The Herald Bulletin

December 30, 2013

Mike Lopresti: Who says numbers don't lie?


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Here's another verse from the book of Chuck Pagano.

"We always talk about faith is believing something that you can't see," he was saying about the Indianapolis Colts. "And the reward is, if you believe in it long enough, you'll probably get to see it."

In other words, never let statistics get in the way, because sometimes they can lie like a con man. And ain't that the truth with these particular Colts? What follows is a season by the numbers; some good, some bad, some inexplicable.

The Colts beat the No. 1 seed in both conferences. But lost to three teams who didn't even make the playoffs.

They had fewer first downs than their opponents, punted more often, had no better third-down conversion rate, averaged less time of possession and gained fewer yards per offensive play. They still went 11-5.

Despite the quick 17-0 lead over Jacksonville last Sunday, they were outscored 102-70 in the first quarter.

Reggie Wayne ended up the third leading receiver, and didn't play in the last nine games.

Donald Brown had the longest run from scrimmage this season. The player with the next longest was Darrius Heyward-Bey.

The Colts scored 24.4 points a game. Of the 11 other playoff teams, 10 had higher averages. Only Carolina was lower.

Indianapolis went 6-0 against the AFC South by an average winning margin of 15 points. The Colts could have taken the division with a 7-9 record, so long as they still won all six South games.

Andrew Luck had 10 fourth-quarter or overtime winning drives in his first 24 pro games. None in his last eight. The average winning margin of those eight games was 17.75.

Nobody has confused the Indianapolis rushing game with a machine, but the Colts have rushed for 100 yards in 10 games this season, the most in seven years.

Indianapolis had the fewest penalties in the league — one every 14½ minutes.

The Colts are 15-2 in one-possession games the past two years, by far the best in the NFL. But they only played in one the last six weeks of the season.

Robert Mathis led the NFL with 19.5 sacks. That was only 11.5 fewer than the entire Jacksonville team.

Kansas City and San Francisco each had eight players named to the Pro Bowl. Indianapolis had only one, Mathis. The Colts beat them both. The Cleveland Browns, who finished 4-12 and got their coach fired, had five.

The Colts have now gone 35 games without consecutive defeats and will start 2014 having never endured them with Chuck Pagano as coach or Andrew Luck as quarterback. The last consecutive defeat was Dec. 11, 2011. Pagano was defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, and Luck was preparing to lead Stanford against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Colts lost four fumbles all season, fewest in the NFL. At the other end of the list, the Denver Broncos coughed up 16.

Indianapolis had an NFL-low 14 turnovers. The New York Giants had 44.

The early careers of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck continued to follow similar roads. Both threw precisely the same number of touchdown passes their second seasons as they did their rookie years — Manning 26, Luck 23. Both significantly cut down their interceptions — Manning from 28 to 15, Luck from 18 to nine. But one got hit a lot more than the other. Luck was sacked 32 times his second season. Manning only 14.

The Colts have won 11 playoff games since moving to Indianapolis. Three of the 11 — 27 percent of the total — have come against one team. The Kansas City Chiefs.

By Saturday kickoff, the Colts will have gone 1,440 days without winning a playoff game. The last victory was the AFC Championship Game win over the New York Jets in January of 2010. Their leading passer, rusher, receiver and tackler from that game are all gone. For that matter, so are the head coach and the general manager.

"All we did," Pagano said of his regime, "was make a decision that we weren't going to live in circumstances. We were going to live in vision."

It would seem they have seen clearly enough, even if some of their numbers are blind.