Another week, another game where the Colts kept "grinding", stuck to the plan, played with the "next man up", and had the exact same result: extremely slow start, looking like an NFL Offense in the 2nd half, and the Defense giving up a ton of points in a 42-28 loss to the Bengals in frigid Cincinnati Sunday. Despite the loss, the Colts clinched the division with the Titans loss to the Broncos, so Sunday wasn't all that bad.
However, without something significant changing, that home Playoff game is all the Colts will get in January.
I've not been shy about my feelings towards the Offense, and we saw more of the same play-calling once again. While the Offensive Line play was much improved this week (thanks to the coaches changing some players around), every single pass play was a drop straight back. We saw the occasional play-action (none really did much to distract the Defense), a few bad screen passes, and still not a roll-out or bootleg to be seen. It's like it disappeared from the playbook. It's baffling that the Colts continue to struggle, yet we keep getting the same plays, in the same situations, and this is especially true on 3rd downs.
Going back to Week 6 against the Chargers, you know how good the Colts have been passing the ball on 3rd down? 22/87, or 25.3%. Yes, that includes two games that Reggie Wayne played in. What was it before then? 25/49, or 51%. The Colts had three more conversions in the first five weeks than they have in the last 8 games. A week or two of struggling I can understand. It happens. But 8 consecutive games, where their best game was getting 1/3 of their passing third down conversions, is unacceptable. It's convenient and easy to blame injuries for the offensive struggles, but I don't believe they are the reason.
The Colts have now played six games without Wayne, which is way more than enough time to change gameplans accordingly. It's the coaches job to call plays that gives the personnel on the field the best chance of converting, and it's just not happening. The numbers are glaringly obvious. Chuck Pagano has mentioned one stat and one stat only since becoming the Colts Head Coach, and that's 3rd down efficiency, so I know he knows it's really bad. With three weeks now to experiment, we need to start seeing some new and different plays on 3rd down. If they don't work, throw them out and move on. Teams rarely get one game to experiment with things, and the Colts look to have three. I think improving in this on Offense will magically make the Offense look competent again.
Pagano also doesn't help the Colts chances to win very often with some of his decisions, consistently "trusting his defense" when any sane person can see which half of the Colts is the far superior one. He made a number of bad decisions, so let's go though them all:
- The first came before the game even started. Your team can't score a touchdown in the first half any more, so let's give ourselves an extra possession in the first half and elect to receive the opening kickoff, rather than defer and get the ball when you can actually score touchdowns.
- The second came before the "Trip"plette play, right after the two minute warning in the 2nd quarter. The Colts stopped the Bengals on 3rd down, and the Colts had
all 3two timeouts. Instead of the Colts potentially having 1:55 for a scoring drive, Pagano decided to not take a timeout, let 40 seconds run off the clock, and the Colts only had 1:14 after Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis "scored" to make it 14-0.
- After Andrew Luck found LaVon Brazill in the back of the end zone to make it 35-21 with 9:54 remaining, it would have been a perfect time to try a "surprise" onside kick. The Defense had given up three TDs on four 2nd half drives, so what gives you any confidence they'll get not just one, but the two stops needed to tie the game. The later in the game you wait, the more difficult recovering an onside kick becomes. Colts kick off, and they get one of the two necessary stops, but...
- The most egregious decision comes three plays later. The Colts face a 3rd and 6 from their own 24 with 7:37 left. The Colts should be in 4 down territory, and Pagano and Pep Hamilton absolutely must be on the same page before the 3rd down play, so that they both know they should be going for it there (it should be obvious, but I digress...). The Colts throw incomplete, and they send the punter on. Instead of trying to win the game, Pagano would rather not get blown out by more points. What happens? The Bengals return the short punt, into the wind, back to the Colts 29. It's indefensible why you send the Defense back out there down by two TDs in the 4th quarter. I can't wait until the time where Luck can just give him the wave-off, stay on the field, and get the first down. But until then, we have to suffer through these bad decisions.
