A common theme I've seen this year in my preview articles is that the comments have been overwhelmingly positive, even though I've had a different tune for most of the year. Even when I was picking the Colts to win, it was never by enough. Then when I pick them to lose to the Saints, nobody agrees with me. I'm impressed with the optimism, but I think you must be watching a different Colts team than I am. There's no accountability from the coaches, players, or front office. I'd like to think the 27-0 hole the Colts put themselves in was rock bottom for the season, but let's face it: the Colts next three opponents are a combined 18-1, so there are lots of opportunities for that to happen. The Colts took advantage of a couple of breaks from the Saints secondary to get back within a touchdown, but in the end the entire team couldn't give them a chance to win, falling 27-21.
I say the entire team didn't give them a chance to win, and here's what I mean. The Offense punted 10 times Sunday against one of the worst Defenses in the NFL. They basically failed all day. The Special Teams unit had a chance to really help bail out the Offense with a superb onside kick by Pat McAfee, an even better play by Donte Moncrief to bat the ball back onto the field and into the hands of Colt Anderson, but sadly he couldn't handle the ball and the Saints recovered. By no means was this the reason the Colts lost, but just a huge missed opportunity. Same with the Defense. They had a chance to give the Offense another shot at a game-winning touchdown, but they couldn't stop the Saints from getting 15 yards in three plays, and they were able to kneel it out. Again, not the reason for the loss, but a missed opportunity.
As you'll see in the stats, the Defense played extremely well despite getting absolutely no help from their Offense. Even though this was the case, I'm still in agreement with Chuck Pagano to try the onside kick in that situation. Because the Colts only had one timeout remaining they had to get a Three and Out to get the ball back, which they did on five of the Saints first 15 drives, or 1/3, which isn't all that good when you absolutely need one on the next drive. When you add in the fact that McAfee is far and away the best onside kicker in the league (watch the last two weeks; they're freaking perfect), and it makes this a no-brainer. I'd advocate running one or two of these per game, even if their opponent is expecting it.
There's obviously a lot of articles being written about what's causing the Colts to have seemingly regressed to just above the level of the other AFC South teams, and there really isn't anyone that is free from blame for this season. I think there are two things that stand above the others: the unacceptably low-level play of Andrew Luck so far this season, and why the coaches have seemingly ignored all the warning signs we've seen now for almost a season and a half and insist on letting him continue to make the same mistakes over and over. It's well known slow starts have been a staple of the Pagano/Luck era, and I think that is directly attributable to poor game-planning on the part of the coaching staff. I give them credit for making adjustments in-game, which, along with some great comebacks by the players, have allowed them to win 11 games in each season. I can't pin everything on the coaches, however, as they aren't the ones actually on the field. Luck has been really bad this year, and it bottomed out Sunday. Fortunately for Luck he's a franchise QB, so changes will be made around him rather than to him, meaning a coaching change is imminent and necessary.
Let's get to the numbers, where we can see just where everything went wrong.
Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 7:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||50.0%||17||80.0%||25||N||Y||5-1|
|Avg Start Pos||21.0||23||29.8||21||N||Y||6-2|
|3 and Outs||7||26||5||5||N||N||4-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.689||12||1.205||5||Y||N||3-3|
|Ranking - Week (28)||27||13||25|
|Ranking - Season (210)||193||78||174|
Adjusted Stats for Week 7:
|Statistic||Offense||Rank||Defense||Rank||Off/Def Above||Off/Def Below||Record|
|Orange Zone Eff||50.8%||18||79.2%||26||N||Y||5-1|
|Avg Start Pos||20.5||26||29.9||21||N||Y||6-2|
|3 and Outs||6.6||27||5.8||4||N||N||4-2|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.858||16||1.177||6||Y||N||3-3|
|Ranking - Week (28)||28||3||22|
|Ranking - Season (210)||204||56||171|
- Worst Offensive performance in the NFL this week, and the 7th worst of any game played so far this season by any team. There isn't much to argue about there. Simply pathetic.
- The Colts had 16 drives on Sunday. Only three of them went longer than 6 plays, with one of those being the final drive of the game to score a touchdown. Only two of 16 drives lasted longer than two minutes (!). All against one of the worst Defenses in the NFL. That's how bad it was.
- The Yards per Play is high thanks to the two long TDs to Hilton, but the Saints were already the worst in the league there so that isn't saying much. I expected more shots and more big plays that just never happened.
- Running game was good. Does absolutely no good when you're down 27-0.
- The Defense got put in a couple tough spots after turnovers and they couldn't keep the Saints out of the end zone on either drive, so the worst looking numbers are in Orange and Red Zone Efficiencies. Can't fault them too much, but those are sticking out pretty good in the numbers.
- The really good parts about the Defense, though, were how well they shut down drives, ranking top 5 this week in several drive-related stats. Like I said above, the Offense did them no favors by playing so bad, so seeing these kind of numbers gives me slight hope that getting healthy is just what they needed.
Season Stats through Week 7 (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||55.5%||15||Patriots||54.9%||17||Eagles||39-7||0.848|
|Avg Start Pos||25.9||30||Bengals||30.6||23||Bengals||41-11||0.788|
|3 and Outs||3.89||18||Bengals||3.37||22||Jets||27-13||0.675|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.818||17||Jets||1.233||1||Colts||24-24||0.500|
- I know it seems the Colts get penalized a lot (and they almost always come at the worst time), but they're the best in the NFL at drawing penalties, making it the only stat they currently lead the league in. Just think if they weren't getting all those yards.
- The Offense dropped from 10th to 19th overall, with there being very few things above league average. The drop-off from the last two years is drastic.
- The Defense is slowly trying to crawl its way out of the hole they put themselves in early. Some good spots of improvement that I hope continues with better health.
I was quite worried that the high level of play we saw from the Colts last week against the Patriots was going to be a one week anomaly, and as these numbers show you, that's exactly what it was. Sunday was basically the Bills game but with the Offense and Defense flipped. I don't blame you for trying to get excited after last week, but sadly the norm for the Colts is much closer to what we saw on Sunday.
I think the possibility is very real that Chuck Pagano will be let go during the bye week, but I have an alternate theory: we know from earlier this year that Ryan Grigson was the guy who hired Pep Hamilton, and Pagano wanted Rob Chudzinski to get the job. We also know that Grigson and Jim Irsay had a "heated conversation" after the game. Irsay sees just like we do how bad Luck and the Offense has been this season. I think it's likely that Hamilton will be shown the door after the Denver game if the Colts don't show anything against two very good Defenses. This would be Irsay's way of giving Pagano a final seven game stretch with his Offensive Coordinator (Chudzinski) game-planning and calling plays, which I think Pagano deserves. Irsay loves his players, and his players love Pagano. I really think he wants to give Pagano every chance he can to keep his job. There'd be no excuses if the Colts can't show anything with Pagano's "guy" in there.