Colts vs. Vikings Take Two: A Deeper Look at a Thriller

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 17, 2012

Vinatieri stands tall.
Vinatieri stands tall.Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE

The Indianapolis Colts' 23-20 win in Week 2 may have been a little more exciting than necessary, but considering that it came in September and not December, you won't hear many complaints around the Circle City.

After a second watching, here's what jumps out about the thriller.


Real Storyline

The Colts are a young team, but a talented one. Indianapolis dominated most of the game both offensively and defensively, but a few rookie mistakes by players and coaches made the final score too close for comfort.

Minnesota generated a couple of nice drives but couldn't stay out of their own way as a dizzying array of penalties pulled them under on drive after drive.

Several Colts made critical errors ranging from bad penalties (Dwayne Allen), dropped balls (Coby Fleener), extra sack yardage (Andrew Luck) and some of the shoddiest coaching imaginable.

It was a significant win and deeply meaningful overall for the Colts, but a team better than Minnesota would have not let them off the hook.



Luck's spectacular ability in the pocket and on the move was on full display. He was simply brilliant, and a look at the tape revealed several "wow" moments. He did make a mistake on the final sack of the game, but the negatives pale in comparison to what was a stellar performance.

Donnie Avery was similarly outstanding. I've been relentlessly critical of Avery, and I'm not going to change my opinion of him based on one good game, especially after he was bad against Chicago. Still, there's no question that nine catches on 10 targets for 111 yards is a wonderful afternoon.



The offensive line was shaky again, but more study is required before naming specific culprits.

Justin King had yet another ill-timed penalty in the end zone raising his disturbing tally.

Allen and Fleener each had a nice catch, but each made their share of mistakes as well. Allen had multiple penalties that set the team back, and Fleener let a sure touchdown pass slip through his fingers.


Secret Play

After a particularly putrid effort by the Colts in the mid-third, Indy faced a 4th-and-7 from their own five-yard line.

This kind of scenario typically leads to points for the opposing team.

Pat McAfee uncorked a booming 64-yard punt, driving the Vikings back near their own 30. On top of that, Minnesota added an illegal block penalty which negated an 11-yard return.

Instead of being set up in Indianapolis territory, the Vikings were nearly 70 yards from the end zone and gained just seven yards on the drive.

McAffee averaged 53.6 yards on on five punts with a 43.4 yard net average.


Coaching Notes

This game was nearly a cataclysm for Chuck Pagano, who showed that he's never had to manage a game at any level of football.

In the first half, he took a field goal on 4th-and-1 from the eight.

In the second half, the Colts ran the ball eight times in 11 plays with a 14-point lead which allowed the Vikings back in the game.

Those two moves were poor at best, but not uncommon for coaches in the NFL. Pagano will learn in time that you have to be aggressive to win in the NFL.

The real brain-lock was on the final series before the game-winning kick.

Luck completed a seven-yard pass to Donnie Avery at the 33-yard line with 13 second left in the game. On the play there was an offsides called.

Pagano screwed up the decision in multiple ways.

First, he chose to take the penalty rather than the play, even though it cost his team two yards. He did it because he thought the clock was going to run once the ball was marked ready for play if he did not.

It's bad enough he didn't understand the NFL timing rules. After a defensive penalty, the clock was going to remain stopped regardless of whether or not he accepted the penalty.

Then, with the clock still stopped, the Colts spiked the ball, taking one second off.

The Colts would have been better off running a quick sneak and then a spike or just kicking the field goal with 13 seconds left, allowing time for a quick throw away in the event of a bad snap.

Pagano has to learn the rules if he's going to win more games.

Still, he deserves credit for letting Luck go for the win on the final drive. Hopefully he leaned his lesson about passivity.


Keep an Eye on

Indianapolis plays a desperate Jacksonville team which is coming off a soul-crushing loss and is riddled with injuries.

If the Colts can win at home, they'll enter the bye week at 2-1, and based on the schedule could make it to 4-4 eight games into the year.

Those would be wonderful numbers for a team looking to announce its return to relevance.


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