With one game to play, J.J. Watt needed just 2.5 sacks to break the all-time single-season sack mark set by Michael Strahan with 22.5.
As it turned out, Watt still had a dominant game with four tackles for a loss, but didn't manage to get a single sack.
What did the Colts do differently? How did they keep Watt from getting to Andrew Luck?
A look at the All-22 film shows that not much changed from Week 15 to Week 17. Watt still had four quarterback pressures and a pass batted down. Four pressures is tied for his fourth-best total of the season. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked the Week 17 game as tied for his second-best overall game of the year.
Still, Watt had no sacks, and that helped Andrew Luck find time to put three scores on the board.
The Colts did three things better than they did in Week 15 to help keep Luck upright.
Early in the game, Watt was getting single blocking, but as the game wore on, he was doubled on nearly every pass play. He faced a double team on nine passing plays, including nearly every throw in the second half of the game.
Take Luck's big toss to T.Y. Hilton. Luck had a clean pocket and plenty of time to throw, thanks to two men on Watt. Watt was still moving toward Luck when the throw was released, even with the attention.
Luck Kept Plays Alive
Aside from the obvious move of doubling Watt, the biggest improvement came from Luck himself. He did a wonderful job moving his feet in the pocket and sliding past Watt's pressure.
On this incomplete pass, Watt blew by Anthony Castonzo. Luck identified it and rolled out toward the sidelines. He outran Watt and threw incomplete. This didn't happen as often in Week 15.
Luck's ability to glide in the pocket cost Watt at least two sacks and a chance to break the record.
Mike McGlynn Played Better
McGlynn needed a lot of help as the game wore on, but combined with Luck's mobility, he managed to provide his quarterback more time.
He was tossed about violently in the first matchup, but this time he held his ground.
On a key third-down conversion early in the game, McGlynn stonewalled Watt. He did get driven back, but it was a slow pressure.
Luck stepped up in the pocket and found Dwayne Allen for the first down to set up the first touchdown by the Colts. In the photo, you can see that Luck was not looking at Allen coming up the right hash until late in the play. The extra time was exactly what was needed.
McGlynn was just as ineffective as ever in run-blocking Watt and had no chance to hold him down alone all game long—but for brief flashes, McGlynn was just competent enough to limit Watt's effectiveness.
The Colts by no means neutralized Watt, but with a combination of improved awareness from Luck and some timely double teams, they kept him from picking up a sack or forcing a turnover.
It's hardly a formula for excellence, but compared with the beating Watt gave them in Houston, the Colts will gladly take the improvement and the win that came with it.
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