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October 7, 2013 at 2:39 AM

Reviewing the keys to the game


On Saturday, I posted what I saw as five keys to the game.

In the wake of the first loss of the year, I figured I’d review each to see if they indeed played a key role in the game.

1, The running game: The Colts and Seahawks came into the game each ranked among the top five teams in the NFL in rushing — the Colts fourth at 149.5 yards per game, and the Seahawks fifth at 144.3. Ultimately, winning the running game battle didn’t do Seattle much good — the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 218 while getting 100-yard games from each of Russell Wilson (above in a John Lok photo) and Marshawn Lynch— while the Colts got just 109. However, the Colts outrushed Seattle 80-74 in the second half when it also outscored the Seahawks 17-9. Lynch, who had 76 yards on 11 carries in the first half, was held to 26 on six in the second.

2, Turnovers: This was also a matchup of two of the teams in the NFL most adept at forcing turnovers while limiting their own — Seattle had a plus-seven turnover ratio (third in the league) while the Colts were at plus-six (fourth). And as noted Saturday, Seattle is 21-3 under Pete Carroll when forcing more turnovers than its opponent and came into the game 4-0. This turned out to be a wash as each team had two turnovers — Indy lost two fumbles while Seattle lost a fumble and an interception (each on its last play of offense in the first and second half). Seattle’s turnovers didn’t lead to points to Indy. But Carroll surely will view it as not a coincidence that Seattle didn’t win the turnover battle and didn’t win the game.

3, Protection: Where each team had struggled this season was in pass protection. Statistically, neither team got to the QB much — each had two sacks. If you watched the game, though, each QB was under a lot of pressure — Seattle was credited with five quarterback hurries and Indy three, which actually seems low for each. There’s no question that Indy’s pass rush helped disrupt Seattle’s passing game, and while the stats don’t really bear it out, it felt like the Colts had more time as the game went on.

4, The second quarter: As I wrote Saturday, the Seahawks entered the game having outscored foes just 35-27 in the first half this year compared to 74-20 in the second half and overtime. The second quarter had been a particular issue as Seattle had been outscored in that quarter 27-25. Indy, meanwhile, had been getting jumpstarted in the second quarter, outscoring opponents 44-10, its widest margin in any quarter this season. Form held a little bit in this game as the Colts outscored the Seahawks 10-7 in the second quarter as they began to rally from the early 12-0 deficit. Overall, though, this was one game where a slow start was not the issue for Seattle.

5, Third downs: As I wrote Saturday “this is always a big key, and it’s another where the Colts enter the game with a statistical edge — Indy has converted 48 percent of third downs this season (24-50) compared to Seattle’s 34 percent (18-53). Each team is solid on defense on third downs, Seattle allowing 33.3 percent and Indy 36.” This turned out to be as key as any stat in the game as Indy converted 7-12 third downs while Seattle made just 2-12. Ultimately, there was no bigger factor in the game. Later in the week, we’ll break down the third-down plays to see what went wrong.


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