We talked all week about how this would be a very intriguing matchup of one of the leagues' best passing offenses and one of the league's best passing defenses. This afternoon, however, was dominated by the defense as the Buffalo Bills defeated the Colts 27-14.
The Bills kept calling up blitzes as Rex Ryan brought pressure, and that threw off the Colts' offense for much of the game. Andrew Luck didn't look very good and looked off all game, making some bad and inaccurate throws. The offensive line had some trouble accounting for the blitzes. Penalties killed several Colts drives. Some big plays really hurt the Colts defense. They started very slow,
being shut out in the first half for just the second time in the Indianapolis era (nevermind, that last part isn't true).
The Colts looked better in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late in a very ugly game overall. Making matters worse is that wide receiver T.Y. Hilton left the game with a left knee injury and didn't return. He underwent x-rays in the locker room and later returned to the sideline, but with a big ice wrap on his knee.
It was a pretty terrible all-around opener for the Colts in a tough game on the road against a good team. There are a lot of concerns with this team and many of them showed up today. Let's take a look at some of the notes from the game:
- If we're looking for positives, here's one that stood out to me: the defensive line looked pretty good - namely Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson. I thought both of those guys had impressive showings and, for the most part, the Colts did a solid job against the run (besides for the quarterback runs, of course). I thought that Langford and Anderson were bright spots on an otherwise dim day for the Colts.
- There's no other way around it: Andrew Luck was one of the Colts' biggest problems today. He was just off all day, and while he did do some good things in the fourth quarter, it doesn't erase the throws he missed in the first three. This is the least of the Colts' worries long-term, but it just goes to show that when their quarterback has an off day the team will struggle significantly. But, at the same time, while we put some of the blame on Luck let's realize this: at one point in the second quarter, Luck left the field trailing 10-0. The next time he saw the ball (other than a kneel down to end the half), he was down 24-0. He didn't get much help, but Luck didn't have a good day either.
- Penalties hurt the Colts a lot. Several holding calls, a false start, a roughing the passer, etc. When you're not playing well in the first place, penalties can be that much more devastating, and a couple of Colts drives were derailed by these penalties. You just can't face a 1st and 25 against a Rex Ryan defense and expect to come out successful that often.
- Darius Butler had a rough day. Starting on the outside in place of the injured Greg Toler, Butler was beat a lot. There are a lot of Colts fans who don't like Toler, but understand that Toler is easily their best option on the outside. Butler is a good slot corner but struggles on the outside, and that's what we saw today.
- Phillip Dorsett muffed two punts today, losing one. I know it's not as flashy, but would the Colts consider going back to Griff Whalen as the returner? He's a reliable guy to have back there. I'm not saying to make that switch after just one game, but Dorsett can't muff kicks like that. He just can't.
- Frank Gore had a good day but really wasn't that integral of a part in the offense. He rushed for 31 yards on 8 carries, but he probably should have received more carries. A big deficit and cramps in his calf cut his workload short, but the running game with Gore in there wasn't bad.
- The wide receivers, outside of T.Y. Hilton, were disappointing today. They didn't show much fight for the football and struggled to get open. This is one of the best defenses they will face this year, yes, but it was still a disappointment for a unit that was very hyped up entering the year.
- Tyrod Taylor looked pretty good today. Give him credit for that. The Bills played well. The Colts didn't.
- A lot of people will blame this game on Chuck Pagano, and I understand that - way too often the Colts come out slowly and look unprepared in games. I'm not defending him. But at the same time, I'll say this: today's loss was much more about poor play than poor coaching. I didn't think the offensive gameplan, for example, was a bad one - the Colts just didn't execute. Say what you want about the team being unprepared to play (which has certainly been an issue over the past few years), but the Colts just didn't play well today and that was the biggest issue.