Colts 42, Raiders 28: What caught our eye (other than Vinatieri record, that is)
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye in the Indianapolis Colts’ 42-28 win over the Oakland Raiders Sunday. The indelible highlight? Adam Vinatieri emerging from the famed Black Hole as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,542 points. See ya, Morten Andersen.
Obsession to finish: Listen to Frank Reich long enough and you’ll pick up on his pillars for success. One is an obsession to finish every game – every play – with authority.
The Colts entered the fourth quarter on the wrong end of a 28-21 score. They pulled away from the one-win Raiders with a dominant, complementary fourth quarter. The Andrew Luck-led offense scored three TDs over the final 15 minutes while a defense that had yielded four consecutive TDs to the Raiders – excluding a kneel-down possession to end the first half – finally got its act together.
The catalyst of the defensive turnabout was rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. After Luck’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle pushed the Colts in front 35-28, Leonard forced a Doug Martin fumble on Oakland’s next offensive play. Corey Moore was on hand for the recovery at the Raiders 27. Five plays later, Marlon Mack’s second TD of the game, a 1-yarder with 2:55 to play, gave the Colts separation at 42-28.
The defense, Andrew Luck insisted, “changed the trajectory of the game.’’
Leonard, the NFL’s tackle leader coming into the game, again notched a team-high 9. But his hit on Martin was special. He flowed into the hole, zeroed in on Martin and arrived with his right hand chopping the ball out of Martin’s grasp.
“It looked like it was all instinctive,’’ Frank Reich said. “You just saw him swat at the ball, like he had a laser.
“He’s running for it and . . . like those planes when they zero in on their target. Duh-duh-duh-duh-wham! And he got it. Man, that was sweet.’’
Leonard’s game-changing play erased an otherwise miserable day for the defense. At one point, Derek Carr completed 17 consecutive passes.
The Raiders now have been outscored by 51 points in the fourth quarter this season.
Mack Attack: Luck passed for 239 yards and the Colts became the first team in NFL history to have three tight ends catch a TD in the same game. Thanks, Mo Alie-Cox, with a highlight-reel-worthy one-hander; Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle.
But the man of the day, again, was Mack. He pounded the Raiders 25 times for 132 yards and two TDs. Consider that a suitable encore for his 126-yard outing last week against the Bills. Mack became the first Colt with 100-plus yards in consecutive games since Joseph Addai in 2007. His career day included a career-long 49-yard run in the third quarter.
Rookie Nyheim Hines added a career-best 78 yards, but the day belonged to Mack.
“Just running tough,’’ Reich said. “He’s getting tough yards. He’s getting explosive yards. He’s seeing it well, trusting it.’’
More balance: Luck set an NFL record with 245 passes in the first five games this season. The last three he’s tossed a more judicious 71. Credit the Mack-led ground game.
The Colts rushed for at least 200 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since the final two games of 1985.
“It means everything,’’ Reich said of the run game. “It’s so much easier to play quarterback.’’
“Balance is key,’’ he said. “When you can run for over 200 yards as an offense and give up zero sacks, that’s awesome.’’
That balancing act was a major factor as the Colts piled up 461 total yards and scored touchdowns on four consecutive second-half possessions. Since it would be understandable if you lost track, a quick post-halftime refresher: Luck to Ebron, 20 yards; Mack 4-yard run; Luck to Doyle, 10 yards; Mack 1-yard run.
Doyle became the 11th player to catch a TD pass from Luck this season. That’s the most in team history.
Alie-Cox had just one catch, but it was a keeper. On his first career TD catch in the first quarter, a 26-yarder, the former Virginia Commonwealth basketball standout beat cornerback Gareon Conley, went up and snatched Luck’s pass with his right hand. Only his right hand.
“Oh my gosh,’’ Luck said with a broad smile. “He swallowed the ball with his hand. It was truly like a gravitational pull. Locked it in there.’’
Reich, normally stoic on the sideline, enjoyed it as well.
“It was unreal,’’ he said. “I don’t get too emotional on the sideline, but I got pretty jacked up after the catch. That catch will rival anything that we’ll see.’’
More from the O-line: Let’s cut to the chase. Luck is playing behind the best offensive line combination of his career, and one of the Colts’ best since the Peyton Manning days.
For the first time in his 78-game regular-season career, Luck wasn’t sacked for a third straight game and hasn’t been dumped on his last 156 attempts. That’s a career-best streak.
Simply put, the offensive line is dominating at the point of attack. The emergence of the ground game actually goes back to the loss to the New York Jets (127 yards on 23 attempts). We’ll save you the math. Over the last three games, the Colts have piled up 569 yards on 100 attempts. That’s a crisp 5.7 per attempt (we round up).
Kudos to left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith.
“They imposed their will today,’’ Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “Physically they did a great job.’’
Again, Luck agreed.
“The guys up front are doing a heckuva job,’’ he said.
Record for Vinny: The record fell with 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter when Vinatieri knocked down a 25-yard field goal. That pushed his career points total to 2,547, eclipsing Morten Andersen’s all-time record (2,544). Vinatieri would finish the game with 26- and 25-yard field goals, four PATs and 2,550 points.
“The best part of today is less the record and more that we got the record on a win, you know what I mean?’’ Vinatieri said.
His status for the game had been in doubt after he aggravated a right groin injury last week against Buffalo.
Medical update: Safety Mike Mitchell left the game in the third quarter with a calf injury and did not return. Center Ryan Kelly was forced from the game on the Colts’ second drive with a hand injury, but returned.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.