Psst… Wanna know the secret(s) to beating the Colts? Read on
Whatever happens in Grand Junction stays in Grand Junction.
I am now going to reveal to you the secrets to beating the Indianapolis Colts, by my figuring, three secrets. And whatever you do, don’t tell Tom Bair, the area’s top Colts fan. He’ll see to it that the Colts aren’t blindsided.
We should acknowledge the fact that beating the Colts doesn’t happen often. The last time anyone beat the Colts was more than 11 months ago. The Chargers did the trick 23-17 in overtime in the AFC playoffs on Jan. 3 in San Diego.
Prior to that, the Colts lost Oct. 27, 2008, in a regular-season contest 31-14 in Tennessee. They also lost the week previous to that, Oct. 19, 2008, in Green Bay by a 34-14 score. Just for good measure, the Chargers were also involved in knocking the Colts out of the playoffs early in 2008, beating them on Indy’s home field 28-24.
That’s four losses over the past two years, two of those in preseason. It’s been 21 games since the Colts have lost a regular-season game. The Colts win against Denver today at Indy and they will have set an NFL regular-season record for consecutive wins.
The question is, what happens on those rare occasions when they do get beat?
Here’s the first thing: The opposition gains roughly as many yards as the Colts, be it a defensive struggle or an offensive explosion.
In losing to the Packers, both teams gained 302 yards. In losing to the Titans, the Colts had 317 total yards, the Titans 281. In the losses to the Chargers, the Colts gained 54 more yards in the two games, having a slight edge both times.
You know Peyton Manning & Co. are going to put up numbers. If you want to beat them, you’ve got to do the same.
The next step is to stop Manning on third down.
In the four losses, the Colts offense has converted a third down to a first down 21 of 53 times, only 39 percent. In comparison, this season in 12 wins, the Colts have converted 73 of 143 third-down plays, 51 percent.
Here’s the third and final secret: You’ve got to find a way to make them lose their composure or concentration.
The Colts are one of the most veteran-laden teams in football and don’t make many mental mistakes. But in those four recent losses, they have committed a slew of penalties.
In the two playoff losses to San Diego, they combined for 14 penalties for 128 yards. In the loss to Green Bay, they committed 12 penalties for 110 yards. In the loss to Tennessee, they committed a rather pedestrian five. Again, comparing those games to the ones they win — all those so far this season — that’s 31 penalties in the four losses vs. 59 they have committed this season in 12 games.
That’s how the Broncos beat the Colts today.
Step 1: Kyle Orton and the offense put up roughly the same numbers as Manning and his offense.
Step 2: Denver slows Manning and his offense on third down.
And, Step 3: The Colts are penalized heavily. The Broncos, a team that has been penalized 66 times this season, cannot allow the officials to toss hankies in their direction.
All of the above is easier said than done.
The Broncos have shown they can run the football in their past two games, gaining 245 yards on the ground last week against the Chiefs and 138 the week before against the Giants.
Obviously, when you’re playing against the best quarterback in the game, you would prefer he spend most of his time watching from the sidelines.
Denver should be able to run the ball against the Colts. Defensively the Colts rank only 17th overall in the league, 18th against the run and 19th against the pass. They allow opponents almost 350 yards a game.
The key to the game to me revolves around the third-down situation when Manning has possession. Denver must get pressure on him. If you think about the games you have seen the Colts lose of late, Manning has been frustrated because he has been harassed.
Elvis Dumervil must add to his 151⁄2-sack total and his pass-rushing buddies must join in. Three or four sacks of Manning would mean the Broncos are in the hunt.
And the last factor, the penalties. Pressure makes you do stupid things. Denver must run the ball to avoid offensive holding and they must pressure Manning to create Colt penalties.
I’ve got a feeling: I’ll take my 9-3 record picking with or against Denver and say the Broncos put a halt to the Colts’ streak.
Denver in a shocker, 31-28 on a last-second Matt Prater 54-yard field goal.