Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Colts Observations, Week 6 vs. Chargers

Well, that sucked. The Colts and Andrew Luck were supposed to explode onto the national stage. Well, they exploded all right. Actually, the correct term is imploded. Indy looked sluggish and confused in all phases of the game in front of the national Monday Night Football audience. A crisp opening drive in which the Colts settled for a field goal was about the only real highlight.

Good opening act. After the Chargers got flagged for offsides on the first play of the game, the Colts went into their bag of tricks with a flea flicker that resulted in a big gain to Ageless Reggie Wayne. Great play call given that everyone thought Trent Richardson would run it on 1st and 5.

Just drop it already. The offense couldn't get anything going after that opening drive. The Colts never sniffed the endzone the rest of the game. The biggest problem? Dropped passes. Off the top of my head, the following Colts had drops in key situations: T.Y. Hilton, Trent Richardson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Coby Fleener, and (gasp!) Reggie Wayne. DHB let a long pass glance off his fingertips, Wayne dropped one that would've picked up a key first down, and the pass Fleener dropped would've probably resulted in a big gain and possibly a touchdown.

Where's the pass rush? The Chargers did a good job of protecting Philip Rivers and Rivers did a good job of getting the ball out fast. Cory Redding and Kelvin Sheppard were both credited with sacks, but Rivers wasn't under constant pressure and didn't have to worry about much of a rush all evening.

Time of possession. A Chargers team that hasn't run the ball very well all season kept grinding away. They churned up 147 rushing yards, and just about every time Ryan Mathews or Danny Woodhead touched the ball, they managed a positive gain. A lot of players whiffed on tackles, took bad angles, or were simply out of position to make a play. These positive plays allowed San Diego to rule the time of possession battle by a wide margin, 38:31 to 21:29.

1,000 receptions. Ageless Reggie Wayne caught five passes for 88 yards, leaving him with 1,001 receptions for his career and cementing, statistically, his position among the all-time greats. He's had a tremendous career in Indianapolis and re-signed with the team despite the roster disintegration of a couple seasons ago. Despite the milestone, I bet Reggie would've rather walked out of San Diego with a win.

Richardson review. Trent Richardson seemed to find a little more running room against San Diego, although the Colts didn't really stick with much of a running game (offense wasn't exactly their forte this week in general). Richardson carried 10 times for 40 yards, good for a 4.0 yards per carry average. He also caught a pass for 13 yards that left a few Chargers with some severe bruising. And, of course, Richardson had his share of unproductive carries and also dropped a pass on a screen play that looked like it could get Indy out of a field position hole.

Third down "efficiency." The Colts were 2-10 on third down, well below their season average. We saw some drops in key situations, and they had a hard time sustaining drives and finding an offensive rhythm. Meantime, on defense, the Colts allowed the Chargers 7 conversions on 14 attempts (50%). It felt like Indy couldn't stay on the field on offense or get off the field on defense.

Adam Vinatieri. Look, I love Vinny. But when he's really the sole highlight of the game, you've got problems. He hit from 30, 50 and 51 yards (the two long field goals tell you that Indy didn't move the ball very far).

Field goals. The only thing that remotely kept the Colts in the game was the inability of San Diego to find the endzone. The Colts surrendered one touchdown and four field goals, but the cumulative effect of long drives left the defense tired and the offense frustrated.

Costly penalties. On three different occasions, the Colts committed a penalty on third down that allowed a Chargers drive to continue.

The long drives. The Chargers had four drives of 10+ plays. One of those drives lasted more than nine minutes. The defense was clearly tired.

Still at the top of the division, but... With losses by the Texans and Titans this week, the Horseshoes had a shot at taking a two-game lead in the AFC South. Instead, they'll have to settle for a one-game lead as they face down the Denver Broncos next week. I hear their quarterback is pretty good.

Crappy punting. After a few lackluster punts, perhaps Pat McAfee should put less emphasis on the Pat McAfee Show and focus more on punting. He's one of the best in the league, but he's uncorked some awful punts this year.

4th and 3. The Colts were driving a little bit in the third quarter. The drive stalled at the San Diego 40, and they faced a 4th and 3 situation. The Colts decided to punt. I think they should've gone for it, but hindsight's 20-20. After the punt, San Diego had a soul-crushing drive that took more than nine minutes off the clock. It ended in a field goal.

And then they punted again. Toward the end of the game, the Colts were backed up and faced a 4th and 2 situation. With about three minutes left, they had three timeouts and the two-minute warning. They again decided to punt it away, hoping desperately that the defense would hold. McAfee's punt went only 35 yards, landing at San Diego's 48. In the ensuing drive, the Colts would give up a 15-yard run on 1st and 15. Nick Novak would eventually kick the 50-yard field goal that proved to be the nail in the coffin.

Still in it. Despite the lackluster performance, the Colts kept the game close. After a first half clearly dominated by the Chargers, Indy trailed only 10-6. Late in the game, they were within a touchdown of tying things up, although scoring a touchdown seemed a Herculean feat by that point in the game.

Freeman out. Jerrell Freeman suffered a concussion and a cut chin, and left the game. Mario Harvey and Kelvin Sheppard took over for Freeman. Harvey was a definite liability in pass coverage.