It’s why we love the NFL. Just as we were all accepting the fact that the Packers would go undefeated and the Colts wouldn’t win a single game, both potential milestones get wiped off the map in the same week.
You have to wonder how much the Titans will look back on this one as a missed opportunity if they fail to make the playoffs. With a victory they would have been tied with the Bengals and Jets for the final wild card spot, which would be quite impressive in Mike Munchak’s first season.
The bigger story though is that after looking like the worst team to ever step onto an NFL field, the Colts found a way to win. This was a game that looked very much like both teams were playing to make the other team beat them because they didn’t make as many mistakes. That being said, the game did feature some key performances–both good and bad–including the best performance we’ve seen from a middle linebacker all year. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the performances of note.
Indianapolis Colts – Three Performances of Note
Donald Brown Gettin’ Down
Even before his game-sealing touchdown run, Donald Brown (+1.3) was having a successful game for the Colts. He finished the game averaging 10.1 yards per carry while scoring that touchdown and forcing three missed tackles–the most he’s forced since Week 16 of his rookie year in 2009. But his game was defined with 3:43 left. Breaking free of Akeem Ayers’ (+0.1) tackle in the backfield, he got to the outside via a block from Dan Orlovsky before sprinting down the sideline for the score.
Lacey Steps Up
It’s not often that you get to read about Jacob Lacey (+4.9) receiving praise in a Re-Focused article. He earned it on Sunday, as he turned in the highest-graded game of his three-year career. He allowed seven receptions off the nine throws into his coverage, but didn’t allow a touchdown and gave up an average of just 8.0 yards per catch. Of the two passes that didn’t result in receptions, Lacey had a hand, or two, on both with one pass defensed and that interception returned for a touchdown. With 6:42 left in the third quarter, he capitalized when Chris Johnson (-2.6) didn’t react well enough to the throw and raced down the sideline for the defining touchdown in the game.
Where do I start with Pat Angerer’s (+6.3) performance on Sunday? Simply dominant in a way I never expected to see from the Colts’ middle linebacker, how dominant you ask? No MLB has graded higher in a single game this year. How he graded out so highly was easy to see as he was all over the field and came up with two huge plays in forcing a fumble and intercepting Matt Hasselbeck (-1.8) at the goal line with 7:28 left in the game. In total, he was thrown at six times, yielding just two catches for seven yards and the previously mentioned interception. Slightly better than his fellow linebacker Ernie Sims (-4.2 in coverage) who allowed 13 catches for 147 yards.
Tennessee Titans – Three Performances of Note
It’s all a Roos
In the four years we have been grading players here at PFF, Michael Roos (-3.6) has never allowed so much pressure in a single game, but he struggled to keep Dwight Freeney (+1.9) at bay all day. His two hits and seven pressures allowed would have featured more sacks were it not for the Titans QB’s getting rid of the ball so quickly. His poor day was topped off with a false start penalty on 3rd-and-9 with 5:59 left in the second quarter.
How Not to Break Out
Back in Week 10 in Carolina I wondered if Damian Williams (-2.0) was about to breakout and step-up as the Titans’ No. 1 receiver in Kenny Britt’s absence. Sadly, performances like the one we saw on Sunday answered the question quite convincingly. Picking up just 15 receiving yards on two catches, he topped it all off with a costly drop on 3rd-and-4 with 9:58 remaining in the second quarter. It’s difficult to help your team win when the only impact you make on the game is a negative one.
QBs Playing Safe
To look at rookie Jake Locker’s (0.0) raw stats from the game, 11-of-16 for 108 yards and a touchdown, you could assume he played well when that’s not necessarily the case. He didn’t play poorly but rather played it safe and took what the Colts’ defense gave him underneath. Locker attempted just two passes beyond 10 yards and none beyond 20, rather than challenging them downfield. You could argue that it was because the Colts were playing deep late in the game, but when you look at what Hasselbeck did, it seems that the plan all along was to take what they were given without pushing for more. Hasselbeck attempted just the one pass beyond 20 yards, which ended up in Angerer’s hands, and just four beyond 10 yards. I can understand playing not to lose when you have a rookie and a dinged-up veteran at QB, but when you are fighting for a playoff spot and up against the team who hasn’t won a game, six passes beyond 10 yards just isn’t going to cut it.
– While Roos allowed nine total pressures, the rest of the Titans’ offensive line allowed just two.
– Freeney’s 60 snaps were the most action he has seen since Week 4 in Tampa.
– Sims missed as many tackles (3) as the rest of the Colts’ defense combined.
PFF Game Ball
When you have the best game of any middle linebacker this season and come away with two key defensive plays, you’re likely to get consideration for the game ball. If like Pat Angerer, you also flow to the ball well and make plays all over the field, then it’s a no brainer.