Following the San Fran game, announcers everywhere proclaimed Indy a 'run-first' offense, despite their utterly unbalanced strategy going into Jacksonville and Seattle. I mean, they ran the ball well, but the basis of Indy's offense was always Luck to Wayne, or Luck to Hilton. The run game only served to compliment the pass.
And suddenly, the NFL got it right – and Indy got it wrong.
As illustrated by ESPN's Kevin Seifert, Indy ran a very balanced offense on Monday, forcing them into tough third-down plays and often resulting in complete stops … while instead, they should have been letting Andrew Luck shine.
Watching the Indianapolis Colts at Qualcomm Stadium was a lesson in excessive patience. It was downright maddening to see the Colts, armed with a quarterback who is vaulting into the NFL's highest echelon of superstars, achieve an unnecessary balance Monday night — one that contributed to a wholly avoidable 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
It became a routine: Indy would run or throw short on first down, and then do the opposite on second. Were I playing San Diego's defense, I could evenly predict almost every play Indianapolis ran after their first drive. See the flea flicker? That was unpredictable. Also, it worked.
Is Pep Hamilton specifically trying to fight what works?
I don't blame Indy's players for what happened on Monday. They were clearly tired – playing West Coast games every other week, traveling a distance even for divisional games, and unable to get a bye until week 8 – so they were bound to look sluggish. The defense had a tough time constantly coming onto the field after Indy's offense faltered, so their strong start quickly dissolved.
They could have played better, but bad playcalling doomed the Colts.
On Monday, Indy punted on 4th and 1, 3, 8, 3, and 2. Most criminal was, in the third quarter – and with their defense seriously struggling to find air – Indy drove to San Diego's 40 yard line, and were faced with 4th and 3. Instead of trying to give their defense a break, Indy punted 30 yards. San Diego went for a nine-minute drive and made it a 2-score game as a result.
This one's on you, Pep. Better step things up next week.