ReFo: OAK @ IND, Week 1
Ben Stockwell has all the highs and lows of the Colts' win over the Raiders, a victory that said a lot to about Indy's second-year QB.
ReFo: OAK @ IND, Week 1
Well that didn’t quite go to the offseason script did it?
In theory the Raiders, already penciled in for the No. 1 overall pick, should have come into Indianapolis and been throttled by the improving Colts under the guidance of their developing talisman at quarterback. One part of that did play out as expected — Andrew Luck was the Colts’ talisman, leading them to a comeback victory having blown a 14-point lead to trail the Raiders in the fourth quarter.
For Week 1 you can take the result and work on the performance, but this was not the clinical, confidence-boosting performance Indianapolis would have hoped for against the team widely pegged as the league’s worst. The Raiders even had the chance to steal the win at the end but two bad plays — a protection breakdown leading to a big sack, and the final interception — meant the Raiders spurned their chance at what would surely have been the most unexpected victory of Week 1.
Oakland – Three Performances of Note
Strong display up front
Let’s start with on a positive note for the Raiders after a display that will have made some of their harshest critics take note that they might not go 0-16 this season. The defensive line led from the front, with three of the four starters grading positively and Pat Sims (-3.1) the only one to miss out. The Raiders’ most important defender this season, Lamarr Houston (+3.5), got his season off to a strong start with eight pressures (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 6 Hu) and four stops (including the sack) as he got the better of Anthony Castonzo in a battle of two players looking for big 2013 seasons. Alongside him, Jason Hunter (+0.7) racked up four pressures (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 2 Hu) but did his best work against the run with a number of tackles in and around the line of scrimmage, including a third-down stop late in the third quarter. With a strong display from Vance Walker (+3.8) rounding out the quartet, this was an encouraging game from the Raiders’ newly assembled defensive line — proving that the Colts’ offensive line still has some work to do this season.
Mixed Fortunes for Pryor
Some might have expected the grade split that Terrelle Pryor produced in his first start of the season, but had it not been for “that” interception at the end of the game things would have looked much better. His -2.2 passing grade, to go with a +2.7 rushing grade might hint at a running quarterback without the passing skills to succeed in the NFL, but Pryor was better than that in this game. Pryor’s running skills go without saying, and he exposed the Colts both on scrambles and in their inability to defend the option. However, it is his passing splits that are most telling of Pryor’s performance, particularly in terms of the Colts’ use of the blitz. When the Colts sent a blitz at Pryor he was 8 of 10 for 116 yards and a touchdown. When the Colts sat back with a base pass rush Pryor was 11 of 19 for 101 yards and both of his interceptions. The step Pryor has to make is being more efficient and dangerous when teams sit back to contain him.
Mixed Fortunes on the Offensive Line
With rookie tackle Menelik Watson ruled out through injury, the Raiders were forced to start Khalif Barnes at left tackle against the Colts. He paired up with Lucas Nix (-7.1) in what proved to be a shoddy display from the left side of the offensive line. They combined to yield nine pressures (1 Sk, 8 Hu) and both players struggled in the run game, with Nix having the worst day of the two in both facets. However, the news was better elsewhere on the offensive line. Stefen Wisniewski (+1.2) performed well as a run blocker, while new starting right tackle Tony Pashos (+3.6) continued his fine form from preseason with an unblemished performance in pass protection. The run blocking didn’t quite come together from the team aside from Wisniewski, with Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings getting only 13 yards before contact on 19 carries. As with much of the rest of the Raiders performance, however, the offensive line display, Nix aside, likely came in above expectation.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Another Luck Comeback
What a fine start to the season by Luck as he looks to prove right all those people who have said he will join the league’s elite quarterbacks this season. He provided plenty of fourth-quarter memories last season, and he produced more memorable moments in the opener, as much with his legs as with his arm. His scramble on the Colts’ final offensive snap (kneel downs aside) will be remembered for winning them the game, but his conversion on a third-down play early in the fourth quarter was arguably more memorable as he proved his underrated athleticism by throwing off a tackle from Kevin Burnett and then beat a tackle from Brandian Ross to turn a would have been — should have been — a sack into a third-down conversion. Without the risky and off target throws (though there were still a couple on post routes) that were more common place than many acknowledged last season, Luck was a more efficient passer in the opener to go with his physical scrambling that ultimately produced the winning play.
Pillars of the Run Defense
The play behind them was inconsistent, but the Colts’ new defensive end pairing of Ricky Jean-Francois and second-year Colt Cory Redding got off to a strong start in run defense. Both led the way in ensuring the Raiders couldn’t get out of second gear with their ground game, doing good work against both guards and tackles. Redding led early on, shutting down a power play from the Raiders by driving inside of Pashos to take out the lead blocker and the pulling lineman, blowing up the play for Kelvin Sheppard to come in and clean up for a short gain by McFadden. New signing Jean-Francois did much of his good work against Nix as the chief contributor to the former Pitt Panther’s rough debut start.
Rough Debuts for Sheppard and Werner
They arrived by different means, but first-round pick Bjoern Werner (-3.0), and trade acquisition Sheppard (-6.8) each got off to poor starts. Sometimes in isolation, and sometimes in combination, the two helped provide a kick-start for Pryor and the Raiders’ offense, in particular, frequently allowing Pryor get to the edge on read option plays. Both players often looked unclear of their assignment on the option and how that combined with the other player to slow down the threat. Sheppard’s two missed tackles tied Vontae Davis for the Colts’ team lead, the first time he has missed multiple tackles in a single game in his career to date.
– He was right there on each target, but Oakland’s rookie corner D.J. Hayden gave up first downs on each of his three targets to T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Reggie Wayne.
– Ever active, LaRon Landry (+2.7) led the Colts with five stops, but his most important tackle might have been 41 yards downfield chasing down Jeron Mastrud late in the fourth quarter.
– The Colts most targeted defender was Greg Toler, yielding four catches on his seven targets but fighting back with an interception and a pass defense, both of which came on passes targeted to the end zone.
PFF Game Ball
When you’ve got the right quarterback you can cover a lot of ills in your roster, and Andrew Luck put in a talismanic performance to rescue the Colts from the potential embarrassment of an opening day defeat to the Raiders.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.