When will the agony end? After a fantastic first half performance on the offensive side of the ball, this week the Colts had an appalling meltdown on both sides of the ball in the second half to lose after leading twice by 17 points. Adjustments were made for the game with our previous defeats in mind, but it just goes to show that the personnel out on the field aren't good enough to win football games, even against the worst teams in the league. I think 0-16 is a real possiblity for this unit - the Browns and Chiefs have both come to the Luke and taken away a W.. Perhaps the Jags might split with us given their issues at QB, but at this point even that might be far-fetched.
Contributions-wise, thanks to ColtsFanInTexas, KBUnitz, tapper, MarkColtsFanatic, coltsfanbeforemanning, GoHorse88, Coltsfan504, Indemnitor and 18man for their feedback on the last piece - some of it was so exhaustive as to justify a separate FanPost, and to see people putting in that sort of thought is great. Thanks again guys.
One thing I will say prior to the analysis - I'm not afraid to admit that I may have been wrong on Curtis Painter. I've previously stated that I don't see him becoming a serviceable backup, but at this point it's clear that with adequate reps in the week, he can light a fire under the offense in a way that other scrub QB's seem unable to do. I'm still reserving judgement, but he's doing enough week by week to garner praise.
And so, we begin..
Play #1 - 2nd and Goal from the KC 6 - 7:42 in the 1st Quarter - Colts 0 - Chiefs 0.
Whilst the upcoming play might not be the biggest highlight reel example, I do like good play design and execution - particularly when it comes from an O-Line that has been beaten up and trodden on in the past few weeks. The main focus on this play is the smooth execution by Quinn Ojinnaka, a guy picked up this week off the street to play RT, and the play also shows the increasing effectiveness of a Colts staple play.
It's a simple bubble screen, as we saw last week in Tampa Bay. Austin Collie (black) and Pierre Garcon (red) are stacked up on the right side, and Quinn Ojinnaka lines up at RT with the responsibility of sealing the edge for Garcon to go through.
There's not much to say, asides from just watch Ojinnaka. As with the massive screen in the TB game, Painter play-fakes to Addai, which is more than enough to fool the DE's and linebackers.
You can't really tell from this angle, but Ojinnaka has done a great job setting up the screen, and he comes off the line just in time to make an impact. Collie does a reasonable job locking up Javier Arenas (who was awful all day), at least until Quinn comes into the picture.
Boom. He totally removes Arenas from the play, and Pierre is free to stride into the endzone untouched.
..Which he does so with aplomb. Props to all the fantasy owners out there who were willing to take the risk on Garcon.
Here's what I like on the play, though. It's simple, but Ojinnaka's small dummy block does a lot in terms of deceiving the Chiefs' front 7 and takes them out of the play.
And with the good seal block, we're off to the races. As I said before, it's nice to see good design and execution on a play - ideally, you don't want your guy getting touched at all. The bubble screen has been a staple of the Indy offense even with Peyton under centre, though I do think that it's been more effective this year when we've turned to it. These are the sorts of plays I'd like to see experimented with, whilst we have our receiving corps out on the field even without Peyton.
Play #2 - 1st and 10 from the IND 33 - 11:23 in the 2nd Quarter - Colts 10 - Chiefs 0.
The upcoming play was nothing short of fantastic from Painter, and after seeing this I know that this guy can play and be a viable backup in this league. It was also the point of the game where I truly felt the Colts could win - by unleashing Freeney and Mathis with a 17 point lead, how could the rest of the defense screw up?
Reggie Wayne (orange), Dallas Clark (purple) and Pierre Garcon (red) are all going to run streaks down the field, with Reggie cutting to the sideline at the 50 yard line. Everyone else (Eldridge and Carter) is responsible for pass blocking on the play.
The Chiefs are playing a basic zone coverage scheme as far as I can tell (or something close to it), and the issue with the coverage package is this - Jon McGraw (#47, S) has come up to the line to deal with Dallas Clark, ideally to delay and reroute him from his desired route. Clark blows past him, and as a result enables Curtis Painter to pump fake on the pink line of sight - this alerts Brandon Flowers (blue), who makes a move on the inside receiver, leaving the outside totally and utterly exposed.
Painter lines up for the absolute boomer down the field shortly after the pump fake, as much on the assumption of Flowers' weakness and his own confidence in making the play.
Fortunately enough, Flowers bites and it's an absolutely magnificent throw, calibrated to the speed of Pierre.
And as we're getting used to seeing, he coasts into the endzone.
