06 Sep 2007
Since drafting Peyton Manning with the first pick of the 1998 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts are 30-11 (.731) during regular season games in which 55 or more points have been scored. In all games since 1998, the Colts are 92-52 (.638) -- meaning their record is a somewhat more terrestrial 62-41 (.601) in lower scoring games. Since Tony Dungy became head coach, the Colts have lost just four times when the combined score has been above 55.
The highest scoring of those thirty victories was the last time they played the New Orleans Saints, a 55-21 rout in which Peyton Manning threw for six touchdowns (in just 25 passes) and Dwight Freeney recovered and ran in a fumble after a patented Aaron Brooks 12-yard sack.
Perhaps it's no surprise that the Colts are more successful in shootouts. After all, Indianapolis have the league's most consistently strong offense, and if you took defensive play out of the equation, few would bet against the Colts. So what about those games they lost?
Looking at Dungy's four "shootout" losses, we see something of a pattern emerging:
Jaguars 44, Colts 17 (2006)
Chiefs 45, Colts 35 (2004)
Patriots 38, Colts 34 (2003)
Giants 44, Colts 27 (2002)
In these four games Indianapolis running backs combined for 211 yards at 2.77 yards per carry. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined for rather more than that in last year's Jacksonville debacle. With the Colts chasing the game (they were down by two scores at some point of all of them), running opportunities for Edgerrin James and company would have been limited, but with opposing defenses presumably committed to the pass, one might have expected more success.
So, Indy loses shootouts when it gets one-dimensional -- not just as a reaction to the scoreboard, but because the run isn't working. Take away the run and make Peyton Manning beat you? Welcome to the defensive logic of 55-point games.
31 comments, Last at 08 Sep 2007, 12:11pm by OMO
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?