The Colts entered their week 15 match-up with the Houston Texans controlling their fate in the AFC South: win out, and they would reclaim their place atop the division. The game didn't turn into the blowout that many – including myself – predicted it would be, as the Colts were able to keep it close, cutting the lead to 6 for a good portion of the second half – before finally succumbing to their mistakes.
And really, it's their mistakes – and some questionable refereeing – that we should focus on here. Sure, the Colts were unable to stop Andre Johnson early, and JJ Watt gave them fits all day, but a Mewelde Moore fumble on the goal line, a blocked punt for a TD, countless questionable coaching decisions, and 8 penalties were more than enough to make up the difference in a 9-point game.
Where do the Colts go from here? Well, most likely, it's still to the playoffs. They still have to win one of their last two games – either at Kansas City or at home against the Texans in week 17 – to make it official, but, barring a disaster, that will happen. The more alarming issue for this Colts team is that they've yet to play a complete game all year, instead putting together enough brilliant flashes to overcome a series of sub par opponents. One has to wonder if the Colts will be able to put together a 60-minute game this season. If they hope to be anything more than a nice story and one-and-done in the playoffs, they'll likely have to.
The Indianapolis Colts will likely win multiple division titles during the Andrew Luck Era. They were hoping the first of those titles would come in 2012. Penalties, mental mistakes, and poor coaching were all that stood in their way. The youth that had carried them to 9 wins prevented them from getting their 10th. But, it was only a speed bump, not the end of the road, and if these Colts have taught us anything, nothing is over until it's over.
After the Jump, we'll do some quick thoughts:
Quick Thoughts, The Good:
- Vick Ballard had his best game as a Colt. Hard, decisive running lead to 105 yards on 18 carries (5.8ypc) against a very good Texans run defense. I've been hard on Ballard of late, saying he gets the yards that are blocked, but today he broke tackles, made cuts, and was the best player on the Colts offense. If he can continue to develop and progress like this, he's more than capable of being the Colts starting RB next year.
- The Colts OL, as a unit, was bad, but Anthony Castonzo continues to be good. Sure, he struggled with JJ Watt on a couple of plays, but who doesn't. Overall, the 2nd-year LT's performance should give Grigson and the Colts front office confidence heading into the off-season, they'll have to acquire a lot of talent along the OL, but the hardest, most expensive position to fill seems set for a long time.
- TY Hilton continues to impress. He got loose for a 61-yard TD today, and continues to run nice short and intermediate routes, as well. His ability to make things happen after the catch is going to play a huge part in the Colts offense as they attempt to avoid the pass rush with short throws.
- His stat line wasn't very good: 13/27, 186 yards, 2 TDs, but I thought Andrew Luck played well. It's hard to be a dominant QB when you're unable to set your feet and throw. People talk about balls sailing, high throws, bad reads, etc… I believe all of this starts with the OL's inability to block. Once that's taken care of, I expect Luck to become one of the most dominant, dynamic QBs in the NFL.
- The defense played well after the first quarter. They bottled up Arian Foster (I don't care about his garbage time stats) and they were able to adapt to the bootleg by ignoring the hand-off action and attacking Schaub. The defense made enough plays to keep the Colts in it and give their offense a chance to win it.
Quick Thoughts, The Bad:
- The offensive line continues to be an issue. McGlynn and Linkenbach were especially bad, getting abused by Watt with regularity. The offense as a whole will only be as good as the OL allows them to be, and the past few weeks, they've limited it to "not very good."
- The officiating was very iffy for the 2nd week in a row. Drive-sustaining penalties, no holdings, questionable calls (and non-calls) in the secondary, Jeff Triplette's crew will not be getting a Christmas card from the Colts. Worse, Triplette's calls were delivered with no confidence and Triplette came off as unsure and doubting the words as they came out of his mouth.
Quick Thoughts, The Ugly:
- Bruce Arians had a bad game. His decision to give Mewelde Moore 4 carries, all on the Texans side of the field, were mind-numbing, and Moore's fumble at the Texans' 1-yard line was disastrous. His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a Texans punt return put Houston in field goal range and robbed the Colts defense of a chance to keep it a 1-score game. And finally, his offensive decision making continues to be questionable, at best, and he's lacked awareness in his own offense's strength and how the opposing defense is adapting to them.