INDIANAPOLIS – After a rough game to start the season’s final quarter, Indianapolis bounced back from a decisive loss at Cincinnati to sweep its last three opponents.
After falling 42-28 at the Bengals in a game not featuring wish-for play in any phase, the Colts beat Houston (25-3), Kansas City (23-7) and Jacksonville (30-10) by double-digits to replicate last year’s 11-5 record.
Chuck Pagano wants his team to be playing its best heading into the playoffs, and he got it with a December performance that included a victory over Tennessee to have a 4-1 record.
EARLIER SUCCESS – In a six-game span during mid-season, Indianapolis had but one first-half lead and was out-scored by 90 points. That trend was reversed dramatically in the first halves of the last three games when the Colts owned a 24-10 first-quarter advantage that swelled to 53-13 at halftime. Indianapolis went up-tempo on occasions and for greater durations, and it helped correlate to two 17-point halftime leads. Asserting itself early and with balance has been a boost for the offense, something that is needed in January.
TURNOVER EXCELLENCE – With a mindset that turnovers rate only behind points in equating to victory, the Colts were plus-seven in the final four games after being minus-one in the third quarter. It was the most potent quarter of the season (one giveaway, eight takeaways). It eclipsed the plus-six margin in the first quarter of the season and was a large reason Indianapolis went 3-1. Thirty of the Colts’ 78 points in the last three games came after takeaways (38 percent). The Colts have not had a multiple-turnover game in the last seven outings and has an 80-33 bulge in points off turnovers. With a franchise record 14 for the year (including only four lost fumbles), this is a strength that needs to continue. Note: three of the club’s four games in the last quarter were turnover-free. You have to love playing Scrooge at season’s end.
KEEP AWAY – Holding the ball for 33:11, 38:20 and 33:40 of the last three games helped result in nearly a 20-point margin of victory. If opponents don’t have the ball, they must maximize possessions, particularly when facing an opponent that led the league in the fewest miscues (14 turnovers; 66 penalties). Indianapolis was tough to beat in 2013 with 30-plus minutes of possession time – 7-1. Small things win in the playoffs and games are determined often by line play. If the Colts can run, protect the ball and use up-tempo shrewdly, this three-game pattern can continue.