2 TD's in three career games against the Colts. Six of those were for 1st downs. Peyton Hillis could be the perfect weapon for short yardage conversions this week. He was seen getting reps in practice.
VIII. Interest stories
NE-Ind: Indianapolis at game time of this game was 5-0 at home this season and had won 11 straight home games. New England was 14-9 in games played in Indianapolis coming into this game. The winning team in each of the last three meetings between these two teams came from behind to win.
NE-Ind: After the Colts' first touchdown, an indoor fireworks display set a small patch of the turf on fire, forcing a Colts' staffer to walk out with a water bottle to douse it.
The Colts have won 13 of their last 21 regular-season games by eight points or fewer. Indianapolis' winning streak includes six wins by three points of fewer, including four this season.
This is the 18th regular-season meeting between the two teams. The Broncos lead series 11-6. Indianapolis came away with a 38-20 victory in the last game in Indy at the RCA Dome in 2007. The Colts have won three of the last five match-ups.
The Broncos need to match the Colts drive-for-drive on Sunday. If Indy gets ahead by 2 TD's, they will play keep-away for the rest of the game. The Colts will try to control the tempo on both sides of the football, and there are several keys to stopping them. Offensively, the Broncos' run game is coming alive at the right time.Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter will have to grind out yards to keep drives alive and keep Manning off the field.
Denver can also spread the field and try to get mismatches against Indianapolis' young CB's, but the line will have to give Kyle Orton time to throw.
Finish offensive drives
Take advantage of scoring opportunities. Against a team like the Colts, with an MVP quarterback, you have to score touchdowns.
Produce in the red zone when on offense.
An effective ground game and a ball-control offense may not stop the Colts, but will keep them from running up the score and keep Peyton's butt on the bench. It's difficult for him to score if he is on the bench.
Cut down on turnovers and mental errors
The False Starts Holding, and Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalties have to stop. Mental mistakes will ruin the chances of an upset.
Force Peyton Manning to have a perfect game
Manning was not sacked for the sixth time this season, including both games vs. the Titans.
Get in Peyton's face
You have to take him out of his game. Like every QB, Manning will crumble if you get in his face and blanket his receivers. Indy's O-Line has only given up 10 sacks this year. The biggest reason for that, is the receivers are getting open and Peyton Manning doesn't hold on to the ball very often, so his line doesn't have to hold their blocks very long. Using stunts, VonnieHolliday and Ronald Fields can create mismatches for Dumervil and Andra Davis to rattle Manning.
The Broncos have to get pressure on Peyton Manning without blitzing.
Don't tip their hand to Peyton. He is a student of the game and will pick any team apart if given enough time.
Cover Indy's receivers like a blanket
Like San Diego, the Colts have speedy receivers and a very talented TE.
Joseph Addai is a capable runner, but Indy is primarily a pass first offense. Addai is used as a change of pace, not to keep the defense honest.
The Broncos have allowed only one 40-yard pass play this year, the fewest in the NFL, so Manning might not be able to get a bunch of quick strikes against them.
The Broncos will have to play well in order to defeat an undefeated Colts team. Scoring TD's instead of FG's on offense and limiting big plays while on defense will determine the success for the Broncos.
Week-in and week-out the game usually comes down to who executes better. It's that simple.