Well, that stunk.
The Colts overall didn't play too bad today, but when they were bad, they were really bad and that's what people will remember.
Too often the Colts made it look way too easy for the Dolphins. Too often the Colts didn't make the plays on offense that they needed to. Too often the Dolphins just made the plays that they needed to.
There's plenty to discuss from this game, and I really can't do so in an organized manner right now, so let's just jump right to the notes and look at the game there.
- This was a tale of two halves for the Colts offense. They looked really good in the first half but struggled mightily in the second. T.Y. Hilton was great today, but all six of his catches came in the first half. Coby Fleener was great today, but three of his four catches came in the first half. And Pep Hamilton did a good job calling plays - in the first half. The second half was totally different for this team and totally less effective, and that has to be placed on Pep Hamilton first and foremost. I'm actually surprised at all the negative reaction towards Hamilton, but I really don't think it's that undeserved. He's too conservative and seems to be inconsistent too. He seems to do a good job but has some play calls that are just all around terrible and puzzling. I'm not giving up on Pep yet, as this was only his second career NFL game calling plays, but he has to get his act together very soon or else this will just get worse and worse as the season goes on.
- Credit to Chuck Pagano that the team looked more prepared than they did last week. I thought a lot of the issues were just the Dolphins making plays or the Colts missing them, not that they weren't ready for them. This loss doesn't look good for Pagano but you can't blame it on him.
- I mentioned it earlier, but the Colts really got T.Y. Hilton more involved. They targeted him 12 times (team high) and he caught 6 passes (team high) for 124 yards (team high) with 20.7 yards per catch (team high). But for whatever reason, all 6 of T.Y.'s catches came in the first half. I'll have to go back and see what happened, but that was a huge part of the Colts' offense being worse in the second half.
- Coby Fleener also had the type of game that we expected he would regularly have this offseason, catching 4 passes for 69 yards and a score, and he had another touchdown taken away on a mysterious illegal shift penalty (if anyone saw who it was on, let me know. I need to go back and look at it, but I didn't see it.).
- The Giants didn't have a single penalty called on them all game. Does that just mean that the Dolphins played an error-less ball game? No. It just means that the officials missed some calls. Repeatedly Bob Lamey (if you don't know who he is, I'm sorry) would say, the the Colts "can't even buy a call right now," and while he gets carried away at times, he was right. The calls, for the second straight week, tended to go towards Miami. I'm not blaming the refs (I'll never do that - although for that 2008 playoff loss to the Chargers I came pretty close) but they were not that good and didn't help either.
- Donald Thomas was injured early in the game and it didn't look good. He was carted off the field and was very quickly ruled out for the rest of the game. Pro Football Talk, citing a league source, is reporting that it's a torn quad. It's too early to tell how long Thomas would miss with that, as depending on the severity it could be a wide range of time.
- Hugh Thornton, who played with the starters for much of the game in relief of Thomas, looked good. He didn't look out of place and actually looked to be one of the better linemen for the Colts today. It looks like he will get a chance to start now with Thomas out (unless he's only out a few days), and while everyone wanted to see him play, nobody wanted to see him instead of Thomas. That said, Thornton looked good today.
- Pat Angerer also looked good. He got the start in his first action of the season today, and he played well in the middle. He had 11 tackles (tied for team high), a quarterback hit, and a half of a sack.
- We actually saw the Colts pressure the quarterback today!!! Angerer and Bjoern Werner combined for a sack with each being credited with a half of a sack, and many others helped them on that one (it was Werner's first career sack). Jerrell Freeman had perhaps the best pass rush of any player today, and he notched 2 sacks and a strip of Ryan Tannehill that the Colts recovered. Robert Mathis also had 2 sacks and a strip, but the Dolphins recovered that one. When the Colts got pressure on Tannehill, they stopped the Dolphins offense. And that's not a coincidence. Pass rush is a huge key.
- Pass rush is a huge key, and also the timing of it is a huge key. For much of the game, the Colts actually held off the Dolphins' pass rush nicely. They blocked better and the Colts seemed to run quicker dropbacks, etc. to try to keep Luck upright. But when they needed to protect him the most, the Colts couldn't. On the final drive, they gave up way too much pressure and Luck nearly pulled out the win anyways. But on the final 4th down and 10 play, Luck was swamped and didn't have a chance. He tried to throw it to the guy in front of him but it fell incomplete, and it really wouldn't have mattered. The line failed Luck when he needed them most, which is disappointing because they played a good game overall.
