Broncos vs. Colts: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Indianapolis
As they have every single time in the Luck/Pagano era, the Colts rose to the challenge as a home underdog on Sunday, defeating the Broncos 39-33 in the biggest regular-season game in recent Colts history.
Peyton Manning returned, but the game was about the Colts defense and Andrew Luck on this day, who played extremely well. The Colts now move to 5-2 and take their place among the AFC elite as a Super Bowl contender. Denver, meanwhile, moves to 6-1 and slides to second place in the AFC West. The Colts have a two-game lead in the AFC South.
It was a phenomenal win for the Colts franchise, which was embarrassed after the loss on Monday Night Football last week. But in true Colts fashion, they continued their streak of unbeaten play after a loss.
So who, individually, contributed most to this win for Indianapolis? Find out in this week's report card.
Andrew Luck: A
What more is there to say about Andrew Luck?
He continues to play like a top-five quarterback, impressing with his mobility and ability to make plays in and outside the pocket. Luck wasn't perfect and missed on a couple throws (most notably Reggie Wayne in the fourth quarter), but he was incredibly impressive. He finished with three touchdown passes and another score on the ground.
Trent Richardson: C-
Is there anybody left defending Richardson? He simply looks slow, completely indecisive and has poor vision. Richardson is hard to bring down, but doesn't use that trait to gain more than an extra yard or two. Richardson finished with just 37 yards on 14 carries.
Donald Brown: C+
Brown didn't find much on the ground in this one, gaining just 23 yards on 11 carries, but he contributed in the passing game as well, catching three passes for 42 yards.
Reggie Wayne: B
There wasn't a ton there for Wayne this week, but he managed to lead the team with five catches for 50 yards. The more important question is how serious is his knee injury?
Darrius Heyward-Bey: B
In his most productive game to date, Heyward-Bey caught four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night along with a 30-yard end-around. Heyward-Bey did have one deep ball that he should have caught, but it was easily his best game of the season thus far.
T.Y. Hilton: C+
Denver did a good job of keeping Hilton out of the game, as he caught just two of 11 targets for 27 yards. Like Heyward-Bey, Hilton had a deep ball that could have been caught, but alas, it was not to be.
Coby Fleener: A
Fleener had a strong day for the Colts on Sunday, catching all five of his targets for 38 yards and a touchdown. Look out, Fleener may just develop into a dependable option up the middle.
Jack Doyle: C
Doyle made it into the game this time around, catching one of his two targets for seven yards.
Run Blocking: D
The Colts running backs averaged less than three yards a carry and the team couldn't convert on short third downs when they absolutely had to.
Pass Protecting: B-
Nice work from the offensive line in pas protection this week, as they gave up just two sacks and did a great job against Von Miller in his return. Anthony Castonzo bounced back with a strong game, and Mike McGlynn did a good job sliding over to play center when Samson Satele left with an injury.
Run Defense: B-
Denver only ran for 65 yards on 19 carries, but they were able to get a few 8-9 yard gains early on against the Colts defense. But on 3rd-and-short, the Colts run defense stopped Denver time and time again, forcing numerous punts and allowing the Colts to build a big lead.
Pass Rush: B+
Arguably the best game for the defensive line when it comes to pass rushing, Fili Moala was a stud in pass rush all day, notching a sack for his efforts. The line as a whole did a good job of pushing the pocket backwards and making Manning uncomfortable, leading to a few poor passes and sacks.
Robert Mathis: A
Mathis notched two more sacks on the day, including the biggest play: a strip-sack at the Broncos' goal line that led to a safety. That safety marked a 23-0 run by Indianapolis, which essentially won the game. Mathis also added a tackle for a loss and four quarterback hits, not to mention the numerous hurries he had on the night.
Erik Walden: B
Walden had a couple poor plays on the night, but his hit on Manning in the fourth quarter that led to an interception by Pat Angerer was phenomenal. Walden was actually in the backfield a few times in the game and was a key part of the Colts pass rush throughout the game.
Jerrell Freeman: A-
The former Roughrider continues to be an underrated playmaker and was active again on Sunday with nine tackles, a half-sack and a pass defensed. Freeman's solid tackling underneath limited the Broncos' yards after the catch, a staple in that offense.
Pat Angerer: B-
Though not nearly as good as Freeman, Angerer's play was a big boost to a unit that had Kelvin Sheppard and Mario Harvey playing last week. Solid tackling by Angerer was the key, although the tipped-ball interception is the one I'll remember.
Vontae Davis: B+
On Demaryius Thomas for most of the game, Vontae Davis did a great job of both disrupting the Broncos' timing offense by not allowing much deep and tackling extremely well on screens and slants. He finished with two passes defensed and five tackles.
Darius Butler: A-
The co-MVP with Davis for the Colts' secondary, Butler completely shut down Wes Welker for a large part of the game, picking up three passes defensed and five tackles. He was a bit too handsy at times, but Butler got away with all of the contact and did a great job in man-to-man coverage.
Greg Toler: C-
Cassius Vaughn: C-
Vaughn replaced Toler midway through the game, and both players allowed a few deep balls and weren't particularly impressive. Vaughn did have one nice pass defense, but also allowed a few inexcusable completions.
Antoine Bethea: C+
Bethea was the clean-up guy again, picking up nine tackles in this one, but he was a liability against the pass. Both of Manning's first-quarter touchdowns came against Bethea, but the veteran was effective for most of the game.
LaRon Landry: B-
Landry made his presence felt early in this one with a couple of fantastic open-field tackles in the first half that led to punts. Delano Howell is a nice backup, but Landry brings a different element to the defense. Landry, like Bethea, is a liability against the pass (Manning's third touchdown was the fault of Landry) but brings a lot of energy for the unit as a whole.
Pat McAfee: A+
A week after a poor performance, McAfee brought his "A-game" on Sunday, punting nine times for an average of over 48 yards per punt (over 47 net). McAfee pinned six of his nine punts inside the Denver 20, including two inside the 10.
Adam Vinatieri: A+
The old man continued his hot streak on Sunday, making all three field-goal attempts on Sunday night, including a 52-yarder to start the fourth quarter. Vinatieri is now 15-of-17 on the year.