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Week Six Game Notes: Colts 9, Chargers 19

The Colts laid an egg tonight in an awful loss to the Chargers.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Well, the Colts really stunk tonight.  Like, massively.  They lost to the Chargers on Monday Night Football 9-19 and watching it, the game seemed even uglier than the score would indicate.

This was the NFL's worst defense, and the Colts could only manage 9 points off of them.  The league's second best third down offense converted only 2 of 10 tries.  The Chargers held the ball for 38:31.  All of that added up to a Colts' loss.  But it wasn't just that.  The coaching stunk, the offense stunk, the defense stunk, the special teams stunk... this game just stunk.

We're going to take a bit of a different approach to this game notes recap and instead of just posting notes on the game as a whole, we're going to look at the reasons the Colts lost the game (in no particular order).  And really, by doing that, we'll cover just about everything that happened tonight.

  • THE DROPS!!!!  The Colts dropped five passes tonight.  Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, and Trent Richardson all dropped a pass.  Reggie's was on a slant on 3rd and 3 that forced a punt.  DHB's was on a deep route down the right sideline that would have been a huge play, and Fleener's was in the 2 minute drill to end the first half that also would have been a huge gain.  T.Y. Hilton dropped a short pass right after DHB's drop.  And Trent Richardson dropped a screen pass near the end of the game that led to Hugh Thornton getting called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, costing the Colts five yards and a down (and yes, I find it hard to blame Thornton there, as he expected Richardson to have caught the ball).  The drops were CRUSHING for the Colts tonight.  Just awful.  Hard to blame this one on Luck when his receivers (or anybody else) gives him any help.
  • THE DEFENSE!!!!  It's hard to win your defense is on the field for over 38 minutes and your offense only runs 48 plays.  And that's exactly the situation the Colts were in Monday night, as the defense just couldn't get off the field.  Sure, the offense needed to do a better job of sustaining drives to give the defense rest, but for the most part that was totally on the defense.  They couldn't stop Phillip Rivers and the Chargers' offense until a lot of time had already run off the clock and San Diego was in field goal range.  Phillip Rivers made Greg Toler look especially silly tonight, constantly targeting him and constantly completing those passes (or, when he didn't drawing a flag).  Mario Harvey looked lost.  Delano Howell was bad.  The list could go on and on.
  • THE INJURY!!!!  Jerrell Freeman left the game shortly before halftime and did not return, suffering both a cut on his chin that required stitches and a concussion.  In his absence, Kelvin Sheppard and Mario Harvey struggled mightily.  I'm not saying that Freeman would have made the difference in the game by any means, but he certainly would have helped.
  • THE COACHING!!!!  This is the one most people will focus on, and probably deservedly so.  Put quite simply, this coaching staff was terrible tonight.  Chuck Pagano was way too conservative - and actually, that's probably not even the right word for it.  Dumb or stupid would probably fit in better to describe some of his calls.  Punting the ball on a 4th and 2 with less than 4 minutes left in a one score game when your defense hadn't been able to: a) get the Chargers off the field, or b) stop them from scoring points.  That was just stupid.  Pep Hamilton, the offensive coordinator, called what I thought was his worst game yet this year, and by quite a bit too.  The Colts have really put the handcuffs on Andrew Luck, and until they take them off, they won't even get close to reaching their potential.  All of this talk about running the football should be a moot point now.  Give them credit for trying it, but obviously it hasn't worked.  The Colts are much more effective this year when airing the ball out and yet somehow Pep Hamilton thinks the thing to do is keep running it.  If the Colts are such a great power run team, then why the 2 for 10 on 3rd down?  And why the punt on a crucial 4th and 2?  The Colts have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and he has been handcuffed.  The Colts coaches are only hurting themselves, and they'd better figure that out very quickly before it gets any worse.  This team was not prepared tonight and they didn't look good playing on the field either.  It's safe to wonder whether they were preparing for the Broncos already.
It was an ugly, ugly loss for the Colts.  But they still stand at 4-2 and in first place in the AFC South.  We can't ignore that.  In my preseason predictions I had the Colts losing to the Chargers and falling to 3-3 after the game.  They currently stand at 4-2 with wins over the 49ers and Seahawks.  Sure, this loss was ugly, but it was only one game.  Overall, this team is still a very good one but not on the level of some of the other top-tier teams in the league.  I don't think that should shock anybody and I don't think it should be a major concern either.

There's a lot to fix and a lot to work on after a terrible game like this, but don't lose perspective.

A few side comments I want to add:
  1. Congrats to Reggie Wayne on getting his 1,000th catch.  He reached the milestone on a pass that he brought in that was down near his feet.  He got number 1,001 on the night, too.  He became the 9th player in history to reach 1,000 catches and passed Hines Ward for 8th place.  I'll have an article up in the morning about the accomplishment.
  2. Trent Richardson ran well tonight and played his best game as a Colt yet, but some people still won't be happy with it.  I still say give him time, and I thought he looked good tonight.
  3. This was the first game of the year without a sack for Robert Mathis.  He got pressure quite a few times but never recorded a sack.  That leaves him tied with Justin Hunter for the lead league with 9.5.
  4. Chuck Pagano is still a good coach.  Please.  He's fine.  He is a good coach who had a bad game.  Please don't overreact to that.  It was an awful night and an awful coaching performance from him, yet I spent a lot of time defending him because so many fans overreacted.  Geez.  Understand that this is just one bad game and that it happens to everyone.  Pagano is still learning and is still a good coach.  Please, please, please maintaing perspective.
  5. Adam Vinatieri hit two field goals over 50 yards tonight, the first time he has ever done that in his magnificent career.  Props to him, as he went 3/3 and did his part in contributing to the Colts' cause.