ReFo: Broncos @ Colts, Week 7
Peyton Manning returned to Indianapolis on Sunday Night Football after a week of talking from Colts owner Jim Irsay. That talk was the subject of much speculation and Tony Dungy opined the most interesting theory – that Irsay was trying to make this game as big as possible, because everybody knows Manning’s reputation for failing to deliver in the big games.
Indianapolis stormed out to a lead thanks to some uncharacteristically poor play from Manning, but the key play of the game was the strip-sack from Robert Mathis that was recovered for a safety, with the Colts widening their gap to a margin the Broncos could never peg back.
Manning did, however, bring the Broncos back and closed the gap multiple times only for running back Ronnie Hillman to fumble at the most inopportune time possible as they were looking to go in for a touchdown. That was the play that proved to put the game ultimately out of reach.
Denver — Three Performances of Note
The Prodigal Son Returns
How could we start anywhere other than with Manning? His +1.7 grade overall represents one of the stranger grades we’ve given out because of the sheer volume of throws all over the spectrum. I had given out so many positives and negatives over the game for his throws that I honestly had no idea what way the grade was going to come out when it was all tallied up. Manning started with some iffy throws, but it was the strip-sack from Mathis that seemed to really affect him. From that point on his arm was noticeably questionable. He claimed after the game that the hit hadn’t affected his arm but if that is true then he shouldn’t be allowed to throw a pass all week, because his arm looked tired and weak. The game was punctuated by various underthrown passes in all directions. Eventually, though, Manning did get control of himself, stringing together some nice touch passes and completing a few with just enough on them to get to their intended receiver. He caught fire late on only for Denver to put the ball in the hands of Hillman when Manning had orchestrated the drive, and then find it end in a fumble.
The Return of the Rush
Manning wasn’t the only player returning in this game – the Broncos got Von Miller back after his suspension and though he took a little while to warm up, by the second quarter he was timing the snap well and terrorizing the Colts’ line. He didn’t earn a sack from his performance but notched two knockdowns and six further pressures from 35 pass rushes, double that of the next best Broncos defender. It’s clear from seeing him on the field that Denver have missed his pass rush. If they can patch up the secondary then they will be in much better shape going forward.
Yin and Yang Linemen
I wanted to talk about two more players, so I have no choice but to shoehorn them together here! Louis Vasquez earned a +2.5 grade kicking out from guard to play RT, allowing just a single hurry despite the Colts deploying some speed to worry about on the edge. That is quietly one of the best OL performances you will see from anybody this year, but is so far down the pecking order of stories in this game you’ll be unlikely to read much about it. On the other side of the ball Kevin Vickerson committed three of the dumbest penalties you will come across. Taking your helmet off once is foolish, but it happens, and draws a flag. Doing it twice in the space of four plays is pretty unforgiveable. He then compounded this with a pure bonehead penalty by bumping Andrew Luck long after the ball had gone to draw a roughing the passer penalty on a play he should never have been involved in. That extended the Colts drive and was as big a single play as any in the game.
Indianapolis — Three Performances of Note
Preparation is Key
After the game Vontae Davis was interviewed about his performance and slipped up by accidentally claiming they had been preparing hard for Tom Brady all week. Despite that, he put in a career performance, setting a new PFF CB record with a +7.9 grade. He did this without an interception and without forcing any turnovers, but simply by picking up positive play after positive play without being beaten. He notched a pair of PDs and despite being targeted eight times allowed just three receptions for a total of 12 yards. He was helped by Manning’s mystery arm weakness that caused a bunch of passes to float underthrown and allowed Davis to simply wall off his man from the pass, but it would be too harsh to take anything away from what was an excellent performance by any standards.
Old Guard Making Plays
Who would have thought Robert Mathis – without Dwight Freeney – would finally emerge from his shadow and lead the league in sacks? That’s exactly what has happened and he came up with arguably the biggest play of the game with his strip-sack of Manning down by the Broncos’ goal line to cause a safety and start the ball rolling for Indianapolis. The swing in points resulting from that play was probably the difference between the two sides. Mathis posted a +6.4 grade thanks to two sacks, two more knockdowns and a hurry, showing some legitimate lightning quick speed around the edge that many had probably thought was behind him coming into this year. The Indianapolis pass rush might be little else beyond Mathis but at the moment, and in this game, that simply didn’t matter.
Trent Richardson ended the game with a -2.2 grade, which you might expect for a player who could only muster 37 rushing yards from 14 carries, but in truth almost all of that came because of his fumble – a play where he was being gang tackled and the ball was stripped from his grasp as half of Denver rode him to the ground. Otherwise he was dealt the blocking equivalent of the Dead Man’s Hand, meeting players in the backfield on seemingly every carry, and barely getting an opportunity all day to run the ball without having to make a cut in the backfield as the play had been blown to hell. Richardson forced five missed tackles, and gained 25 of his 37 yards after contact. That means that on 14 carries his blocking generated him just 12 yards before he was hit. The same ran true for Brown, who gained 12 of his 23 yards after contact. Richardson may be killing some fantasy teams, but the fault lies not at his door, at least not entirely.
– Reggie Wayne was having another quietly useful game before a slightly underthrown pass heaved in the face of pressure caused him to skid on the turf to try and haul it in, tearing his ACL in the process. Sadly just an extra yard of air under the ball could have sprung him for a 60-yard TD as his defender had been picked on the crossing route.
– Richardson played 40 snaps on offense for Indianapolis, Brown 36.
– Indianapolis blitzed Manning just four times, but were still able to pressure him on 20 drop-backs.
PFF Game Ball
There’s no looking beyond a record-setting day, so Vontae Davis takes the game ball.
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