Raiders 17 - Colts 21
In 2012, Andrew Luck led the Colts on seven remarkable game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. Just one game in to the 2013 regular season, that total is already at eight.
Down 17-14 to the Oakland Raiders with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Andrew Luck took matters into his own hands. With no one open, he scrambled down the middle and into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
But although Luck regained the lead for the Colts, it was the defense that ultimately clinched the victory for Indianapolis.
With 25 seconds remaining, Oakland was driving downfield behind new full time starter Terrelle Pryor. But on the Raiders’ third down, safety Antoine Bethea made the game-winning play. Bethea intercepted Pryor’s pass to Rod Streater and ended any chance of an Oakland comeback. It was a dramatic — and a positive – way to begin the season.
The Raiders gave the Colts more trouble than many anticipated; the young and athletic Pryor, though inexperienced, threw for 217 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 112 yards in his debut as a starter. The Colts could have found themselves on the other side of the fence had a potential 30-yard touchdown pass to Darren McFadden not been reversed at the end of the third quarter. Nonetheless, the Colts got the job done. Here are my takeaways:
- What ultimately won the Colts the game was winning the turnover battle. Andrew Luck threw 18 interceptions in his rookie year, but he started off 2013 with a 2-0 touchdown to interception ratio. Luck boasted a 78.3 completion percentage Sunday and is well on his way to improving his numbers from last season. His final stat line: 18/23, 178 yards, 2 TD.
- In the offseason, the Colts’ coaches frequently voiced a desire to run the ball more in 2013 in order to have a more balanced offensive attack. They got what they wanted Sunday. On the Colts’ first drive, they executed a perfectly balanced five rushing and five passing plays, which culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Luck to Reggie Wayne. The team ended with 26 rushing plays and 31 passing plays. However, the passing game was more productive, for no running back found the end zone. Luck himself was the team’s second-leading rusher, ahead of free agent acquisition Ahmad Bradshaw.
- In his 13th season, Reggie Wayne is showing little signs of slowing down. As he has been time and time again, he was the team’s leading receiver, this time racking up 96 yards and scoring a touchdown on 8 receptions. Those numbers pushed Wayne ahead of Steve Largent for 13th all time in NFL receiving yards. Wayne is a legend in the making and a sure-fire Hall of Fame-r.
- Tight end Dwayne Allen was the other recipient of a Luck touchdown pass — a 20-yarder — but it was his only reception of the game. Allen left the game after injuring his foot and did not return. Early reports indicate that the injury is not serious.
- Free agent acquisition Darrius Heyward-Bey was solid in his Colts debut, contributing 33 yards on three receptions. But the player who debuted most strongly was on the other side of the ball. Safety LaRon Landry played as advertised and made a whopping 15 tackles Sunday, 10 of them solo. Landry is a game changer that Colts fans can get excited about.
- Other defensive highlights: Former Cardinal Greg Toler, another newcomer from free agency, had an interception, and veteran Colt Robert Mathis recorded the team’s only sack. In addition to his win-securing interception, Antoine Bethea had 11 tackles, enough for second-best on the team. Last year’s top tackler Jerrell Freeman had 10.
The Colts will need to improve in several areas to win again next weekend when they host the Dolphins, who won 23-10 over Cleveland today. But the Horseshoe is off to the right start. A win’s a win, and that’s all the team will try to accomplish next week — and each week thereafter.