Luck Fisher Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Colts Fall Hard Against St Louis 38-8

Remember never to be too high on a team after they win or too low after a loss.  It’s just one game, with an early chance at redemption on Thursday.  And now the bad news:
Watching this game, as with many of the Colts’ first halves, one can’t help but to wonder what this team’s film sessions are like.  They talked about the Rams’ pass rush.  Did they devise any ways to slow it down?  Did they add any wrinkles to the offense that work against the opposition’s weaknesses, get some safety help against the Rams’ speedy rookie receiver, or adjust when things weren’t going right?  And so on. 

Indianapolis repeatedly appeared to treat their weaknesses as strengths: the shaky interior line blocking, kick returns, little help for the tackles against two great edge rushers, a struggling cornerback on an island against a deep threat.  Certainly, with anything, there’s more than meets the eye, but today’s game didn’t pass the eye test.

Later in the game, they did take advantage of the Rams prevent coverage for an impressive scoring drive in the 3rd quarter, but only after a slew of mistakes and bad breaks got them to that point – and only after throwing a pick as they tried to force it deep against the same coverage.    

The Colts’ first drive of the game ended when Rams DE Robert Quinn got to Andrew Luck almost as soon as he caught the snap for a fumble.  Chris Long recovered and took it to the end zone.  7-0 Rams

Here are the Colts’ drives:

Fumble/TD, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt

Can’t we get something besides punts???

Interception, Interception

Sorry I said anything.

Touchdown?  Okay, probably not a comeback in the making, but…screw sensibility, this is comeback time.  Get ready to witness history…..

Turnover on downs, Interception, Interception, End of game.  It wasn’t comeback time. 

When it goes this wrong, everyone contributes to the debacle. 

- The punt coverage

- David Reed being David Reed (take a knee, buddy)

- Darrius Heyward-Bey’s huge third down drop

- T.Y. Hilton tripping on a likely touchdown catch

- Luck’s overthrows

- Throwing into double coverage

- Vontae Davis looking strangely slow

- (Insert any name or phase of the game here)

Two things stood out to me early on.  First, late in the opening quarter, down by just a touchdown, the Colts defense took advantage of a mistake by the Rams, a botched handoff, and Cassius Vaughn recovered the fumble (Antoine Bethea seemed to kind of co-recover it as well).  Colts ball at their own 8 – the only poor field position that wasn’t a direct result of a kick return (again, take a knee, buddy). 

This could have been a pivotal point in the game.  The Colts came out in their power formation.  Incomplete, incomplete, 3rd and 10 at the 8-yard line.  Pep Hamilton dialed up a…draw to fullback Stanley Havili.  Havili got a yard.  On third and long, no matter how terrible your field position is, if you have an elite quarterback, you put the ball in his hands.  That one-yard run was a white flag.  It told the offense, “We don’t trust you.”  That’s a more powerful message than people might realize. 

A potential pivotal moment wasted.  To that point, the defense had kept Indianapolis in the game with a Herculean effort.  After that punt, the wheels came off.  St. Louis’s next drive went for a touchdown, and the route, though we didn’t realize it yet, was on. 

The Colts followed up with a somewhat better drive, but had to punt again.  Rams rookie Tavon Austin waved his teammates away from the ball as it bounced toward the endzone.  Indy’s punt unit seemed to think he was waving for a fair catch.  He was not.  98 yards.  Touchdown.  21-0 Rams. 

The other thing that stood out was Chuck Pagano’s decision not to call any timeouts to try to get the ball back near the end of the first half.  St. Louis had the ball with 3:21 left, and the Colts coaches elected to allow them to run out the clock instead of trying for one more possession.  To Pagano’s credit, he was down 28-0, but it’s difficult to abide by not trying to win at all times. 

The second half began with some hope before a quick 81-yard TD to Austin.  35-0.The Colts came out in a no-huddle, but little changed other than more turnovers and more conservative play calling from St. Louis. 

Players and coaches will talk about having a short memory after the loss.  There are, however, several things about this one they should remember.  They need to remember what went wrong.   They need to remember that it’s not always about executing the play better.  It’s also about finding the best play in the first place – setting up the players for success.  These guys, despite what fans and observers see at times, are professionals.  They won’t forget what happened today. 

A few quick notes:

- Robert Mathis now has 13.5 sacks.  He tried to carry the team in the first half but had little help. 

- It is starting to hurt more and more that the Colts didn’t draft a wide receiver this year.  They passed on Keenan Allen, and DeAndre Hopkins.  Outside of Hilton, who didn’t have a great game, no one has stepped up.   

- Indy’s running backs had 10 carries for 1 yard.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore. (Correction: 9 carries for 2 yards.  I still don't want to talk about it – MD)

- Pat McAfee, who played well, didn't have to punt in the second half.  Normally, that would be a good thing. 

- Donald Brown, despite a lousy day rushing, overcame bad screen blocking for a couple impressive plays, including his 13-yard touchdown with Rams defenders everywhere. 

- Thank goodness this wasn’t an AFC South game (h/t reader Chip Bennett). 

It was only one game.  People want to crown a team after a great win and dismiss them after a bad loss.  This was about as total a defeat as we’ve seen in recent years, but it’s not the end of the world. 

There are serious issues and weaknesses they need to address, and they have just four days to figure it out.  Thursday night the Colts travel to Nashville to take on the Titans, who are coming off their shocking loss to the Jaguars.  Any given Sunday, indeed.  

Marcus Dugan

About Marcus Dugan

Marcus is a husband, dad, twitter aficionado, and life-long Hoosier who became a casual Colts fan in the early 90s before going all-in during the 8-8 '94 season. He covers news, game recaps, and additional offseason material for The Colts Authority and works as a real estate broker west of Indianapolis.

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