The Indianapolis Colts 2013-2014 season came to an end tonight in Foxboro in a 22-43 loss to the Patriots. The game was much closer than the final score indicates, as the Colts only trailed by 7 entering the fourth quarter. But the Patriots wore down the Colts and came away with a big victory in advancing to the AFC Championship game.
The Colts had a phenomenal season. There is absolutely no other way to describe the year other than that. They greatly overachieved and put up a heck of a fight in the divisional round of the playoffs on the road against the Patriots. They went 11-5, won the AFC South, won a playoff game, and were in a one-score game with the Patriots in Foxboro in the fourth quarter in the divisional round of the playoffs. There is absolutely no shame in that, especially after we've seen first hand the many shortcomings this team has.
And so in that way, Saturday night's game was really a fitting representation of the true Indianapolis Colts in 2013: a team that's not very good but that has an incredible sophomore quarterback. That's the Colts this year, and I'll go on record as saying that I'm incredibly proud of what this team has accomplished, especially this soon after a complete rebuild. But there is also a lot of work that needs to be done this offseason to take the next step, and that was apparent tonight.
Let's look at the game notes for the final time this season and see what the Colts did right and the many things they did wrong in the loss to the Patriots:
- These notes can start no other place than Andrew Luck. He played very, very well tonight. He threw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. He wasn't helped out much by anyone, including his coaching staff, his receivers, his running game, or the referees. He had four interceptions (only three of which were his fault) and he made his share of bad throws. But honestly, a quarterback is going to throw interceptions when he's down big. That was the case last week and for two of his picks this week, too. He's going to force some things in those situations - I'm not that upset about those picks. I, for one, was very impressed with Andrew Luck tonight all things considered.
- And while I'm at it, NOBODY should say that Luck is turnover prone. Yes, he threw 7 interceptions in 2 playoff games this year (86 attempts). But he threw only 9 interceptions in 16 regular season games (570 attempts) - he is anything but turnover prone, and anyone judging it on two playoff games where his team was down big in both games proves their ignorance and only looks at 2/18 games in the season.
- The Patriots wanted to take T.Y. Hilton out of the game. He still caught 4 passes for 103 yards. He wasn't as big of a factor in the offense as he has been in recent weeks but the Patriots most definitely didn't succeed in taking Hilton out of the game.
- LaVon Brazill showed his potential, catching 2 long touchdowns (2 catches for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns). Coby Fleener (6-74-0) and Griff Whalen (5-67-0) both were solid weapons in the passing game today, too.
- Da'Rick Rogers finished the game with 4 targets, 0 catches, and 2 drops. He showed a lot of promise this year, but also was very raw and has a lot of room to work. His route running was bad and he dropped way too many passes. Don't give up on Rogers, as I think he has a ton of potential and will be improved next year, but I don't think his emergence was enough to make the Colts not go after a receiver this offseason. They still need to add a WR and need to address the position. I think Rogers, Whalen, and Brazill will all be interesting to keep an eye on going forward, however.
- The defense was bad tonight. The Patriots took advantage of them with crossing routes over the middle, which has been a weakness all season long. They allowed one big play in the pass game and one big play in the run game and limited Tom Brady to zero touchdown passes. But the defense was worn down over and over.
- Don't let the stats deceive you - this wasn't all bad in terms of run defense. They limited the Patriots to just 3.58 yards per carry outside of LeGarrette Blount's 73 yard touchdown run. The problem is that the Patriots just kept running it, and they finished the game with 46 rush attempts for 234 yards and 6 touchdowns. There's no way to say the run defense worked when looking at that stat line. Blount had a phenomenal game, running 24 times for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns. 5 of the 6 Patriots touchdown runs were 3 yards or less.
- There are no excuses for Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff tonight. None. The play calling on the offensive side of the ball was bad. The play calling on the defensive side of the ball was bad. Some will be upset at Pagano's decision to kick field goals earlier in the game, but I'm more forgiving about that. But the decision to punt on 4th and 1 with just over 10 minutes left when down 21? That's unforgivable and that's just giving up. Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff very much hindered the Colts tonight and they got in the way of Andrew Luck. Pagano is in his second year as a head coach and this is a young staff. Tonight (and this season) just goes to show that they have plenty of room to improve, just like the rest of the team.
- Give a lot of credit to the Patriots. They played well tonight, and they reached their 8th AFC Championship game appearance under Bill Belichick. That's insane, and that's absolutely worthy of respect.
- Here's a bit of what to expect from me going forward in the next few days. Tomorrow, I will look more in depth at the coaching from this game, what went wrong, and what the staff needs to improve - including the outlook for the coaching staff going forward. Then I'll be having several year end articles in the next week or two, including but definitely not limited to: my thoughts/opinions on this year's Colts season, a look position by position at the Colts this year, a look at Chuck Pagano and the coaching staff overall, Ryan Grigson's failures this past offseason and how he can improve this year, an in-depth look at Andrew Luck this season, what the Colts need to work on this offseason, and others. Keep it here at Stampede Blue for end of season analysis. Those are just the things I'll be working on, and I know that Brad and others will have plenty of thoughts and articles as well. The Colts season might be done, but we're not done here at Stampede Blue. Stay tuned.
- Thanks for a great season, Colts. It's been fun. You overachieved. Continue to improve this offseason.
- Thanks to you all for following along this season. I look forward to doing it again next year, and continuing this offseason too. A very sincere thank you to all of our readers and twitter followers - I'm very thankful for you.