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INDIANAPOLIS — But it’s the Raiders.
The unimpressed are no doubt using this as their battle cry this morning in an attempt to somehow slap an invisible asterisk on the Colts’ 21-17 victory.
Stand down, skeptics. It counts.
Defeating a struggling Oakland franchise might not be the most dazzling building block toward a second consecutive playoff berth. Not the way slipping past, say, New England, San Francisco, Dallas or any of the NFL’s other blue bloods would.
Its weight, however, equals any of the other victories Indianapolis goes on to record this season. Or that any other team does.
But if the Colts are to ultimately collect a double-figure sum of ‘W’s for the second straight season and for the 13th time in the past 15 years, there are areas of concern that require some serious touching up:
Motivation. Once Indianapolis jumped out to a 14-0 lead it became flatter than year-old club soda. The fight they demonstrated time and time again last season in the midst of coach Chuck Pagano’s battle against leukemia was nowhere to be found as Oakland eventually rallied for 17 straight points and the lead.
Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor rushed for 112 yards. Pryor’s ability to get wide on the Colts defense is concerning with so many mobile quarterbacks still left on the schedule, including a Week 3 trip to San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick) and a visit from Seattle (Russell Wilson) in Week 5.
Pat McAfee’s three punts averaged 39 yards, well below the 48.2 he averaged last season. The trademark hang time appeared to be lacking, as well.
Protecting Andrew Luck was a major issue in 2012 as the quarterback was sacked 41 times. Sunday’s total was four. There were other instances when Luck wasn’t sacked, but still looked like he was throwing from the center of a crowded phone booth.
In case you’re wondering, Oakland ranked 18th in the league in total defense in 2012. These weren’t the ’85 Chicago Bears.
Indy’s third-down defense allowed the Raiders to avert fourth down 54 percent of the time. Oakland finished 7 of 13 in that department and converted its lone fourth-down effort.
The warm and fuzzy memories provided by the Colts last season continue to mask how young and inexperienced this team is. And how many new parts were added by management during last off-season in an effort to take a good product and make it truly special.
Safety LaRon Landry, new. Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, new. Tailback Ahmed Bradshaw, new. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, new. Cornerback Greg Toler, new.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
Pagano’s second team is going to grow up right before our eyes, and by no means will it always be pretty. There will be more days like Sunday. Days when Indianapolis scrambles to get the better of a team it might have looked superior to on paper.
These Colts are not the well-oiled machines of old led by 30-something future Hall of Famers capable of reciting the playbook in their sleep.
Indianapolis is young, hungry, learning and conducting business beneath what appears to be a very high ceiling.
Yes, it was the Raiders. And by handling their business the Colts are 1-0.
Mike Beas is a sports writer for The Republic’s sister paper, the Daily Journal in Franklin. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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