INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts faced a “win or go home” scenario in Week 17, coming out on top against the Tennessee Titans, 33-17. With that, they claimed a wild card spot in the AFC playoffs.
The offensive line helped control the flow of the game for the Colts, and powered the run game to 158 yards. They also allowed just one sack of quarterback Andrew Luck, and two hits on him in all. Both sides experienced some change, as the Colts remained without starting center Ryan Kelly (neck), but welcomed back right guard Mark Glowinski (ankle). The Titans, meanwhile, were without defensive lineman Jurrell Casey (knee) and edge defender Brian Orakpo (elbow).
Pro Football Focus recognized the majority of the Colts’ offensive line, giving three members spots on its Week 17 NFL Team of the Week.
Here's a look at some of the top PFF performers for the Colts in their huge victory over the Titans:
Linebacker No. 5 (85.7), 48 snaps (98 percent)
It’s only fitting that the likely frontrunner in the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year race closes out the regular season in strong fashion.
Not only did Leonard add his second interception of the season to ice the Titans, but he also surpassed the Colts’ single-season franchise record for tackles (160) despite missing one game with an ankle injury. Before his game-sealing interception, Leonard broke up a Blaine Gabbert pass on 4th and 14 with the Titans down by 10 with 2:34 left in the game, further proving he's not just a tackle machine.
Note that he did this all as a rookie, while finishing the season with a 19-tackle lead (163) on the next closest player.
Offensive Tackle No. 1 (84.1), 79 snaps (100 percent)
The Colts’ top lineman of the week, according to PFF, Castonzo is the Team of the Week’s left tackle:
“The Colts offensive line delivered once again on Sunday Night Football, with their left tackle allowing just one hurry from 43 pass-blocking snaps. He has allowed just 27 total pressures, including two sacks, since returning to the field in Week 6.”
This was Castonzo’s highest-graded performance of the week according to PFF, as he had a solid grade also in pass blocking (88.2) and run blocking (77.1).
Offensive Tackle No. 2 (81.9), 79 snaps (100 percent)
The next member of the Colts’ offensive front to make the Team of the Week is the rookie right tackle, Smith:
“The second Colts rookie and third offensive lineman to make the Team of the Week, Smith delivered one of the best performances of his rookie season in the win over the Titans. Like Castonzo and Nelson, he allowed just one hurry from 43 pass-blocking snaps.”
Smith answered the call in a tough challenge against Titans edge defenders Derrick Morgan and Sharif Finch, earning his highest grade of the season from PFF. Smith allowed just one hurry and was a road grader in the run game, earning an 82.4 grade.
Safety No. 8 (81.5), 49 snaps (100 percent)
Hooker has put together back-to-back strong showings, with an 81.5 grade each in Weeks 16 and 17, trailing only his 84.8 grade in Week 3.
The second-year ballhawk had three tackles and a pass breakup in Tennessee. His defended pass came late in the first quarter on 3rd and 3 on a Gabbert pass intended deep down the right side to Titans top receiver Corey Davis. The Colts would then go up 14-0 on the ensuing drive.
Gabbert had just 5.7 yards per pass attempt for the day, largely due to rarely testing the Colts downfield. When he did, things like Hooker’s athletic pass breakup happened.
Offensive Guard No. 4 (76.7), 79 snaps (100 percent)
One more tip of the hat in the regular season for the first offensive lineman selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Per PFF:
“Nelson has gone from strength to strength over the course of the season, turning in one of his best run-blocking performances of the year in the Colts playoff-clinching win over the Titans. He also allowed just one hurry from 43 pass-blocking snaps and just 10 total pressures over the past 11 games.”
This was Nelson’s second-highest grade of the season, allowing just one hurry and racking up multiple pancake blocks throughout the game. As has become customary, former NFL offensive linemen gushed about Nelson on Twitter during the game.
The Colts put together their fourth-highest rushing output of the season with their 158 yards and a touchdown, and they protected Luck well. Nelson is the face of that domination.
Tight End No. 9 (76.3), 39 snaps (49 percent)
Ebron has had an excellent regular season, and Sunday night was a nice cherry on top. He was in a mini statistical slump (for his new standards), totaling just four receptions for 36 yards combined in Weeks 15 and 16 before rebounding with four receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown in Week 17.
All four of Ebron’s catches went for either a first down or a touchdown, and Luck had a passer rating of 138.9 passer rating while throwing to Ebron.
Ebron’s second-quarter score was the first touchdown that the Titans have allowed in 2018. His "Drumline" touchdown celebration was also an A+ celebration, so there's that.
Center No. 5 (70.6), 79 snaps (100 percent)
Yet another offensive lineman making an impact for the Colts, Boehm’s performance is among the most important as he fills in for Kelly, who is nursing a neck injury. Kelly is one of the league’s top centers, and the Colts have struggled to consistently run the ball in games without him. He also plays a huge role in weekly preparation for pass protection and makes the pre-snap calls on the line. The Colts run game got back on track with their performance in Tennessee, and Boehm was a key part to that.