ReFo: Colts @ Broncos, Divisional Round
It was a poorly kept secret over the last month or so of the season what was brewing in Denver and it finally caught up to them at the worst possible time. Peyton Manning had been a shell of his early season self over that time period with the team relying on C.J. Anderson running out of his mind and a once shaky offensive line which began to gel. Not much was different against the Colts Sunday as Anderson was stellar when given the opportunity. Facing an early deficit, the Broncos put it all on Manning’s arm and it turned yet another postseason nightmare for the future Hall of Famer.
The Colts win was a passing of the torch in some ways as Andrew Luck outperformed Manning by virtually any metric in their third, and most meaningful, meeting to date. Luck had just as much of the burden heaped onto his back as Manning did as the Colts received no production from the running game whatsoever. He answered the call the way it seems he always does, with big throws and a few mistakes. The good certainly outweighed the bad though as he led the Colts to a 24-13 victory and their first AFC Championship game appearance since 2010.
Indianapolis Colts – Performances of Note
Vontae Davis, CB: +6.8
Breakdown: Davis was two near interceptions away from an all-time playoff performance at the cornerback position. He wasn’t downgraded once when targeted and was only dinged for a holding penalty late in the second quarter. Davis completely shut down the right side of the field. Targeted 11 times, he yielded five catches for 21 yards and added three passes defended and four stops. Davis’ grade is the highest we’ve ever given out to a cornerback in the postseason and the fifth best in the last eight seasons.
Signature Stat: In his last three games against the Broncos, Davis has allowed 9 completions on 24 pass attempts for 38 yards with 5 pass breakups and 8 stops.
Andrew Luck, QB: +2.4
Breakdown: Two interceptions and another interception worthy throw (Q4, 13:36) mitigate his grade, but Luck was on the money pass after pass Sunday. The offensive line held up better than expected in pass protection, but Luck also made them look better by repeatedly navigating collapsing pockets very well. The raw stats don’t quite do Luck justice as there weren’t many easy throws to be had against the vaunted Broncos defense. He didn’t get much padding of his yardage in the screen and short passing game with a yards per completion of just 6.3 on pass targeted less than 10 yards downfield compared to his season average of 8.2. The Colts quarterback had to go down field to get his yards and he did that extremely well. Outside of the two punt-like deep interceptions on third downs, Luck was 7 of 14 for 139 yards on throws 10+ yards downfield.
Signature Play: Luck showed the entire package on his touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. Feeling pressure off right tackle, he climbed the pocket and then started to scramble when he felt Lerentee McCray break free of Joe Reitz. With Terrance Knighton bearing down, Luck threw an absolute strike to Hakeem Nicks with Bradley Roby breathing down his neck.
Darius Butler, CB: +3.8
Breakdown: The story of the game was how well the Colts defense shut down the Broncos wide outs, but it was more than just Vontae Davis. In 45 snaps covering the slot, Butler allowed a single catch on four targets for four total yards. That type of production, or lack thereof, against the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker is nothing short of remarkable.
Signature Stat: Since Week 9, Butler has the third lowest Yards Per Coverage Snap among corners at 0.67.
Denver Broncos – Performances of Note
Peyton Manning, QB: -2.8
Breakdown: The key to the Broncos quick passing game all year was the threat of the deep shot. In the first 10 weeks Manning was accurate on 50% of his throws 20+ yards down the field. During the rest of the regular season his accuracy dropped to 37.5% and he finally reached his nadir on Sunday going a dreadful 1 of 8 on deep balls. The Colts never backed off the short passes because Manning never made them pay for it as he repeatedly forced throws downfield with no success. With so many misses and receivers unable to generate yards after the catch, the Broncos offense was as stagnant as it’s been all season.
Signature Play: Vontae Davis’ dropped interception with 3:14 remaining in the fourth quarter perfectly illustrates the struggles Manning had all day. Facing man coverage, no receiver won their route cleanly and instead of waiting it out in a fairly clean pocket, Manning forced an in-rhythm throw. The result was predictable as Davis jumped the dig route to Andre Caldwell and should have had the pick.
Aqib Talib, CB: -4.0
Breakdown: It was a tale of two free agent corners in this one as Talib was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Vontae Davis. The Colts receivers worked Talib over to the tune of 7 of 8 passing for 90 yards to go along with two holding penalties and a touchdown. T.Y. Hilton, who accounted for 72 of those 90 yards, continually got vast swaths of separation on Talib who was at a distinct speed disadvantage. It was a particularly up and down season for Talib with some absolutely shut down performances throughout the year. It’s just unfortunate that one of the lows had to come in the playoffs.
Signature Stat: Talib’s performance was the second lowest graded game of his entire career.
Todd Davis, OLB: +3.5
Breakdown: Denver’s run defense was unsurprisingly astute against the weak Colts interior again on Sunday. They gave up 78 yards on 26 handoffs and rookie outside linebacker was a big reason why they were so successful. A quick read, Davis collected a +2.2 run defense grade just 13 snaps against the run. The rookie repeatedly ducked under linemen climbing to the second level and either forced a cut or made the stop himself.
Signature Play: On a 2nd-and-4 with 5:17 left in the second quarter the Colts ran a simple inside zone handoff left. Davis saw center Khaled Holmes doubling Terrance Knighton at the one-technique in the play side A-gap. The linebacker then fired into the backside gap which was the logical intended point of attack. Davis got past Holmes as Dan Herron got the handoff and Herron slipped trying to get away as Davis tapped him down for a loss.
PFF Game Ball
Vontae Davis proved once again that he is the kryptonite to the Broncos quick passing attack with an out of this world performance Sunday.
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