INDIANAPOLIS, IN---"We have to start fast...FINISH STRONG!"
Due to starting the season with three losses and the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers beginning 5-0, the New Orleans Saints knew their backs were already against a wall known as playoff elimination. But, maybe if Sean Payton would have told Drew Brees and company that they were already in danger of not making the NFL Playoffs to start the season, their record would have been better than 2-4 marching into Indianapolis this afternoon. How could the following be pondered? The Saints have played their best football of the season the last two weeks.
Although New Orleans, who was coming in on 10 days rest and an impressive 31-21 victory over the then undefeated Falcons, had two very inefficient drives when the game commenced, Brees then moved the ball 52 yards to the Indianapolis' Colts 26-yard line. The next play would shift momentum.
With field goal kicker Kai Forbath ready to kick a 44-yard attempt, Luke McCown took the snap as the holder, jumped out of his crouch, rolled to his left, and lofted a pass to Benjamin Watson for not only a first down but a 25 yard connection. Lucas Oil Stadium was stunned! Yet, soon their mood turned to frustration as running back Khiry Robinson punched the ball across the goal line for a touchdown. 7-0 Saints.
"But we have Andrew Luck, he will lead us to victory!"
Last year, definitely! Today, not so much. On the Colts' next play from scrimmage, the Stanford product's pass was batted and corralled by Saints' rookie Stephone Anthony for the matchup's first change of possession.
Nevertheless the very short reprieve from action, Indianapolis' defense stayed tough and ultimately forced Brees to make a terrible decision resulting in Vontae Davis intercepting the attempt at the one yard line. The crowd erupted! Or that was the case, until they were informed that the penalty on the play was against the defense. So with the takeaway erased, Robinson collected ten yards on the next two plays, one of which was a six-yard score, to increase the Saints' advantage to 14.
Now if you were a Colts' fan, the time to take a bathroom break or grab some snacks would have been perfect. Why? Because on the ensuing kickoff, Griff Whalen forgot to hang onto the football, resulting in someone wearing white and gold to come up with it.
Almost immediately following the recovery by cornerback Kyle Wilson, Brees decided to add a touchdown to his name by completing a 16-yard reception to Michael Hoomanawanui (PAT missed by Forbath).
Looking back on the first half, the only real negative for the New Orleans Saints was a red zone interception that transpired on the eighth play of a 72-yard drive. However, the turnover failed to hurt the NFC South squad because Indianapolis went three and out.
Regardless of three possessions stolen from them, the Colts did have a chance to take momentum going into halftime. Specifically, Luck reverted back to his old self by advancing the offense to the Saints' 18-yard line. Humorously, just as the crowd came alive again, he made an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Wilson (second takeaway by him on the day) with a measly 13 seconds remaining until halftime.
Coming out of recess, Luck and Indianapolis' offense remained stagnant as Pat McAfee quickly ran out onto the field for his sixth punt of the day.
Starting their first possession of the second half at their own 18, New Orleans, fueled by Mark Ingram, continued to pound the ball down the Colts' throat for seven more points and a 27 point lead.
"The game was over, right?"
Surprisingly, no! With only 3:42 remaining in the third quarter, Indianapolis' offensive finally clicked. Or maybe the better term is connected. In large part to New Orleans' Delvin Breaux falling down, T.Y. Hilton became wide open for Luck. Catching the ball just on the other half of midfield, the Colts' star receiver weaved back and forth against the remaining defender before running past him to put his team on the board. 27-7 New Orleans!
Following an unproductive series by the Saints, another opportunity fell into Luck's lap, and again he did not squander it.
In almost a carbon-copy of his 87-yard touchdown pass, Breaux fell down allowing Hilton to burst free for another score, this time of 46 yards. The Colts were finally back in the game!
But did they start their comeback too late?
While three drives went by without a score, Indianapolis was able to bring their deficit within one possession with a Luck 8-yard touchdown to Donte Moncrief with 3:05 left in the game.
The outcome would come down to a McAfee onside kick. Off the tee, the ball jumped past a few Colts before New Orleans' Marcus Murphy recovered it. Though they would have possession, the Saints were not out of the woods yet.
Three plays later (2:09 remaining), the Saints found themselves in situation of third down and four. Brees took the snap and looked for a receiver in the pocket. Suddenly out of no where, Marques Colston broke open and the ball sailed through the air to him. Caught! First down! Colston's only catch of the day ended up putting the Colts away.
Despite being picked off twice in the first half, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck had a solid afternoon, for he had 333 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Even though the former Purdue Boilermaker Drew Brees was able to put his team into the win column, the 15-year veteran had inferior stats compared to his counterpart and finished with 255 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
As New Orleans' dominated on the ground with their running backs combining for 3 touchdowns and 171 rushing yards (Mark Ingram with 143 yards and 1 TD. Khiry Robinson with 28 yards and 2 TDs.), Colts' receiver T.Y. Hilton led all non-quarterbacks in yards (150) and touchdowns (2).
3-4 New Orleans hosts the 3-3 New York Giants (1:00 PM EST).
3-4 Indianapolis travels to Charlotte, North Carolina, for Monday Night Football against 5-0 Carolina (8:30 PM EST).