A day after watching my college team (Iowa State) forget to show up for the second half of their game, I watched the Colts not show up for the entire game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Colts may have only lost to the Bills by 13 points, but it was a large 13 points as the game was never really that close. After a disappointing season opener, I have some awards to hand out (as always). Be aware, though, they aren't so positive this week.
Colts MVP - Vontae Davis
You could argue T.Y. Hilton for this spot at well, and I initially had him typed in. Still, I'll opt for Davis here. I've typed before, and mentioned in my preview with Buffalo Rumblings last week, that I had some concerns with Davis. He barely played in the pre-season, the only play I remember him in, he got burned (the play was called back for holding though). I've said more than once I didn't expect him to have as great a season this year.
For at least one game, I was very, very wrong. Davis completely took Sammy Watkins out of the game. Watkins had no catches, and I believe he was never targeted either. It's possible that the Bills game plan was to throw away from Davis. If so, that effectively means he neutralized an entire part of the field, much like Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman. On a day when the rest of the Colts played poorly, Davis quietly did his job and negated the Bills best receiving weapon.
Bills MVP - Tyrod Taylor
No question. In his first start in four years (and he's not a rookie...despite what the announcers said), Taylor looked every bit the missing piece Buffalo needed.
When he needed to, Taylor scrambled, and did so to the tune of 41 yards. He was also on point throwing the football. In windy and rainy conditions, Taylor was 14-19 for 195 yards, a touchdown, and no turnovers. While it wasn't much for yards, especially in today's NFL, it was exactly what the Bills needed. Someone who could help move the chains, and not mess up. Taylor's dime to Percy Harvin was easily the best pass, from either quarterback, in the game.
Power Outage Award - Running Game
According to the Colts' front office, the team has four starting caliber running backs. So naturally, the Colts ran the ball 17 times, and threw the ball 49 times. Keep in mind, four of the 17 runs were scrambles from Luck.
I understand not running once they were down three scores, but I don't understand why the Colts effectively abandoned the run early in the game. A team that still, every once and a while, claims to want to run and stop the run, again did neither. In fact, at one point in the game, on the drive when Vinatieri missed a 52 yard kick (more on that later) the Colts had thrown the ball 21 times, and run 5. Why exactly did they sign Frank Gore if they weren't going to even try and run?
Speaking of the run game, it wasn't that bad! Gore averaged nearly 4 yards per carry, and had a handful of runs in which he barreled past the down linemen of the Bills. If you take away Luck's scrambles, the Colts averaged about 3.4 yards on the ground. Not great, but no worse than last year. Gore was having success early on, to only give him eight total carries is foolish. To only run the ball seven times in the first half is even worse. I think.
Retirement Home Award - Andre Johnson
Many thought Gore showed his age yesterday, and again I would disagree. I think he was underused. Johnson, on the other hand, looked like he was finished.
The veteran looked slow, and had a few drops on catches he almost always made. He didn't seem to have chemistry with Andrew Luck. In other words, I think he looked like a combination of last year's Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks. Leading up to the game, one of my buddies said he thought Johnson was done. I told him I thought he would have a good year, since he had been wasting away in Houston. Unfortunately, Johnson certainly looked done on Sunday.
Pepperidge Farms Award - Ryan Grigson and Phillip Dorsett
Remember when the Colts decided to draft Phillip Dorsett in the first round instead of addressing either line? Pepperidge Farms remembers.
While I'm aware that one player doesn't make all the difference in the trenches, it could have helped on Sunday. Facing one of the best front sevens in football, the Colts offensive line looked overmatched and confused. Holding penalties and blown assignments contributed to killed drives and pressure on Luck. Again, one player doesn't solve this problem, but it would certainly have helped (I think).
Conversely, the defensive line looked horrible. More accurately, as the game wore on, it looked the same as it did last year. I understand that the team didn't count on Arthur Jones being injured. I get that. Still, Kendall Langford is the only player with real experience on the line. I know a rookie doesn't add to that, but I think we, as fans, might be more confident moving forward with a first rounder sitting on the line, instead of a pair of low round rookies.
Let's talk about Dorsett, though. He's a rookie, I know, and that explains his lack of fight, or movement, to balls that he needed to make an adjustment to. But muffing two punts? Inexcusable. The second muffed punt directly impacted the Colts loss. The Colts had just moved down for a score, and were down 16, and had proceeded to stop the Bills on a quick three and out. Instead of giving Luck the ball back, while he was starting to get into a rhythm, Dorsett juggled his second straight punt and turned the ball over. I'm not saying the Colts complete a huge comeback to win if Dorsett doesn't fumble. I'm saying that turning the ball over there effectively killed the Colts chances.
Wrong Play-call Award - Special Teams Situations
I want to look at two instances here.
The first, the 52 yard field goal attempt from Vinatieri. Yes, I know he has hit kicks like this before. But kicking a long kick, in those conditions, is a very low percentage play. It was probably the least sure I have been in a Vinatieri kick in a long time, mainly because of the wind and rain. I would have rather seen the Colts try for a shorter yardage play on third down, to make it fourth and manageable. I'm sure not everyone will agree with that assessment, but I'd rather take a chance on getting to a 4th and 5 (assuming the Colts pick up yards on third down in this situation) than a 52 yard field goal.
The second being the lack of onside kick in the fourth quarter. I understand not doing the onside kick with over six minutes left. On the other hand, what had the Colts seen to make them think the defense could get the ball back at that point? I know, I know, they did actually get the ball back in this situation. Still, Pat McAfee is one of the best onside kickers in the game. In a rainy game, with a slick ball, you never know what happens on an onside attempt.
LVP - Paper Football
I've said it so often, and other have said it to. The game is played on the field, and not on paper. I think many fans, myself included, got too caught up in the team the Colts were fielding on paper. When you look at the depth chart, it's hard to not get excited about the offense.
However, I think a lot of us (again I include myself in this) got a little too carried away about the potential, and didn't notice that the offense was very inconsistent in the pre-season. I know it's the pre-season, but in hindsight, maybe there were some red flags that we all just ignored.
When it all came down to it, the Bills outplayed, outmuscled, and outcoached the Colts. As the Colts get ready for the Jets (who looked impressive against Cleveland) I want to leave you with two things:
1. Keep in mind that it's overreaction Monday. Many articles (possibly this one included) might be dooming the Colts to a losing season, and that everything is terrible. It isn't. It's one game. Remember, the 2004 Patriots lost 31-0 in Buffalo to open the season, and only lost once the rest of the way.
2. I want to let our old friend Jim Mora sum up the Colts game in this video.
Edit: I noted this in a lengthy comment as well. Many of you made note of how I characterized the run defense. You're all exactly correct in that I heaped too much blame on them. After re-watching the game, the unit played mostly well. The Bills did rip off a few big runs (including one from McCoy which was called back) and those are the plays that stuck in my head while writing this article.