(Photo Credits – Left: Indianapolis Colts Official Instagram Account; Right: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Today, the Colts came into East Rutherford, New Jersey with high hopes and expectations against the Jets after last week’s furious and emotional comeback victory over the Packers. Many have wondered what this team can do if they put together two halves of the kind of football they played in the second half against Green Bay and in the first halves against Jacksonville and Minnesota. This time, however, Indianapolis continued to struggle throughout the second half, failing to capitalize when the defense forced two consecutive three and outs to start the 3rd quarter. We will have to wait another week to see if Andrew Luck and company can play a solid game for 60 minutes.
The game against the Jets started off in promising fashion, with two decent drives by the Colts’ offense, sandwiched around a brilliant three and out series by the defense. The first play of the game was a 12 yard pass from Luck to Dwayne Allen to start a methodical 40 yard drive. On 3rd and 1, Luck’s pass was out of reach of Allen, and Indianapolis punted from the Jets’ 40 yard line. While some may not be a fan of punting on 4th and short in enemy territory (including yours truly), the colts made it work in their favor, downing the punt at the Jets’ 3 yard line.
The Colts defense came on the field and held up strongly, forcing a 3 and out with good pressure on Sanchez on 3rd down, getting Luck and the offense back on the field in good position after the punt.
Indianapolis quickly drove 57 yards to the New York 2 yard line. Things were looking good. On 3rd and goal, Luck’s pass for tight end Coby Fleener was overthrown, the second drive to end in a 3rd down overthrow of a tight end. They settled for a three point chip shot from Adam Vinetieri, making Met Life Stadium the 38th different NFL stadium in which AV has made a field goal (per CBS). Still, with the offense looking good and the defense looking great, albeit for three plays, a 3-0 lead in the first quarter looked like the start of a strong, winnable game for the Colts.
Before the 1st quarter ended, though, the wheels started to fall off. The Jets’ second possession of the game was a 6 minute 80 yard touchdown drive. Cory Redding went down with a knee injury, and the Indianapolis run defense began to struggle. Suddenly, the unit that had looked so stout on the Jets’ 3 yard line was having trouble finding an answer for Shonn Greene and company. New York racked up 57 rushing yards on the drive, capping it off with a short touchdown pass from Sanchez to Stephen Hill at the beginning of the 2nd quarter.
That drive was the start of a 21 point second quarter explosion by the New York Jets, who had only scored 17 in their previous nine quarters of play. The Colts never recovered. Andrew Luck started off nicely, but ended up 9/17 for 97 yards and a pick in the first half, finishing the game 22/44 for 280 yards and 2 interceptions. Reggie struggled to get open, eventually finishing with 5 catches for 87 yards, mostly after the game was out of reach. Costanzo, Linkenbach, and the rest of the offensive line had a terrible time with the Jets’ pass rush for the entire game.
The positives: Jerrell Freeman had another impressive game with 14 tackles. Jerry Hughes was everywhere, racking up 8 tackles and a sack. He managed to get in Sanchez’s face quite a bit and charged in for a big hit to force an incompletion in the first half. While the defense struggled overall, giving up 35 points and 252 rushing yards, Freeman and Hughes kept playing well. That being said, it’s probably not a good thing when a couple of backups are your best defensive players.
The negatives: Andrew Luck looked like a rookie today. He had a 51.3 quarterback rating and no touchdowns. I wouldn’t be too disheartened by this. It was bound to happen eventually. The kid is resilient. He is being asked to carry a heavy load on a team that doesn’t have a ton of talent and is struggling mightily on defense. On top of all that, the whole team is struggling with a sad and strange situation with their head coach lying in a hospital fighting leukemia. So we should expect the young quarterback to have some tough games, especially in hostile environments.
The outlook: I think the outlook is still good. The emotional highs of winning for Chuck last week have worn off. They are back to the grind. Their coach is still fighting for his life. Emotion can only carry a team so far (I bet you’ve heard that a few times, but it’s true). This team had a couple chances to take control in the 1st quarter, and a couple chances to stop the bleeding in the 3rd. Often the difference between a blowout and a competitive game comes down to a few early plays. These young Colts never looked like they had given up. They kept fighting, and that's what you want to see. Next week, it’s the Cleveland Browns back in the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. If the Colts can rely on their resilience and football fundamentals, we should see a much better game against the Browns.
Let's move on and hope for a better storyline at this time next week.
-Just a quick note, if you'd like a more, um, emotionally charged recount of the game, more talk about just what fans were thinking as we watched this thing unfold, check out Greg Cowan's Colts Authority Radio Postgame Show.
-Also, if you would like to watch the low-lights, here is ESPN's Sunday Blitz Colts-Jets "Highlights" segment from Youtube: