PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus
The Colts' passing offense sputtered in the early going, thanks in large measure to the pass rush that was generated by Minnesota's front four. QB Peyton Manning struggled to stay upright as he was sacked twice and was hurried three other times. But Manning hung in there and managed to completed 26-of-42 passes for 311 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. WR Anthony Gonzalez had a great game, hauling in nine passes for 137 yards — both of which were career highs. WR Reggie Wayne added five catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. But it was the 20-yard pass play from Manning to Wayne in the game's waning minutes that set up PK Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal from 47 yards out.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
What's wrong with the Colts once-potent running attack? That question can be answered in several different ways. It's partly the fact that opposing teams have been stacking the line of scrimmage, daring Indianapolis to try and throw the football with a sore-kneed Manning. It's partly because the Colts are playing with a makeshift offensive line, that includes a pair of rookies (C Jamey Richard and OG Steve Justice), due to the absence of starting C Jeff Saturday (knee) and OG Ryan Lilja (knee). And OT Tony Ugoh left the Minnesota game in the second quarter with a groin injury. And, due to Manning's sore knee, the Colts' bread and butter running play — the stretch — has been used on a limited basis.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus
Indianapolis sacked Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson three times and had a pair of quarterback hurries in doing a pretty good job of bottling up the Minnesota passing attack. Jackson completed 14-of-24 passes for 130 yards. Most of his throws were short and intermediate passes to his wide receivers and dump offs to RB Adrian Peterson. DE Dwight Freeney, DT Darrell Reid and CB Tim Jennings all recorded sacks for the Colts.
RUSH DEFENSE: BSo how does a team that gives up 160 yards rushing to a running back and 180 yards overall rate a high grade? That's easy. While RB Adrian Peterson showed why that he is one of the league's best two running backs, the Colts did a considerably better job in the second half. Most of Peterson's yards came during the first two quarters. He was limited to 42 yards in 14 carries after half time. The other key was that while Peterson appeared to be close to break free to go the distance on a couple of his runs, Indianapolis defenders were able to get to him before he was able to turn it completely loose.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
The Colts lost the field position battle against Minnesota on a regular basis Sunday thanks to inconsistent kick and punt coverage. Inopportune penalties also hurt Indianapolis. PK Adam Vinatieri was one of two in field goal attempts, missing from 30 yards out but hitting a 47-yarder for the game-winner with 0:03 left in the game. P Hunter Smith punted seven times for a 38 yard average and had two punts downed inside the Vikings' 20-yard line. CB Tim Jennings did a nice job of downing one punt at the two-yard line.
Keep playing. That's what Colts coach Tony Dungy and his assistant always tell their players and that motto certainly served Indianapolis well against the Vikings. Despite spotty offensive production and a defense that kept bending but didn't break, the Colts were able to battle back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit and win the game. A heads-up should go especially to assistant offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars, who filled in ably for veteran offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Mudd was forced to miss the game after undergoing knee surgery last week.