INDIANAPOLIS — Anybody watching last Sunday's season opener against the Detroit Lions could see things starting to click for the Indianapolis Colts' offense late in the second quarter.
From there, Andrew Luck & Co. just kept on chugging, and by game's end, had put the team in position to come away with the victory. Unfortunately for the Colts, some other miscues down the stretch weren't too helpful in their 39-35 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Pro Football Focus was certainly among those watching the Week 1 Colts-Lions matchup, and their grading system for each player on offense for Indianapolis seemed to mostly align with the unit's results.
Let's start with Luck, whose 96.0 overall grade was the highest of any quarterback in the league in Week 1. Here's a deeper look beyond the boxscore, which showed Luck completing 31-of-47 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns, via PFF’s Bryson Vesnaver:*
"What a performance by Andrew Luck that was wasted in a loss. Luck was executing high-level throws all afternoon, picking apart the Lions' pass coverage with ease. Luck was incredibly effective when throwing deep down the middle of the field, where he completed 11-of-13 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns on passes at least 10 yards downfield. Luck didn't force any passes or make any real poor decisions all game. He was making every throw he needed to, and was able to march his team down the field consistently. After a tough season last year for Luck, this incredible performance bodes well for the Colts going forward."*
But Luck didn't do it alone, as PFF points out. His offense line provided solid protection all day, which was certainly a point of emphasis for the team this offseason. PFF's grades for the Colts' offensive linemen Sunday vs. the Lions were:
- Left tackle Anthony Castonzo: 82.1
- Left guard Jack Mewhort: 75.5
- Center Ryan Kelly: 75.6
- Right guard Denzelle Good: 78.1
- Right tackle Joe Reitz: 54.3
According to PFF's Sam Monson, Luck simply had more time to throw the ball down the field on Sunday, which wasn't necessarily the case last season:*
"All last season, while Luck was struggling under pressure and still trying to force the ball downfield, it seemed like the Colts needed to adjust the gameplan and get the ball out quicker. When Matt Hasselbeck replaced the injured Luck in 20105, he was able to have success with a markedly quicker release time. While Luck averaged 2.66 seconds per pass attempt (sixth-slowest in the league), Hasselbeck was at 2.35 (seventh-fastest). Luck was firing downfield with an average depth of target of 10.1 yards (sixth highest), while Hasselbeck's was just 7.9 (29th-highest).
Against Detroit, though, the gameplan hadn't changed. Luck's average depth of target against the Lions was 11.3 yards, and his average time per pass attempt was 2.66, identical to a year ago. The only changes were that Luck was once again back to his best, and that the offensive line was significantly better at protecting him."*
Castonzo was a huge part of that on Sunday, as his grade of 82.1 was second in the league at the left tackle position, just behind the San Francisco 49ers' Joe Staley's grade of 83.6.
Highlights from the Colts first regular season game against the Lions.
Kelly, the team's first-round pick (No. 18 overall) this year, was also solid in his NFL debut, providing a solid foundation off which he can build moving forward.
In fact, Kelly was rated as the sixth-highest rookie of the week, per PFF:*
"As far as preventative care goes after an injury-plagued 2015, Ryan Kelly seems to be just what the doctor ordered for Andrew Luck. He allowed one lone hurry in 53 pass-blocking snaps against the Lions, as the offensive line had one of their most impressive pass-blocking performances in the Luck era. It's certainly difficult to ask for much more from the rookie."*
Defensively, the Colts obviously had some struggles vs. the Lions, but a few players did put in some solid individual performances, according to Pro Football Focus.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie graded out at 81.2 in his Indianapolis debut; safety Mike Adams was graded at 81.0 throughout the contest; and veteran pass rusher Trent Cole graded out at 77.8.*
"Aside from OLB Trent Cole, who impressed with a QB hit and three other hurries in a strong pass-rushing effort, this was a less-than-ideal performance from the Colts' front seven. Aside from Cole, the unit combined for a mere one sack, three hits and two hurries. They let Stafford sit in the pocket with time, which forced their secondary to cover for much longer than they should've had to. Against the run they fared no better, as the Lions were able to open up big holes all game long and run through them at will. With such a strong offensive unit, the Colts just need their front seven to improve a little bit, as just one big stop would have been enough to come up with a win (Sunday)."*
We'll check back in next week to see how the Colts graded out in their Week 2 matchup on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.