Losing games is never fun, and it's never something you want to happen. But the aftermath of the Colts 19-9 loss in San Diego Monday night will hopefully ruffle a few feathers and cause some introspection on some of the Colts key decision makers. It was truly a night to forget for everyone associated with the blue horseshoe.
As I said on Twitter last night, the coaching staff needs to own this loss. Not only did the Colts look unprepared, on both sides of the ball, for what the Chargers were going to do, the in-game decision making really, really needs to be looked at going forward with how this team is constructed, and what gives the Colts the best chance of winning. As you'll see in the stats in a bit, both sides of the ball laid giant turds this week after three consecutive games that rank in the top 12 overall in the entire NFL. What could possibly be the reason for this? As much as I wanted to believe this team wouldn't be looking ahead, the players weren't in this game, and I'm pretty convinced the coaching staff was doing more than just looking ahead to next Sunday: I think they already started preparing for the Broncos this week.
These "look-ahead" games are pretty common in College Football (see Clemson-BC from last week for example), where a team that looks much better on paper completely mails it in because they are already thinking about the following week, a "big" game. It rarely happens in the NFL because of the emotionless nature of the game. Never too high, never too low. Teams, in general, are so close in talent level that you can't afford to look ahead, because you'll see games like we saw last night.
But next Sunday is different. Everyone knows it, and last night was a pretty clear sign that the coaching staff and the players know it, even though only nine players on the current roster actually played a down in a game with Peyton Manning, and only one coach. But Jim Irsay signs their pay checks, and everybody who works on W. 56th Street knows how important next Sunday night is to Mr. Irsay. I am not suggesting that the Colts owner told them to "punt" the Chargers game away (even though that's a pretty accurate assessment of what happened), but with a short week this week, and the evidence we saw on the field, it's quite obvious their focus was not entirely on the Chargers.
The in-game decisions were equally troubling, and Brad did an excellent job summarizing everything last night, so I won't get into those specifics here. I do want to mention that Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy made an equally dumb decision late in the game that really helped the Colts. Facing 4th and about a foot McCoy elected to send his kicker out to attempt a 51 yard field goal. Since 2002, making a 50+ yard FG happened about 54% of the time. Think a Phillip Rivers sneak to get a foot would be successful more than 54% of the time? As a Colts fan, I loved that the Chargers kicked in that situation, even though Nick Novak made it. The outcome is irrelevant. Kicking the FG gave the Colts a better chance of winning. Good on the Chargers for hitting the field goal. They called heads, and that's where the coin landed.
It's a shame that Reggie Wayne's 1000th catch came in a game nobody will ever want to watch again, because he certainly deserves better for such a significant milestone. He, along with almost everyone else who was tasked with catching passes last night, dropped at least one pass, and almost every one of them seemed to happen on a Third Down, thus ending drives. I know I spoke a lot about the coaching and how it cost the Colts, but the players aren't blameless here either. They could have overcome some of the poor coaching and couldn't. It happens from time to time, and I don't expect to see that many drops again this season.
These stats are not pretty, so brace yourselves. It looks a lot like 2011 over again...
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 6:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||42.9%||21||54.3%||12||N||N||5-3|
|Avg Start Pos||19.8||26||23.7||9||N||N||5-2|
|3 and Outs||2||8||1||24||N||N||2-1|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.583||8||0.347||29||N||N||6-2|
|Ranking - Week (30)||23||28||28|
|Ranking - Season (184)||127||169||172|
Adjusted Stats for Week 6:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||46.1%||20||59.4%||16||N||N||5-3|
|Avg Start Pos||27.0||16||22.7||7||N||N||5-2|
|3 and Outs||2.5||9||2.6||19||N||N||2-1|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.286||1||0.465||26||N||N||6-2|
|Ranking - Week (30)||28||21||29|
|Ranking - Season (184)||153||141||175|
- I said Turnovers would be the key to the game, and that certainly was the case. The Chargers had been turning it over, on average, twice a game, but had 0 Monday night. The one the Colts had on the last drive doesn't bother me at all, even though the pass was a little high by Andrew Luck. Not the end of the world.
- The Colts Defense didn't allow any big plays, ranking 6th this week on Yards per Play. The problem was they let them get that average amount on pretty much every play, making it impossible to get them off the field.
- The Chargers had the ball for over four minutes per drive, including four consecutive drives of 10+ plays, which Elias says has only happened once since the start of 2011. The Chargers averaged 8 plays per drive. It was death by paper cuts, something Colts fans should be used to by now.
- The other reason the Colts were in the game was even after those long drives the Chargers could only muster a single touchdown out of them. We already knew the Chargers struggled putting the ball in the end zone (if you read the preview!), so it was good the Colts could continue that trend. It just took them seven minutes each drive to get to that point.
- On the Offensive side you'll see all the numbers look much worse in the Adjusted numbers since the Chargers have been bad on Defense all year. This is especially true for the drive stats, which look putrid.
- I've already touched on the 3rd/4th down drops, making that number look really bad. I've seen them be so good in these situations that they'll get a pass for Monday night here. This isn't indicative of their actual ability to convert these plays. Shake it off and move on.
- RB Success Rate was tops in the league at 76.9%, and was 2nd best when adjusted for Defenses. I guess that isn't good enough to get a 4th and 3 from the SD 40, or a 4th and 2 from their own 20. Sure helped in winning though, huh?
- In fact, our top 3 stats (Drive Success Rate, Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, Turnovers) were a combined 20-2 when both Offense and Defense were above average, while the two rushing stats were a combined 6-13 when both were above average. Can somebody please pass this information along to the Colts please?
- The Colts didn't commit many penalties, but when they did they were at really inopportune times. At least two kept Charger drives alive after it seemed as though they had gotten them off the field. Again, the players aren't blameless.
Season Stats through Week 6 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||58.7%||11||Broncos||57.3%||20||Chiefs||32-9||0.780|
|Avg Start Pos||28.2||21||Chiefs||25.0||4||Chiefs||39-7||0.848|
|3 and Outs||1.90||2||Eagles||2.85||27||49ers||28-11||0.718|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.460||1||Colts||0.689||26||Seahawks||26-21||0.553|
- As I described them before, the Colts Offense is "elite", ranking second overall behind their Week 7 opponent, the Broncos. Still lead the league in Turnovers and Plays per Drive (despite this week), and are top 5 in the drive-related stats. I've convinced myself this week was a blip. Five weeks of splendid play, with three of them as incredible, trump this big dud.
- On Defense they maintained at 24th, and still appear to be pretty good against the pass, not good against the run, and staying on the field way too long, measured in both yards and time. But they make teams go a long way, ranking 4th in Starting Field Position. Just makes it extra torturous.
- Colts are still ranked 5th overall, and I'll try to have a full power rankings out this week.
It's hard to imagine the same exact players and coaches who participated in the last three games were also out there on Monday with how polar opposite they are. I sincerely hope this team was looking ahead a game, realizes how you can't do that in the NFL if you expect to compete, and never does it again.
A single anomaly isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things. But there are overarching issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later, and the first one is for Coach Pagano to realize which unit of his is elite (yes, elite), which one isn't even average right now, and make decisions based on that information. Until he starts doing that, this Colts team will not reach its potential. I hope he can see the error of his ways.
I won't hold my breath though, which makes me very disappointed.