Here's a more detailed look at the play. I've circled the Clark-McGraw matchup in yellow, along with the perspectives of Painter and Flowers on the play. I've snapped the shot as Painter pump fakes, and whilst you should never abandon the deep side of the field like that (And from what i've read this year, Flowers really hasn't been very good), the setup and attention to detail from Painter is fantastic.
You can see that as Flowers pulls off, Painter has already released the ball. How the scheme is broken open so easily by two simple streaks, the lord only knows. I think that this is something the Colts must have looked at on tape - the quickness with which Painter releases the ball does leave a bit to assumption. Nonetheless - a fantastic play, and one that shows that Curtis belongs as the starter, without a shadow of a doubt. He's also making people like me who doubted him look idiotic.
Play #3 - 1st and 10 from the IND 41 - 5:20 in the 2nd Quarter - Colts 17 - Chiefs 0.
This play irritates me on a few levels. It's important to emphasise the fact that we mixed up the scheme here - you'll see 8 in the box, with Antoine Bethea playing deep centrefield. The corners are in man coverage (?!) and it seems the Colts are expecting a run. This is the sort of thing we need to be able to do when the situation deems it necessary, but we're absolutely incapable - and I'm not putting this on Coyer. This is on the personnel, no doubt.
You can see the 8 in the box, and the Chiefs are showing a run look. Despite being in man coverage, the corners are 8 yards off the receivers. 8 yards. If this is on Coyer, then he deserves some blame. But in this position, the corners should be adjusting and giving different looks, and if necessary making plays on the fly. They don't. Bethea isn't on screen at the moment, but take my word that he's centrefielding. The Chiefs are running 2WR 2TE 1RB, but the only person you need to look at here is Bowe, and the guy covering him - Terrence Johnson (#23, CB).
Cassel knows what he's facing, and has the perfect play lined up for it. Dwayne Bowe, with a guy sitting 8 yards off? Quick slant time. And we make this guy look like Jerry Rice, believe me.
As Bowe catches the ball, Johnson still remains 4 yards off due to a lack of diagnosis and closing speed. Why this scrub is playing when he can't do anything on ST is beyond me, particularly when we have a 3rd round pick from last year sitting on the bench.
Due to the fact that Johnson hasn't touched him at all, it's effectively a one on one in the open field with Bowe facing down Bethea. Because Bethea has absolutely no angle to utilise, he's effectively got no chance on the play. Bowe takes a heavy lean to the right, in order to make Bethea's decision for him.
Johnson is still hopeless and falls to the ground, barely touching Bowe at all. Bethea is juked out of his cleats with little he can do to stop it..
..and Bowe jogs in for the touchdown after stiff-arming Jerraud Powers.
What annoyed me so much on the play was that one of our best guys (and one of my favourite players) was made to look like an absolute jackass because of substandard corner play. I don't think there's a safety in the NFL that makes that tackle - but how can he have a chance when the corner doesn't even touch him?
Undeniably good move by Bowe, but I'm left feeling annoyed.
Play #4 - 1st and Goal from the IND 5 - 0:45 in the 3rd Quarter - Colts 24 - Chiefs 14.
More substandard cornerback work incoming. This time it's everyone's favourite target, Jacob Lacey! Obviously Terrence Johnson was pulled from the game for his awful play on the slant route - to me this is puzzling, because Lacey has given up play after play and still remained ahead in the depth chart when much better guys are sitting behind him.
The Chiefs are running their base 2WR 2TE 1RB formation with Steve Breaston at the top of the screen and Dwayne Bowe at the bottom, matched up on Jacob Lacey. He's going to be running a fade route which means there will be a jump ball.
Again, it's a no brainer for Cassel and he immediately throws to his go to guy. I can't really fault Lacey's release on the play in terms of hip fluidity, but it's what comes afterward that shows his weakness.
In order to stop the fade (a very hard thing to do), Lacey simply tries to bulldoze Bowe and get away with it. Bowe jumps back over Lacey's head and taps the ball to keep it alive in the knowledge that there will be a flag coming.
He does an exceptional job of it while Lacey is on the floor.
After his play in the Chiefs loss at the Luke last year, I wrote the guy off. His drop in the endzone was horrendous - but fair play to him here.
Sure helps being matched up against one of the worst starting corners in the league, though. The difference in physique is emphasised in this image, as is the sheer extent to which Lacey is interfering.
And the cardinal sin for a receiver of tipping the ball into the air to make a catch goes unpunished.
As Solomon Wilcots said on the broadcast - you won't see a better show at your local circus.
Funny thing is, he could be talking about the juggling as Bowe, or Lacey as an aimless elephant, stomping around aimlessly.
