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Monday After Awards: Colts at Steelers

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The Colts were simply outplayed last night by a Steelers team that looked very, very good. It was the Colts worst loss of the season (points wise), so there weren't many positives. Despite this, Ben Lamers finds some awards to hand out.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

So the game last night was rough. This we know.

And while I hate trying to diminish a loss, because losing sucks, I wasn't too upset with this game. When the schedule came out, most of us writers penciled in a loss for the Colts in Pittsburgh. And that's when the Colts were being anointed as the Super Bowl favorites.

With Matt Hasselbeck and a suspect team in general, this loss wasn't terribly unexpected. Additionally, the loss didn't impact the Colts playoff race negatively. Sure it would have been nice to have some cushion over the Texans, but the Colts are no worse off than they were before entering the week.

So while the game was abysmal, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, losing was probably to be expected. Maybe not losing by 35 points, though.

Enough about that, let's get to some awards.

MVP - Frank Gore

Ok, if we're really honest, the real MVP of the game was Ben Roethlisberger. But since I always give MVP to a Colt player (since this is...you know...a Colts blog), we'll give it to Gore.

Let's get this out of the way right now, Gore did not play great. But on a night when no one played great for the Colts, Gore somehow stood out. He ran for 45 yards, and caught three passes for 49 yards, including a touchdown to lead the team in both categories. Gore accounted for over 1/3 of the team's total yards.

Gore ran hard on a lot of plays, and did some serious damage after the catch when Hasselbeck threw his way. On a night where the Colts were bad, Gore was a little less bad.

Arm Chair Coach Award - Donte Moncrief

One week after lighting up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Moncrief was nearly invisible against the Steelers. He recorded one catch for 33 yards. I don't remember him being targeted too much in addition to that.

I would have to look at replays to see if he was covered up, or if the gameplan (for whatever reason) was simply to not get him the ball. Even so, Moncrief has shown great potential this year, and has really grown as a receiver, yet the Colts seem reluctant to make him a factor on some occasions.

Like I said, Moncrief could have been someone the Steelers emphasized taking away in the game. But I still don't see how he only comes down with one catch.

Questionable Calls Award - Chuck Pagano

This one is a bit odd for me to write. As many of you know, I'm a fan of aggressive playcalling and think a lot of teams need to get more aggressive, especially in short yardage situations.

That's probably why I'm not a coach.

The Colts had two such situations where going for it on fourth down as an option. I think Pagano made the wrong choice both times.

The first was early in the game. The Colts had the ball just inside Pittsburgh territory, and probably on fringe Adam Vinatieri field goal range (I think it would have been a 57-58 yard kick). On fourth and short, I felt the Colts needed to go for it, especially being on the road and (at that time) still in the game in Pittsburgh. Instead, Pagano elected to punt. Yuck.

Then, in the third quarter, down 28-10 and driving, the Colts drive stalled deep in Steeler territory. Pagano elected to go for it, and an ugly Hasselbeck pass to the end zone turned the ball over on downs. Now, I get going for it there, I do. But to pass up a chance to go down two scores instead of three? Give me the Vinatieri field goal which (assuming he makes the kick) would make it 28-13.

Now, in hindsight, neither of these calls had a huge outcome on the game. Still, it seems like more often than not Pagano doesn't make the "correct" decision.

"Correct" being my definition of what calls should be made in a certain situation.

Not Wrong Award - Chuck Pagano

Ok, so Pagano gets two awards today.

This one refers to a mini tidbit that Chris Collinsworth dropped early in the game. He and Al Michaels mentioned that the Tennessee game was something of a turning point for the Colts this year (I would disagree).

Collinsworth mentioned, though, that Pagano said them during their interview this week that the Colts probably wouldn't have let him on the plane if they had lost that game.

Now, I'm sure Pagano was joking when he said this, but he might not be wrong. Had the Colts started 0-3 including a loss to Tennessee, change would have been in the air (most likely).

Something Positive Award - Takeaways

The defense was torched, and generated no pass rush. However, in the early stages of the game, the Colts were in it. This is because of two early takeaways.

This season it's been rare for the Colts to force turnovers, so when the Steelers coughed up the ball on the opening kick, it was a gift for the Colts. Of course, they didn't score on that drive, and it felt momentum had swung back to Pittsburgh.

Then the defense generated another turnover!

While the offense did next to nothing with these opportunities, it was nice to see the Colts at least take the ball away from the opposing team.

LVP - National Storylines

Sunday morning, I decided to kick back after my run and watch NFL Gameday on ESPN and do my laundry. While I was treated to a great feature on Bruce Arians, I also sat through a tortuous roundtable led by Stephen A. Smith.

The topic was should Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning see the field again this season. If you follow any of the writers here on Twitter, or have read about almost Josh has written here, you'll know how we feel about this "narrative."

The decision on ESPN seemed to be that since Luck was playing poorly and not winning (never mind that win over previous unbeaten Denver), that Hasselbeck should remain the starter because he is playing better.

I would be willing to bet that, after last night's game, almost no one will be calling for Hasselbeck to start. The narrative will turn to something like "When will Luck return to save the Colts?" Now, Hasselbeck is not a bad QB, he is probably the best back-up in the league. But he's just that, a back-up. He isn't Andrew Luck, and he isn't as good as Andrew Luck.

Wrap-up

Whew, sorry for that mini rant right there.

There weren't a lot of positive about the Colts game last night. The biggest positive is that the Colts are still in first place, and don't even have the worst first-place record in the league. So there's that.

Next week, the Colts stay on the road and head down to Florida to take on the Jaguars.