Here is the open thread for today's games. Below you will find Bob Kravitz's report card. Enjoy
Repeat after me: We are not a power running team. We are not a power running team. We are not a power running team. As much as Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton wish it was so, the Colts just aren't yet built to play the kind of grind-it-out football the brain trust so desires. Donald Brown had a productive season, but ran into walls against New England Saturday night. He's worth bringing back as he enters free agency, but only at the right price, especially with Vick Ballard returning from injury. As for Trent Richardson, the less said, the better. The trade, which I loved at the time, has turned into a massive mistake. Ryan Grigson took a calculated risk that seemed to make perfect sense at the time, but Richardson simply lacks pop, impact and vision. He was invisible throughout the playoffs.
Where have we seen this movie before? Colts get to playoffs. Colts get run off the field by a dominating back. Rinse and repeat. It could be Lamar Smith, or Eddie George, or Curtis Martin, or Corey Dillon. Or LeGarrette Blount, who scored four touchdowns, part of a night when the Pats scored six rushing touchdowns. The Colts desperately need to upgrade the defensive line. Is Josh Chapman the answer at nose guard? Not sure I know the answer just yet. They also need a lot more depth on the D-line. Everything the Colts want to do on defense is predicated on stopping the run, yet the Colts were routinely average, or worse, throughout the season. Indy probably wasted the best year of Robert Mathis' career.
All things considered, the Colts did a strong job of re-calibrating their offense after a couple of games struggling without Reggie Wayne, but ultimately, his loss was one they could never fully surmount. Wayne's loss, coupled with the season-ending injury to Dwayne Allen, made the Colts offense far less dynamic the second half of the season. The Colts have a future star in T.Y. Hilton, but will need to find another receiver who can someday replace Wayne, who may or may not be the same when he returns this summer. Once again this year, Andrew Luck got hit far too often, including 10 QB hits against New England. The Donald Thomas loss was underrated in its importance; at times, rookie Hugh Thornton looked ill-equipped to handle the job at such a young age. Expect a couple of changes in the interior of the offensive line. Luck continued his maturation as a player and a leader, but for every jaw-dropping pass, there was a head-scratching interception. His time will come. Count on that.
Ordinarily, a loss to the New England Patriots means that Tom Brady eviscerated the opponent's secondary, but the Colts held him to 185 yards. That was largely because Brady didn't have to pass, the Patriots rushing for 234 yards. Brady was basically a game manager, making a couple of big plays to Julian Edelman and a back-breaking deep ball to Danny Amendola. The big off-season question is whether the Colts re-sign free agent Antoine Bethea. A good argument can be made both ways. He's clearly one of this team's veteran leaders, but he's got a lot of tread on his tires. That will be an interesting one to watch. Pretty sure Vontae Davis will be back. Thought LaRon Landry was very average this year, and Greg Toler was beset by a nagging groin injury that last almost two months.
Again, big decisions for Ryan Grigson: Do you keep Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee, and at what price? The pair give the Colts one of the best kicking/punting tandems in the league, but it will come down to dollars and cents. My hope is they keep both, but it's not my money. I liked Griff Whalen returning punts this year, but the Colts would be well-served to find someone who can consistently return kicks.
Twenty four hours later, I'm still baffled that Chuck Pagano didn't go for it with fourth-and-one at his own 29 yard line with 10:30 remaining and the Colts trailing by 21. Give him credit for owning up to the mistake, but that's the kind of blunder that can get you beat in a closer game. My question now is whether the Colts are wedded to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, although this is really Pagano's defense. The defense was the biggest, most surprising disappointment of the season. They never got hit by the injury bug the way the offense did, and still failed to produce when it mattered most. There's no way to sugar-coat 87 points in two playoff games. If I'm Grigson, I'm looking at a very un-sexy draft filled with O linemen and defensive lineman, maybe an inside linebacker.
The Colts knew what they needed to do: Limit the turnovers. Stop the run. Get off the field on third down. And they did none of those things. The Patriots were 11 of 18 on third downs, largely because the running game gave Brady a steady diet of third-and-3's. Indy's time is coming; it would surprise me if Luck didn't lead the Colts to a Super Bowl sometime in the next three or four years. But the talent just isn't here yet. Grigson tried to do it on a budget his first year and spent significant money his second, but the draft is the way to have enduring success. This year's draft class was very unproductive; only Thornton and Bjoern Werner played, and neither one made a major impact. Two or three good drafts, and the Colts will be in business. Probably. The Dopey Report Card bids you adieu.
Bob Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Call him at (317) 444-6643 or email email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BKravitz.