Play #5 - 3rd and 2 from the IND 11 - 5:21 in the 4th Quarter - Colts 24 - Chiefs 21.
Yet more awful play from the secondary, though in this instance I have my sympathies with the corner concerned, the rookie Chris Rucker. I don't agree with BBS' assertion that the players aren't at fault, but in this instance I believe it to be true. Putting a rookie into this game is a true example of the coaching staff throwing enough mud at the wall in the hopes that some would stick. Tryon could have worked, guys?
The Chiefs line up in a 2WR 1TE 2RB set, so the Colts deviate and go to man coverage on the outside, 8 in the box and a deep safety - much as we saw with Bowe's catch earlier. Steve Breaston knows he's up against a rookie, so is going to take a false step and then go to the corner, and Rucker simply can't deal with it.
You can already see Rucker has been caught flat-footed, and from then on it's a simple throw and catch at the NFL level.
The space Breaston has to work with is plentiful. Game over.
Again - I don't blame this on the rookie. He shouldn't be in the game, and it's only the ineptitude of the coaching staff which has him out there.
Breaston even has time to sit on the route and wait for the ball to come down. It's not a good throw by Cassell, but it doesn't have to be.
You can see the matchup at the bottom of the screen. I like the close to the line press look and I think it's something we should adopt with our better personnel, but here with Rucker on the field?
Breaston takes the inside step, Rucker bites, and it's curtains.
Story of the day for the secondary, really. Not good enough from supposed starters, and I don't see the point in putting Rucker out there in that situation. Lacey is awful, Johnson is awful, but come on.
So another defeat for our Colts. Despite the fact that we showed much more on offense again than had been the trend this year, the loss is more disheartening due to context. Our defense just gave up, and couldn't stop the pass or run when they had to. Our established star DE's didn't give up, each getting to the quarterback in the game, but at the moment it's fair to say we have about 5 players on defense that are playing to a decent level - Freeney, Mathis, Angerer, Conner, Bethea. The fact that Angerer leads the NFL with 65 tackles and Conner is second on 49 illustrates that whilst schematically we're built to put a lot of tackles onto the LB corps, others aren't pulling their weight. Antoine Bethea is in the top 20 for tackles too, for that matter. These are the players worth building around - Mathis must be re-signed next year, he absolutely must be. If it's a choice between Reggie Wayne and Mathis, the pass rusher takes priority over the receiver - Peyton can make a lot of guys into superstars, and on that note, Garcon is ballin' out this year too, and is deserving of a new deal.
This defeat is on the players out on the field - schematically we tried to mix it up, but they didn't get the job done. We deviated from the Cover 2 in situations where it was merited, and the guys on the field didn't make plays. It of course doesn't help when you cut your best players at the corner position (Hayden, Tryon), but the decline in quality in Jerraud Powers' efforts has me stumped and worried about the long term future of the defense.
- Curtis Painter & Pierre Garcon, Redux. There's obviously a connection here, and Painter has certainly upped his game since becoming the starter. Garcon for his part is showing that he deserves another contract at this ball club.
- Pat Angerer - Future Pro Bowler at LB.. I think so. Has a nose for the football and is ideal for a Cover 2 LB, but I truly think he'd thrive in any scheme, whether as an ILB in a 3-4 scheme or as a more traditional 4-3 MIKE.
- Freeney & Mathis: 1.5 sacks for Freeney, 0.5 for Mathis. Constant dominance from this pair - surround them with a few decent guys, and they'd be even better. Re-sign Mathis.
- Patty Mac - Another excellent performance, and I repeat - with better coverage, he'd be a Pro Bowler.
- The entire secondary - Our corners are woeful, and it's impacting the play of Bethea at FS, arguably our best young talent. I'm not going to totally excuse Antoine for getting juked out of his cleats - but I don't know any other safety that makes that play. Help the guy out, for the love of god.
- The run game - If you're up by 17 and lose, it's usually because you can't run the football (unless you're Tony Romo). After doing reasonably in the first half, the run game went to pot in the second.
- Dallas Clark - dropped three easy balls at my count. I'm not going to write him totally off yet, but at some point his play will decline. We might be at that precipice.
Not really too much to say at the end of this one. Disappointment is the overriding emotion, and we'll see how this team reacts against the Bengals. I don't hold particularly high hopes, to be honest. Good to see the coaching staff making belated adjustments, but the appalling play by the secondary means that it might all be for nothing.
Will the Colts finally record a win this weekend against the Bengals?
Yes (13 votes)
No (27 votes)
Fire Caldwell (24 votes)
Fire Polian (New option!) (5 votes)
69 total votes