The Indianapolis Colts (1-2) entered their week 3 match-up with divisional rival Jacksonville with a opportunity to go into their week 4 BYE week with a share of the AFC South lead. Instead, after a late Adam Vinatieri FG gave them a 1-point lead with under a minute left to go, poor coaching decisions and execution, and a Cecil Shorts III 80-yard touchdown left them at 1-2 with more questions than answers.
On offense, the OL performed well, for their standards, allowing only a single QB sack, and providing Andrew Luck with the time he needed to find the open receiver. Luck, for his part, continued to display the calmness and poise Colts fans have come to expect from him. And when the Colts coaching staff wasn’t tying his hands, Luck led the Colts on effective, impressive scoring drives.
On defense, the Colts continued their inconsistent play, holding perennial all-pro QB Blaine Gabbert to 155 yards on 10-21 passing, while allowing Colts-Killer-Extraordinaire RB Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 177 yards on 28 carries, including a 59-yard TD run.
The Colts young, inconsistent talent has a lot of growing and learning to do during their week 4 BYE week. The same could be said for the coaching staff, especially OC Bruce Arians, who has, to this point, demonstrated a total lack of understanding, both for the lack of talent along his OL, as well as the wealth of talent he has at WR, RB, and TE. If the Colts, both their players and coaches, can learn from their early-season mistakes, they can likely grow into a 6-7 win team. If not? The 1-4 win team that many experts predicted in April may be an unfortunate reality.
Quick Thoughts, the Good:
- Andrew Luck continued to look good. His pocket awareness was amazing, his ability to make plays with his feet is above average, and his 1st-half touchdown to TY Hilton will go on his rookie highlight reel. The only thing holding Luck back at this point is a below average offensively line and, more importantly, a coaching staff that doesn’t understand how to properly utilize their supremely-talented QB.
- TY Hilton had a good game: 4 catches for 113 yards and a TD receiving, one 26-yard return on kick-offs, and 4 returns for 29 yards on punt returns. We had high hopes for Hilton coming out of the preseason, today was the first step towards him fulfilling those hopes and expectations.
- Reggie Wayne had a bad drop/fumble, but still caught 8 of 15 targets for 88 yards. Through 3 games he’s been the consistent pass catching option that Luck has needed. He’ll have to continue this level of performance and production if the Colts offense is going to find any sort of consistent success.
- Jerrell Freeman didn’t force a turnover in this game, but he was still a presence inside. His play through 3 weeks has made the absence of Pat Angerer a little more tolerable. In fact, the play of Freeman, as well as Kavell Conner, has made the return of Angerer against Green Bay an intriguing topic. Have both Freeman and Conner played well enough to prevent Angerer from regaining his starting job? At 1-2, with an inconsistent defense our guess is no, but the Colts’ defensive woes can hardly be blamed on the play of their ILBs.
- This is more of “grading on the curve” than anything, but the Colts OL played its best game of the year. The unit allowed only 1 sack (and 6!!! QB hits), but, in general, provided Luck and company enough time to execute the plays. That C Samson Satele was forced to exit the game in the 2nd half is concerning, but perhaps today’s game is an indication that, with some heath and time to gel, this OL can be closer to average than the “putrid” they had been displaying in recent weeks.
Quick Thoughts, the Bad:
- Why draft two tight ends if you’re not going to utilize them? It’s true that Dwayne Allen caught 5 of 6 targets for 35 yards, but Coby Fleener again went unnoticed, notching 0 catches on 2 targets for 0 yards. In theory, drafting Fleener and Allen made sense, but only if the Colts planned on featuring and utilizing both tight ends to the fullest of their abilities. In the current scheme and play calling, both seem like wasted draft picks. Hopefully Arians and company can better learn to utilize the talent they have on the team.
- The defense continues to remain inconsistent. I know I took some flack for this last week, but the fact that Jags’ QB Blaine Gabbert completed less than 50% of his passes (10/21), but the Colts still allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 177 yards on 28 carries (6.3 YPC) and 1 TD is embarrassing. I wrote prior to today’s game that the Colts main focus should have been to force Gabbert to beat them. Based on his play today, that would have been a sound strategy. Instead, the new Colts defense emulated the old Colts defense and was consistently gashed by the Jaguars running game.
- The Cecil Shorts III TD after the Colts took a 17-16 lead was indefensible. How the Colts could be in a defense that didn’t include deep safety help is beyond my understanding. True, the Jaguars needed only a FG to win, but the Colts should have forced Gabbert to prove that he could march his team down the field to set up that FG, instead of allowing a cheap 80-yard catch-and-run TD. The Colts won’t be good enough to make the playoffs, and this play is a great illustration of why. Yes, the team lacks the talent necessary to make the post season, but their coaching staff also lacks the understanding and experience required to put its players in the best position to succeed.
Quick Thoughts, the Ugly:
- A week ago we were hesitant to put the coaching staff in this spot, hoping that they would learn from their mistakes in the face of an improbable late-game win against the Vikings. A stunning late-game loss against the Jaguars later, however, and we’re more than willing – eager, in fact – to call this coaching staff out. Andrew Luck is the best part of the Colts offense. The willingness of the Colts coaching staff to neuter Luck at the first sight of a leads amazing… stunning… dumbfounding. This Colts team, their young roster and their young coaching staff, should be learning how to win. Instead, they are learning how to give away leads, how to play to lose, and how to not close out teams. We had hoped the Vikings game was a wake up call for Pagano and company, perhaps today’s loss to the Jaguars will do the trick.