By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Sunday's game was long since determined by the time defensive end Cory Redding leapt and batted San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's final pass attempt into the air late in the fourth quarter.
The ball seemed to hang in suspended animation for a few moments before it finally found its way into the arms of Indianapolis cornerback Cassius Vaughn.
It was a fitting ending to a 27-7 victory that was dominated by the Colts' often-maligned defense.
A week after being shredded for 319 passing yards by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill — and two weeks after allowing a franchise-record 112 rushing yards to Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor — Indianapolis held one of the league's most explosive young signal callers in check.
Kaepernick completed just 13 of 27 passes for 150 yards and the late interception. He was limited to just 20 yards on seven rushes, and he was sacked three times.
Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis accounted for 1.5 of those sacks, making Kaepernick the 50th different quarterback he has sacked in his 11-year career.
"It was assignment football, point blank, period," Mathis said during the postgame radio broadcast of the defense's effort . "Coaches drew up the grand scheme, and we were able to do that. Our coaches put us in the right positions. We just pulled it off. It was an overall Colts organization win."
The game followed the formula head coach Chuck Pagano set forth when he was named the franchise's head coach in January 2012. Indianapolis used a power rushing attack to post 179 yards and control the ball for 36 minutes, 25 seconds.
The defense, missing starting safety LaRon Landry and inside linebacker Pat Angerer, got a tremendous effort from a secondary that kept the 49ers receivers blanketed all afternoon.
That created indecision in Kaepernick's mind and caused him to hold onto the football longer than usual.
Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman was among the players to take advantage — leading the team with eight tackles and adding a sack and a forced fumble. Safety Antoine Bethea recorded five tackles, and inside linebacker Kavell Conner — making his first appearance of the season — finished with four.
The Colts also got four tackles from safety Delano Howell, a Stanford alumnus who got the start in place of Landry.
The defense was tasked with protecting a 13-7 lead for much of the second half but never gave the Niners an opportunity to make the big plays that might have gotten the Candlestick Park crowd involved in the game.
The game marked the first time Indianapolis has won by 20 points or more on the road since a 2009 victory in St. Louis. It was the first time Kaepernick ever had lost an NFL start at home, and it gave San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh his first back-to-back losses of his three-year career.
But it didn't come, easily.
By grinding out the win, the Colts came as close as they ever have to living up to their head coach's vision.
"That was a one-score game for a long, long time," Pagano said on the postgame radio show. "Our guys stuck to the process. We talk about it all the time, '60 minutes, one play at a time, all you got, don't judge.' What we added this week was, 'Consistency with your execution. Take care of the cents, and the dollars will come.'"