If there’s such a thing as a signature win, the Indianapolis Colts achieved it on Sunday in San Francisco.
After last week’s home loss to Miami, even the most optimistic of Indianapolis fans had a hard time predicting victory in Candlestick Park. But instead of Frank Gore leaving cleat tracks on the Colts’ defense and the 49ers’ D mauling Andrew Luck, Indy came out with arguably the organization’s most impressive road win since clobbering New England by 19 points in 2005.
In Sunday’s 27-7 triumph, the Colts became the first double-digit road underdog to win outright since Arizona did it in Week 2 last season. The Chuck Pagano/Luck-led bunch also upped its record to 6-0 after a loss over the past two seasons.
It was how they did it that was most impressive.
Offensively, the maligned, patchwork offensive line dominated the lauded 49ers front-seven over the final two quarters, helping Ahmad Bradshaw, trade-steal Trent Richardson and Donald Brown combine for 175 yards on 39 carries. Those are numbers rarely seen from the Colts, even during their offensive peak nearly a decade ago.
In its first outing, the Bradshaw/Richardson combo kept the 49ers off-balance and guessing, which is exactly the short- and long-term goal. San Fran’s confusion was no more apparent than on Luck’s 6-yard touchdown keeper with four minutes left that iced it. The Colts, meanwhile, showed they now have a rushing attack not seen in Indy since Edgerrin James blew out his knee in 2001.
Defensively, Indy outplayed, outhit and outcoached the 49ers all day. Colts fans can delight in the fact that the old cushy Tampa-2 days are long gone, replaced by a physicality and personnel designed to pressure, confuse and punish its opposition. One look into San Fran quarterback Collin Kaepernick’s eyes told you how uncomfortable he was, a welcomed sight after Miami’s Ryan Tannehill carved up the D a week earlier.
On special teams, punter Pat McAfee pinned the 49ers throughout, and the Colts swarmed on kickoff coverage, perhaps the previous two regimes’ most glaring weakness.
Most importantly, the win was about guts, the kind you must have to be successful in January. With the Texans’ beatdown in Baltimore further displaying chinks in their armor, the AFC South is clearly up for grabs. If the Colts can win in San Francisco, they can win in Houston. First thing’s first, however, and that’s taking care of business in Jacksonville next Sunday, and despite that team’s ineptitude, the Jags have always been a tough W, as evidenced by Indy’s late collapse against them at home last season.
The Colts have shown they have the talent and attitude to be successful. Much of what happens over the next three months depends on health. For a franchise plagued by injuries over the last half-decade, luck, not just Luck, will go a long way in determining just how far the team can go.
For at least this week, however, all is well.
— Brent Glasgow is a sports writer for the Westside Flyer.