For the first time all year, all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams) played poorly for long stretches. Allow me to expound a little before I hit you up with the normal stats that I cover:
First lets look at special teams: More than just the glaring fumble on the punt return which gifted the Colts a TD, Holliday also muffed one punt and recovered it himself. Additionally Holliday proved to be a decision making liability this game - he decided to return a kickoff from deep in the end-zone that forced the Broncos start a drives at our own 13. He also failed to fair catch a ball late in the game, allowing it to bounce, costing the Broncos precious seconds when we could have used every single one. You live by the Trindon; you die by the Trindon. He did have a long KO return for 56 setting up the Broncos in good field position (that should have been a helmet-to-helmet flag on McAfee, just none of the refs had the balls to throw the flag on the kicker). But Holliday wasn't the only one to blame, the special teams did a poor job of covering Hilton on punt returns allowing him to average almost twelve yards a return and leading the Broncos to lose the field-position battle (of course the offense could have helped by moving the ball - hence, the UNcomplementary football). The Colts longest drive of the night was 66 yards. The started three drives in Denver territory along with one on their own 43 and one of their own 39.
Defensively the Broncos played one of their better games of the season (forcing a season high 6 3-and-outs), but the offense did the defense no favors this game. So lets talk about the offense before we talk about the D. The Broncos came into the game with the best 3rd down conversion rate in the league. However, we only converted 5 of 16 on the game, well below our season average. We failed one two straight 3rd and 1 situations early in the game and then found ourselves in mostly 3rd in longs the rest of the night. The first three 3rd downs that the Broncos faced were 1 to gain; we only had one more 3rd and short the rest of the game. Here are the yardage needed on all 16 of the Broncos 3rd downs:1,1,1,6,7,10,5,8,10,11,5,6,13,2,6,16,10 (average of 6.9 yards needed on 3rd down). The offense was out-of-sync. Whether that was because of the turn-of-the-century Patriots style play by their DBs or the obvious holes in our offensive line, the offense kept the D on the field way too much last night. At one point, excluding the kneel-down to end the half, the Broncos went 6 straight drives without scoring - FIVE of which were 3 and outs. Our unstoppable offense suddenly looked worse than the Irish did on Saturday night after they lost their starting QB. Again - this was UNcomplementary football.
Ok - so how did the defense fare on 3rd and long? - not bad
|3rd and 10 at DEN 34||(Shotgun) A.Luck pass deep left to D.Heyward-Bey to DEN 7 for 27 yards (K.Webster).|
|3rd and 13 at IND 36||(Shotgun) A.Luck pass short left to C.Fleener to IND 39 for 3 yards (C.Harris).|
|3rd and 11 at DEN 39||(Shotgun) A.Luck scrambles left tackle to DEN 28 for 11 yards (C.Harris).|
|3rd and 12 at IND 28||(Shotgun) A.Luck pass short right to T.Hilton to IND 36 for 8 yards (D.R-Cromartie) [V.Miller].|
|3rd and 11 at IND 42||(Run formation) A.Luck pass incomplete deep middle to T.Hilton (D.R-Cromartie).|
|3rd and 13 at DEN 23||(Shotgun) A.Luck pass incomplete short left to T.Hilton (P.Lenon).|
|3rd and 9 at IND 21||(Shotgun) D.Brown left end to IND 22 for 1 yard (M.Jackson; D.Trevathan).|
We allowed the Colts to convert on 2 of 7 "and longs". They only converted on 5 of 17 3rd downs overall on the game. The two converted 3rd and longs proved to be critical as Indy scored on both drives (FG on the first, TD on the second). The other three 3rd down conversions for Indy all came on 3rd and short (two went for TDs). For the season we are now allowing teams to to convert on 23.6% of 3rd and longs and 36.7% on 3rd downs overall. We were gifted one 3rd down stop this game when luck bounced the ball to Wayne twisting his knee in the process. That play would have at least resulted in a critical conversion and at worst would have led to a TD since Wayne was completely uncovered.
So far this year our D has been really good at holding teams to short gains on first down runs. For the most part this trend continued. The Colts had 15 first down carries for 69 yards (4.6 ypc), but 30 of those came on the end-around to the butter-fingered former Faider with the hyphenated name. If you remove that carry, they only averaged 2.8 ypc. We had four TFLs on the other 14 first down runs. On the season we have allowed 271 yards on 84 first down carries (3.2 ypc) with 14 TFLs and 10 stops for no gain - 29% of 1st down runs against our D result in a loss or no gain.
If you go look at the odds, the chances of winning an NFL game in which you turn the ball over 4 times (technically the sack/fumble/safety is NOT a turnover but I am counting it as one) are really poor. The fact that we had a decent chance at the end of the game to tie or take the lead (if DT catches the 2 pointer and Hillman doesn't fumble at the Indy 2) tells me that all is not lost. The sky isn't falling. As long as PFM is still healthy - we have a chance to win each game. Only those who are still drunk on the orange Kool-aid will tell that there are no glaring holes in this team, but none of those holes are unpluggable (yes, that's a real word). I think we have hit the nadir in terms of team play. Hopefully all facets improve next week vs the Washington RacialSlurs.