- Ahmad Bradshaw looked good today, carrying the ball 15 times for 65 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown, and he also caught 3 passes for 19 yards. But today was clearly a passing day, and that's the way the Colts' offense needs to be too. i do think the lack of the two back punch of Bradshaw and Ballard hurts, as Bradshaw and Brown isn't the same.
- Also, why was Donald Brown in there on that final 4th and 10 play? He whiffed on a block, and he has never been known as a good blocker. Ahmad Bradshaw, though, is perhaps the best pass blocking running back in the league. Why wasn't he in there? I didn't see him in there towards the end at all, and I think he may have just been winded. Again, I'm just guessing here, but it is a big question - why wasn't he in there at the end?
- The defining series of the game came in the third quarter. The Colts had just forced a turnover after Jerrell Freeman had stripped Ryan Tannehill, and had Joe Lefeged (who recovered the fumble) realized that it was a fumble instead of an incomplete pass (which is what it looked like), he may have been able to score. But instead the Colts took over at the Dolphins 39 yard line. Two straight passes to Dominique Jones got the Colts to the one yard line and then Andrew Luck sneaked it in from one yard out for a score. But wait! The Dolphins challenged the catch and the officials were late with the whistle. So they called it back as the second catch by Jones was overturned. Then a few plays later, Luck hit Coby Fleener on a dart under pressure for a touchdown. But wait! The officials called the Colts for an illegal shift - even though I didn't see it. I'll go back and look for it, but it seemed like nit-picking to me. Either way, that was crushing, and the Colts eventually had to settle for a field goal. Two touchdowns negated on one drive. That drive alone really killed the Colts.
- Another injury note: DHB suffered a rib injury and although he was listed as questionable to return, he never did. Thus the reason for both T.Y. Hilton and Griff Whalen in at the same time (Whalen caught his first career NFL pass, a 6 yarder from Luck. He ended up with 2 catches for 28 yards).
- Regarding Andrew Luck, he looked good today, but he wasn't at his best. I'll have an in depth recap looking at Luck's game up on Tuesday, so check back then. But bottom line is that he looked good compared to most quarterbacks but only average by Luck's standards. He completed 25 of 43 passes (58.1%) for 321 yards and a touchdown, as well as an interception. He ran the ball 4 times for 38 yards (9.5 yards per carry). For the second straight week, he showed how much of a threat he is in the running game, and if I remember right, three of his four carries went for first downs. He's such a dangerous runner too, it's crazy.
- The Colts streak of turnover free games came to an end. Luck threw an interception in the end zone intended for Reggie Wayne in the fourth quarter. Several people thought Reggie was held on the play, and I'll need to go back and look at that as I couldn't see it clearly enough. But either way, it was a bad throw by Luck. Not necessarily a bad decision but it was a bad throw. Watch out for Chuck Pagano, Mike Chappell.
Speaking of Mike Chappell, let me just take a moment and congratulate Mike for covering the Colts for the 30th straight year. Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay made a surprise appearance to the press box at halftime to present Mike with a customized number 30 "Chappell" jersey. It was a very classy move by Irsay, and Chap absolutely deserves it. There's no one better when it comes to covering the Colts. He's absolutely "the Dean" of Colts football, and I just wanted to congratulate him on the accomplishment.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Class act. RT <a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnnBarnas">@JoAnnBarnas</a>: Congrats to <a href="https://twitter.com/mchappell51">@mchappell51</a> - 30 yrs of coverage recognized by <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Colts&src=hash">#Colts</a> owner <a href="https://twitter.com/JimIrsay">@JimIrsay</a>. <a href="http://t.co/N10f4vgh9n">pic.twitter.com/N10f4vgh9n</a></p>— IndyStar Sports (@IndyStarSports) <a href="https://twitter.com/IndyStarSports/statuses/379313601875832832">September 15, 2013</a></blockquote>
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The last thing I want to address is why I considered this game to be so huge. Here's why: this was a team with similar expectations to the Colts and similar talent-level, though a little less. The Colts upcoming schedule looks like this: at San Francisco, at Jacksonville, versus Seattle, at San Diego, and versus Denver. This could be crushing for the Colts. They need to win the games they should win and perhaps pull an upset. Either way, there's a possibility the Colts enter the bye week at 1-6 now. Will it happen? Probably not, but that shows why this game was so big. This is a huge hit to the Colts' playoff chances, and if they can't beat the Dolphins in this game at home, with the upcoming schedule that they have, I think it's fair to consider whether they are a playoff team. Right now, they're not. The one silver lining is that the Texans really don't either. It's only week two, but this was about as big of a week two loss as the Colts could have had.