Bills vs. Colts Take 2: Arians Stays Aggressive and Indy Nails Down a Win

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

The Colts were #Chuckstrong once again against the Bills.
The Colts were #Chuckstrong once again against the Bills.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There haven't been many occasions in the 2012 season where the Indianapolis Colts clearly looked like the best team on the field.

Week 12 was one of those rare instances as the Colts held off the Buffalo Bills 20-13 to run their record to 7-4 on the year.

A second look at the tape shows just how they did it.

The Real Story

The Colts have won a lot of games in 2012 the felt like miniature miracles. This wasn't one of them.

The Indy defense was active all game and held the Buffalo attack in check. Some of this was due to strong play by the linebackers, though they don't deserve all the credit.

Ryan Fitzpatrick aided the Indianapolis cause by repeatedly missing wide-open receivers that could have run for miles before being run down.

Ultimately, this game came down to which team had the better quarterback, and there's no question that it was Indianapolis.

While it's true that both offenses put up 13 points, the Colts were playing with a serious field-position handicap all game long.

Of their 10 drives, six of the started at or inside their own 16-yard line. Two more started inside the 25.

Despite battling bad starting points, Indy still managed to build a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

They held on by successfully completing a three-minute drive to end the game without giving the ball back to Buffalo.

It was a solid performance over a desperate opponent. The Colts played like favorites and took care of business in a surprisingly workman-like manner.

For a young team looking to grow, the win was a clear step in the right direction.


Jerrell Freeman was fantastic on defense. He had a game-high nine tackles and a sack and was a huge factor in helping to limit Buffalo.

Robert Mathis continued his run of fine play with his seventh sack of the year. It was a big one that forced the Bills into a punt at the Indianapolis 34-yard line.

Obviously, the play of Reggie Wayne and T.Y Hilton was key for Indianapolis as well. They formed the backbone of the Colts' offense, with Hilton accounting for both Colts scores.

Finally, kudos to the two young women who shaved their heads to help raise money for the fight against Leukemia. Two cheerleaders had their heads shaved in the fourth quarter. Soon after, Chuck Pagano appeared in the owner's box and waived to the thundering crowd.

Heroes indeed.


Once again, Donnie Avery was an abject disaster. He dropped multiple passes, failed to get open and fumbled. Fortunately the Colts recovered the loose ball, but his play was a hindrance to the offense all day. This has been the case more often than not this year.

The offensive line was a mess. Luck was sacked four times and forced to throw under duress countless others.

Vick Ballard struggled mightily in the run game. The blocking he had wasn't great, but on multiple occasions he made bad situations worse. His goal-line drop wasn't an easy play, but it's one that has to be made.

Secret Play

With 1:52 to play in the first half, the Colts had a 10-6 lead. They were backed up on their own eight-yard line facing 3rd-and-8.

Most teams with a rookie quarterback will run a safe play like a draw in that situation, hoping to run clock and survive until halftime with the lead.

Instead, Luck dropped back to pass and fired complete to Reggie Wayne for a 10-yard gain.

Though the Colts didn't score on that possession, they did manage to flip the field on Buffalo, eventually pinning the Bills inside the 10-yard line. After a three and out, the Colts got the ball with 32 seconds to play near midfield.

Just two plays and 16 seconds later they were down on the Buffalo three-yard line.

The Colts put more trust in Luck than most teams do in their veterans of 10 years.

Coaching Notes

Bruce Arians deserves loads of credit for his guts in allowing Luck to pass inside the Buffalo 10. With the Colts backed up all day, Luck continually found ways to at least move the chains a couple of times, which prevented the Bills from ever benefiting from the holes they dug for Indy.ย 

With just over three minutes to play in the game, Arians made the bold decision to trust his offense to win the game.ย 

Instead of three runs and a punt, he allowed Luck to throw, even after the Bills were out of timeouts. The result was a game-clinching drive that meant his suspect defense was spared a final test.

It wasn't a perfect day for Arians. The offensive game plan for Indianapolis was off all day, and the Colts wasted too many downs running the ball with an ineffective Ballard.

Still, those quibbles aside, he stayed aggressive at the end of the half and the end of the game, and that proved enough for the Colts to pick up their seventh win.

Keep An Eye On...

The Indianapolis defense has put together a couple of quality efforts against bad teams, and they'll get a chance to prove the change is legitimate over the next two weeks.

Detroit has a potent offense, but if the Colts have indeed turned a corner defensively they'll show in the Motor City.

Indy realistically needs just one win in the next two games against the Lions and Titans to put themselves in a strong position down the stretch.

If they can get it on the road in Week 13, they'll be all but a lock for the postseason.


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