There's really not much to accurately describe the Colts' defensive performance yesterday. Initially, thoughts like "they were embarrassed," or "they were completely dominated," or "they got their butts kicked" seem to be accurate, but perhaps even those don't tell the whole story.
So instead, let's turn to what some players and coaches are saying about the game. First, let's start with head coach Chuck Pagano. "They outcoached us," Pagano said, per Scout.com's Phillip B. Wilson. "I didn't do a very good job of getting this team ready."
"I just look at the product that we put out there today," Pagano added. "We have to do a better job. We didn't play well. You go out and you finally force them to a field goal. Then we jump offsides and give them a fresh set of downs that cost you a touchdown instead of three points. That's on me. I have to do a better job in a lot of areas."
Pagano is right - the blame needs to start with him. He didn't have this team prepared and this game looked very similar to some of those games last year in which the Colts were dominated and for which many criticized the Colts' coach. For as good as the coaching staff was in the five-game winning streak - and they were very good - they were bad yesterday. Pagano didn't have the team prepared, and it showed.
But there's plenty of additional blame to go around. Specifically, for the defensive players.
"They dialed up some good calls where Ben found the soft spots in the zone," cornerback Darius Butler said, per ESPN's Mike Wells. "We're better than that. To a man, we have to lick our wounds."
"No excuses or explanations. We got our asses kicked," Butler said on twitter after the game, accurately summing up the Colts' defensive performance.
"It felt like [Ben Roethlisberger] was one step ahead of us, and with a quarterback like that you're not surprised he had success," defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said (again per Wells). "I take my hat off to him being Big Ben. He came to play."
RJF also referred to the game as a "wake-up call," and safety Mike Adams agreed, saying the humbling experience was probably something the Colts needed. Certainly, however, no one wishes that humility would have come in this way.
We can blame the coaches, like Pagano, and that criticism is well-deserved and accurate. But at the same time, the coaches can only do so much. The players still have to perform. What we had seen in the past five weeks was defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's masterful blitz schemes that helped the Colts' pass rush to greatly overachieve. This week, we saw every blitz the Colts threw at Roethlisberger picked up. We saw both man and zone coverage from the Colts, both blitzes and light rushes. Nothing worked. Nothing. Blame the coaches, sure, but nothing they did worked. The Colts' defense just got destroyed.
There are plenty of people taking the blame for the loss, and that's encouraging - it's much better than having a team that falls apart and starts pointing fingers at others. The Colts all know that they have to get better individually. Even Andrew Luck, who was stellar yesterday, took the blame upon himself. Plenty of people on the Colts are doing the same, starting with Pagano. And there's certainly plenty of blame to go around for the entire defense and coaching staff (not to mention the offensive line, etc.).
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