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With a 55 point loss coming on Sunday, changes need to be made, that much is clear.
What the Colts did well against the Saints was minuscule, and Jim Irsay and Colts' fans shouldn't, and won't, let it go without consequence. As the blame game begins (or rather just intensifies), I'd like to take a special look at the Sunday Night matchup against the Saints. We'd seen this team compete for six weeks prior to this game, and there was nothing like this.
Sure, Week One was bad, but there was excuses then. Since that game, the Colts had played in very winnable games for five weeks in a row, but just couldn't pull it off. Something would go wrong, without fail. But facing the Saints Sunday night looked like none of those games, and somebody's head is going to roll because of it. So who is to blame for the worst loss in Indianapolis history?
Some could cling to the idea that luck, or lack there of, continues to plague the Colts. Once again, the Colts suffered from two fumbles, one being a mishandled snap, and the injuries at key defensive positions were again cause for cringing. And it just would be the 2011 Colts' luck to draw the Saints one week after they suffered an embarrassing loss to a still questionable Tampa Bay team. But all teams encounter some bad luck.
Guess how many teams have given up a loss like that one? Eight. You could try to blame the players, seeing as how they didn't play well. At all.
You could point to Curtis Painter, who's play much more closely resembled the preseason than it did the last three games. You could point to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who have now gotten stifled by the oppenent's offensive tackles. But, at least the players are putting forth a full effort. And on defense, the players are doing what they're taught/coached to do.
Some will try to lay blame on the Polians for failing to get talent on the field. It obviously didn't look like there was much talent on that team Sunday night. But we've seen this exact same team go out and compete in the last few weeks, even with all of the injury problems. Besides, losses this bad are an aberration, there's no team in the league with that little talent to warrant 55 point losses. The Polians have brought talent in, but injuries and the loss of the single most important player in league history have severely distorted the makeup of this team.
In reality, the truth combines all sorts of factors, but that doesn't take blame away from the biggest culprits: the Indianapolis coaching staff. There were so many things wrong with Sunday's game that I hardly know where to start, but I'll try.
First, what in the world are the coaches thinking in regards to this secondary? This entire season has been one giant mistake after another. First, they stuck with Jacob Lacey as the #2 corner through training camp. As fans and media scrutinized this, it seemed certain that Justin Tryon would leapfrog him by the time the regular season came around. But alas, when Week One hit us, Lacey continued to be the starter, with Tryon getting minimal time.
Apparently, the coaches didn't like Tryon's attitude, although there was plenty of confusion whether Coyer or Caldwell was the one who had the problem with him. With Caldwell saying at his press conference, "If I wanted him here, he'd be here," I'm leaning toward the latter.
However, the Tryon Saga isn't the only mishandling of the secondary this season, I'm more interested/frustrated with what happened afterwards. The Colts started going musical chairs on us, Rotating between UFDA's Jacob Lacey (third year) and Terrence Johnson (rookie), and sixth round rookie Chris Rucker, all while leaving second year pro and former 3rd round draft pick Kevin Thomas inactive.
As I've said numerous times, I don't have any idea why Thomas continued to be inactive when it seemed like he had potential to help the secondary. Then, out of the blue, the Colts' took notice, and went 180 degrees in their approach starting Kevin Thomas against the Saints. Thomas has been inactive all season, and was injured all last season, he'd never played in an NFL game until Sunday night.
\Instead of easing him in, the Colts decided to just throw him into a starting role, against the best passing offense in the league (arguably). I don't understand their thinking process at all. If Thomas starting is really the Colts' best chance of winning, then why has he not even been active for the past six weeks? Not only have the personnel issues been glaring in the secondary, but Larry Coyer's defensive scheme has been awful. Anybody saying that Coyer shouldn't be blamed for Sunday's debacle is ridiculously misinformed. Coyer has taken a team who has been historically good against the pass, and turned it into a joke. From 2005-2008, the Colts' defense was top 10 in Average Net Yards/Attempt, arguably the most important pass metric, three times and 13th during 2006. Since Coyer has been in Indianapolis, the defense has gone from 4th, to 16th, to 31st in the league. It was the same situation in Denver, as the pass defense gradually got worse for Coyer.
As Nate Dunlevy expertly pointed out, Coyer has transformed a simple Tampa-2 into a confusing mess, one in which none of the secondary has any idea what's going on. Zones are consistently mishandled, whether it be by the inexperienced linebackers, the young cornerbacks, or the Caldwell/Lefeged safety duo. The Colts continue to run a zone coverage that calls for the cornerbacks to give up a 10 yard cushion, even though that almost always ends in a completed pass, even in the REDZONE.
Why there would ever be any reason to give up 10 yards in the redzone is so far beyond me, I can't even express it. From 2003-2008, the Colts were in the top 5 in turnover differential every single year but 2003, where they were 6th.
Since Caldwell and Coyer took over, the Colts have been 12th, 18th, and 25th. That's a reflection of both the defense and the offense. The Colts have been 18th, 28th, and 30th in takeaways the last three years, while they were 7th, 8th, 2nd, and 13th in the three years prior. In giveaways, they were top 6 from 2004-2008, but 5th, 12th, and 18th in Caldwell's reign.
In regards to Sunday night's game, the offense opened up with a no huddle, even though that seemed to go against all conventional logic when facing a team with a high-powered passing offense on the road, in a dome game. Instead of turning the game into a grinder, neutralizing the crowd and keeping Drew Brees off the field, the Colts went no huddle, and proceeded to get nowhere.
Even though the run game has been the positive all season, and continued to be so on Sunday, the Colts didn't try to grind it out. I don't know why. And while the pre-game preparation and game plan was bad, there was no attempt to change anything mid-game.
Caldwell and his staff continue to be completely inept when it comes to in game management, and continued their infuriating, conservative ways as well. Despite being down big early, the Colts never went for it on fourth down. NEVER. The Colts were inadequately prepared and managed for this game, and it resulted in the worst loss in team history. This coaching staff deserves no more chances. I know I've seen more than enough. We could add more and more to these points, but I think we get the picture.
No more chances.