"Embarrassing. Sad. Pathetic. Awful. Terrible. Those are just a few of the (clean) words that come to mind after witnessing that Colts' defensive performance tonight. They couldn't stop the Patriots' run game whatsoever, and New England ran all over the Colts in a game played on national television."
No, I didn't write that tonight. I wrote that on November 16, 2014, after the Colts lost to the New England Patriots 42-20 in the regular season. But it's entirely accurate after tonight's AFC Championship game as well, after the Patriots completely dominated the Colts 45-7.
Really, there's nothing much to say here that hasn't already been said. We talked all week about how the Colts hadn't been able to stop the run, and guess what? They couldn't stop the run again tonight in the AFC Championship game. But it was more than just that. Tom Brady made some big throws, including to offensive linemen. The Colts really didn't get pressure on Brady. The Patriots got pressure on Andrew Luck. The Colts receivers created absolutely no separation down the field. The Colts dropped too many passes. Josh Cribbs tried to catch a punt with his face mask (it didn't work). The Colts missed too many tackles. And to top it all off, even Andrew Luck was off tonight. Oh yeah, and the biggest mismatch? The Colts were absolutely out coached, and it wasn't close. That happens a lot to opposing coaches against Bill Belichick, but it doesn't have to be as bad as it was tonight.
Let's not lose perspective here: this wasn't some shocking performance tonight from the Colts. All season long we saw a defense that couldn't stop good offenses. They stopped the Broncos last week (still impressive - this doesn't negate that), but it's just a return to what we've seen all year from the Colts' defense. Probably the most surprising part of the game for the Colts was their offense, a unit that managed just seven points as their explosive season ended quietly.
The game changed at the end of the first half and the start of the second half. It's what we call a "two for one" situation, and this game was as clear of an illustration of how huge that can be as any. At one point in the second quarter, the Colts picked off Tom Brady (heck of a pick by D'Qwell Jackson) and mounted a ten-play, 93-yard drive to make it a one-score game (14-7). From there, the Colts had one kneel down and a three and out before the game was then 31-7 Patriots. The Patriots scored at the end of the first half, scored at the beginning of the second half, and then scored after the Colts' three and out. The game changed when the Patriots capitalized on their "two for one" situation. The Colts defense couldn't stop them, and the Colts offense didn't get a real chance to outpace them.
It was an absolutely pathetic showing by the Colts, but let's keep perspective: the Colts made it to the AFC Championship game. They were one of the final four teams in the NFL, and they did that with a defense that has looked like it did today way too often this season. Everyone knew entering the game that the Patriots were a better team than the Colts, and while it's embarrassing to get blown out on a national stage in the AFC title game like that, it doesn't make the season a failure. But we'll have plenty of time for that later.
Right now, it's all about this game, one that saw the Colts fall 45-7 to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. In four games against the Patriots in the Andrew Luck Era, the Colts have been outscored by a combined 189-73. They've allowed a combined 772 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. The most recent offense? The Colts' 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game - a loss that ended a good season but left a lot to be desired. The Colts will enter the offseason with the same goal as last year (build to beat the Patriots), while the Patriots will advance to play the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in two weeks.