I didn't plan to let loose before we get to the stats, but it guess it was one of those "I'm rolling" situations. Let's jump into the stats to see some of the good things the Colts did, as there were a few, and some of the bad:
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 14:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||75.0%||9||83.3%||27||N||N||4-1|
|Avg Start Pos||26.1||24||28.2||16||N||N||10-1|
|3 and Outs||4||18||3||16||N||Y||4-3|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.810||16||0.857||15||Y||N||7-1|
|Ranking - Week (32)||11||29||26|
|Ranking - Season (416)||141||401||347|
Adjusted Stats for Week 14:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||84.4%||7||81.3%||26||N||N||4-1|
|Avg Start Pos||24.4||28||30.9||21||N||N||10-1|
|3 and Outs||2.9||13||2.2||24||N||Y||4-3|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.928||18||0.792||19||Y||N||7-1|
|Ranking - Week (32)||8||29||19|
|Ranking - Season (416)||77||408||306|
- I started to think which side of the ball was more "to blame" for yet another week of below average football for the Colts, and yet another loss outside the division, something we've now seen in all three weeks since the Bye. It's easy to point the finger at the Defense, who gave up 42 points, and couldn't come up with a stop when the Colts needed one. You see in the stats that if you just look at the numbers, the Colts gave one of the worst defensive efforts of the season. But this loss is at least equally falling on the Offense, even though the overall stats look pretty good. See above for my explanation.
- We did see some bright spots on Offense though.The passing game in the second half was excellent, and was enough to rank 6th on a weekend where the most points in NFL history were scored. Now, I'm going to argue that the Bengals Defense was playing more cautiously in the 2nd half (although it didn't work all the time), but if that's what it takes to get this team back on track, a loss isn't the end of the world.
- Special mention should be made of Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill, who both played excellent Sunday. I'll save the "why didn't we see Rogers sooner" and say I think the coaching staff brought him along at the right pace, which is why we saw him perform as well as he did when he got his chance. There's something to sitting and watching to learn, and it's a very good start for Rogers.
- Time of Possession per Drive was hurt both by Three and Outs and by the quick scoring drives from big plays. In total, eight different drives were 1:36 or less. Yikes. But the big plays gave the Colts the best Yards per Play of the weekend, something we haven't seen since last year.
- 3rd/4th Downs were a disaster, much like the RB Success Rate. The Yards per Carry number includes the two Luck scrambles, which is why that is so high. The Colts abandoned the run completely after they were totally ineffective in the first half. Different game, same story.
- Most of the successes, and these really nice looking rankings, came after the Colts got down 21-0, and never had the ball within a touchdown the rest of the way. Their first six possessions, all in the first half, were five punts and a Adam Vinatieri missed field goal. It's great they were able to execute so well, but I want to see them do it, with consistency, when the game is in question.
- I don't think I have to write much about the Defense. It was one of the 10 worst games played this season defensively. Couldn't stop them at all, and you didn't need any numbers to tell you that.
Season Stats through Week 14 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||55.2%||14||Broncos||52.0%||14||Chiefs||76-14||0.844|
|Avg Start Pos||29.3||18||Chiefs||28.1||9||Chargers||91-23||0.798|
|3 and Outs||3.19||6||Chargers||2.95||28||Cardinals||57-26||0.687|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.633||4||Patriots||0.808||21||Ravens||52-50||0.510|
- Offense still leading the league in Turnovers, but there are so many other areas that could be better on Offense, that 10th overall makes it feel like they are underachieving by a lot. Scoring points in the Orange and Red Zone is definitely improving, which is great. Just need to get there more often.
- The Defense continues its freefall, all the way back to 26th overall, league worst in Time of Possession per Drive. Just an idea...if teams are regularly able to march down the field and score on you, why not take a few more chances, try to make a big play, and if you give up a long touchdown, you move on without expending a bunch of energy and time to try and make something happen later, especially when the end results are the same either way.
The Offense, numbers wise, had a week that looked like the first five weeks of the season, which is where they should be every week. Like I said above though, they did most of that in a single half when the game was essentially out of hand.
And I want to see it happen against a non-AFC South team, which hasn't happened since Week 5.