When the Indianapolis Colts get a “W” without style points, it’s human nature to nitpick.
Yeah, they beat the Baltimore Ravens 20-13 Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, but …
How about we put off the “Yeah, but” stuff for at least a day? Seriously, we can analyze a lot from this defensive — and many would say sloppy — tussle in a day or two. Fair enough?
Sports writers typically don’t do this, of course. They tend to have that critical slant, even after victories. We’re so conditioned to assess what each game means in the grand scheme of things, we get carried away with details.
The Colts won. I’ve got to remind myself of this as the fingers keep tapping. If I get sidetracked by details that could border on being critical, keep the faith. I’ll get back on point as soon as possible.
This team defeated another with a winning record. That means a little extra, regardless of how it got done. The Baltimore Ravens were outplayed for much of the game, to be honest, so much so that if the Colts would have capitalized on …
OK, stop. This is about accentuating the positive. (I’m reminding myself.)
Keep in mind, we began the day wondering if the Colts could win a big game against a potential playoff team. They had lost at Denver and to Philadelphia, so this one did mean a little more than say, a blowout of Jacksonville or Tennessee. Coaches and players will say it’s one game, win or lose, but at least there’s some confidence this team can defeat another that’s of playoff caliber.
The Colts’ defense, overshadowed by an offense that has racked up the yards and points the past two weeks, won this game. OLB Bjoern Werner had his first two sacks of the season — giving us hope he’s going to be a decent pass rusher after a slow four-game start — and the Colts sacked Joe Flacco two other times.
The Ravens scored 13 points and gained 287 total yards, both season lows. And the visitors were also 1-of-11 on third down (they were 50 percent). That’s pretty impressive stuff for a Colts defense missing defensive tackle Arthur Jones (high ankle sprain) and safety LaRon Landry (suspension).
The Colts came up with turnovers. Cornerback Vontae Davis continued his solid season with an interception. And he helped keep the clamps on Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who finished with just five catches for 34 yards. We saw how Smith went off on his old buddies from Carolina last week. He was basically silent this time.
When Flacco tried to get Smith going on the Ravens’ first offensive play, Colts cornerback Greg Toler jarred the ball loose after a 4-yard gain and defensive tackle Montori Hughes recovered. Colts reserve safety Colt Anderson also recovered a muffed punt.
Strong pass rush + turnovers = win.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts’ season-low 20 points were just enough against a defense that entered tied for second in fewest points allowed. Was that understated enough? Hey, I’m trying to give the defense props, or “face time,” as defensive end Cory Redding said afterward.
While finishing that paragraph, wide receiver Reggie Wayne appears on TV and said, “Our defense has been ballin’.” Hey, that fits right here perfectly. Thanks, Reg. And congrats on moving into eighth on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list. The guy he passed, Cris Carter, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Just sayin’.
Luck showed the toughness we’ve come to appreciate (and get nervous about), when he took on tacklers and lowered his shoulder near the goal line on that 13-yard scoring rush. That turned out to be the winning score. And it was important at the time, giving the Colts a 20-6 lead midway through the final quarter.
Luck did have two interceptions and one was a really … OK, easy does it. We all saw what happened. No need to bring it up in a “feel good” piece.
“We obviously made it tougher than it had to be,” Luck said.
Those were his words, not mine. Don’t count it against me.
The Colts also lost two fumbles as Bradshaw and Griff Whalen …
See, this isn’t as easy as you might think. I mean, the Colts had four turnovers and still won. That doesn’t usually happen. So we’ll credit the defense for how it responded each time the football hit the FieldTurf.
After Whalen’s lost fumble on a punt return at the Colts’ 12-yard line, the defense allowed just 3 yards as the Ravens had to settle for a field goal. That was a key stop.
And after Bradshaw’s fumble at the Ravens’ 10 with 1:49 remaining, when the Colts were poised to put this one away with at least a field goal, the defense allowed one first down then got the all-important final stop to preserve victory.
Even on a day of “tough sledding,” as Colts head coach Chuck Pagano called it, the offense still generated 422 total yards against a decent defense. The Colts were also 7-of-15 on third downs (47 percent). And they dominated time of possession 38:43 to 21:17. Those are all positives.
Oh, and Luck was only sacked once. The Colts would gladly accept that stat any game, especially against a Ravens defense with edge rushers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, who combined for three tackles and two quarterback hurries. The guys up front did a solid job against those two.
So we move on, with plenty to talk about in a short time, as the Colts must travel to Houston (3-2) for a Thursday night game to determine who will sit in first place for the time being. The Colts have won three in a row, and are coming off their best win.
That’s what matters, at least for now.Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.