Monday, December 9, 2013

Colts Observations: Week 14 vs. Bengals

Peyton wins the AFC South...again. Peyton Manning put this team on his shoulders and delivered another trademark performance, beating AFC South rival Tennessee for another division title. The headline could've come from pretty much any season from 2002 through 2010, though a few things have changed since then. Like, Peyton plays for the Broncos now.

The Colts just sucked less than the other teams. The Houston Texans imploded. The Titans are mediocre. The Jaguars managed to win four more games than anyone thought possible. Basically, the Colts play in a weak division and got off to a great start...that's the sole reason they've "won" a division title. Would've been nice to clinch it on their own, but I guess it still counts. Kind of.

Flat. Do the Colts eat Thanksgiving dinner before the games start? Their putrid offensive and defensive performances to start the last several games have been absolutely embarrassing. It's like they take a nap in the first half to rest up for the second half. Clearly, the team has no idea why this is happening and has done nothing to stop it. I'd suggest upping the tempo on offense right out of the gate and playing with a sense of urgency. Just a thought.

They hang their hat on defense! The Chuck Pagano Era will hang its hat on defense. No more of this "soft" defense and "finesse" offense. Yet, the Colts defense has been terrible since the Denver game. Vontae Davis is part of a balanced breakfast every week (toast). Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn are defensive holding penalties just waiting to happen. Even if you gave him a bed sheet, LaRon Landry couldn't cover anything. The usually reliable Antoine Bethea has struggled as well. But it's not all on the can't ask guys to keep covering receivers while the quarterback sits in a clean pocket and grabs a Kindle to read a few pages before finding a wide open receiver. No pass rush = crappy secondary play. It's a vicious cycle of dysfunctional parts.

You're fired, Kelvin Sheppard. The Outstanding Moron Award this week goes to Kelvin Sheppard, who buried Marvin Jones for a three-yard loss on a running play and then decided to taunt him, a display of pure unadulterated machismo that cost the Colts 15 yards and swung the momentum at a key point in the game. The Bengals ended up scoring on the drive to go ahead 35-14. Taunting your opponent is stupid when you're down by two touchdowns; even dumber when said penalty pushes that lead to three touchdowns.

And then LaRon Landry ripped off a guy's helmet. You can, in fact, tackle guys without ripping off their helmets. I've seen it happen. It strikes me that Landry is Bob Sanders without the likability. I keep hearing announcers tell me how much he affects a game, yet the Colts defense keeps surrendering points. So, what's the deal with this guy?

Jeff Triplette either has X-ray vision or he's an idiot. Look, if BenJarvus-Green-Ellis-Cumberbatch's plunge into the endzone is originally ruled a touchdown and the referee reverses it when there aren't really any definitive camera angles, that would be wrong. It is then equally wrong for the ruling of down by contact to be reversed when there is no clear video evidence that he was not touched. The NFL uses the phrase "indisputable video evidence" all the time. Did I see a definitive angle showing me that Josh Chapman got a paw on the runner's foot? Kind of (later still shots were much more definitive than the actual video). Did I see a definitive angle showing me that he didn't touch the runner's foot? Absolutely not. The call should have stood as ruled on the field. I would say this even if this call went the other way (i.e., a touchdown is ruled originally and then called back).

This was an egregious example of an official failing to follow the league's own mandates. There is nothing on the tape showing, with 100% clarity, that Green-Ellis stumbled on his own. He was ruled down by contact, and it should've remained down by contact. I don't think the call made that huge of a difference--Andy Dalton and the Bengals scored at will on the Colts--but it was flat-out wrong. Shockingly, mind-numbingly wrong. Triplette deserves a suspension for that call and his crew's blunder in the Washington game last week. Or, as Boomer "Mr. Bengal" Esiason, suggested, perhaps Triplette should be permanently relieved of his duties.

Trent Richardson watch. He carried six times for 20 yards, including an eight-yard (!) run. Still, the average was his pedestrian 3.3 YPC. He was active in the passing game! In garbage time! Actually, I thought he had his best game as a Colt, even though that's like saying this guy had his best day as a henchman:

The new receivers. While the game provided few positives, at least Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill showed something. With a couple of big, tackle-breaking receptions, they nearly got the Colts back into the game. Neither can replace Reggie Wayne (DUH!), but together, they just might supplant Darrius Heyward-Bey. Hell, Rogers had more touchdowns in his one game than DHB has all season. Chew on that. Speaking of which...

And you shall be known as Featherstone. After seeing DHB let another one go right through his hands, I'm reminded of the great Featherstone from Necessary Roughness. I think the character was actually based on the Colts receiver. Check out the Featherstone montage about 50 seconds in:

300+ yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions. Andrew Luck's day looked good on paper. It was awful to watch on TV. Oh, he was also the team's leading rusher--the team with the power running game, mind you--with 32 yards.

They ruled third down. The Colts were 2-10 on third down conversions. That' good.

Limping to the finish. This is exactly what the Colts are doing. Unless they turn it around in the three remaining games (in all phases), expect a quick exit. They're just not talented enough to go very far if they're going to play like this week in and week out (which they have since Wayne went down).

But please remember... This team is two seasons removed from 2-14 and shocked everyone at 11-5 last year. Despite the many free agent acquisitions, it was going to be tough for the Colts to match last season. Their quick start tantalized us, giving us a glimpse of what the team could be. Sadly, that appears to be an illusion.

Antoine Bethea had 17 tackles. I complained about the secondary plenty earlier. But if Bethea finishes with 17 tackles, that means the Colts aren't stopping the run, they're losing the battle at the line of scrimmage, and the linebackers aren't getting off their blocks. Landry finished with nine tackles. That's a lot of tackles for your safeties--never a good thing.