The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 30-14 on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, dropping them to 3-5 on the season.
Chuck Pagano and the Colts love to talk about going back to the tape and looking at the film, so that’s exactly what we do as well. And upon watching the film from Sunday’s terrible game, here are some notes and observations:
- Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton have rough games. It was the worst game of the year for Andrew Luck, and the same can be said of T.Y. Hilton, as both of them struggled. Luck had a couple of turnovers and was errant on several passes, including some to Hilton. The receiver, meanwhile, had a number of drops that, while they weren’t perfect passes, should have been caught. Hilton wound up catching just one pass for 20 yards on six targets, one of the least productive games of his career. So naturally, much of the talk after the game has been about the struggles of Hilton and the receivers and, also, of Luck. And while I’m not denying that they both had bad games, here’s the thing: overreacting to a good quarterback and injured receiver having a down game is missing the point - that this team sucks. They have issues all over the roster, and for the first seven weeks of the season Luck and Hilton were among the only players the Colts could count on producing. So if anything, their struggles on Sunday just highlight even more how this is a bad team that needs Luck (and his top weapon) to step up to even have a chance.
- Offensive line is a mess. Much has been made about the offensive line struggles too, and I’ve written about these in the past day or two as well. Luck was hit 12 times and sacked six times and was under pressure a lot. And while some games have been better than others this year, it’s been a continual struggle. The most concerning part of the line all year (and again on Sunday) has been the play of the tackles on the outside, and in particular Anthony Castonzo. They haven’t been able to consistently keep the pressure off of Luck, which has resulted in a lot of problems. And I’m not sure the offense is helping, either. For example, there was a play on Sunday where Luck took a deep dropback and by the time he finished, the tackles were both already beat. In a sense, it was as if Luck dropped back deeper than the tackles were protecting (and if that’s the case, just assume it’s the line’s fault). Rob Chudzinski has been utilizing quite a few deep dropbacks this year, and it doesn’t seem like the tackles have been able to handle them. That’s not to shift the focus to the playcalling, however, as the bottom line is that the line needs to be better. The biggest problem is Castonzo, because he’s a guy the Colts have invested in and can’t just move on from (because they don’t have better options). It’s gotten to the point where the Colts need to give him extra help, however, but that will leave another lineman free to allow a pressure. It’s a mess.
- Run game actually wasn’t terrible. If you’re looking for a positive on offense, you might be looking for a little while, but you may eventually settle on the run game - because unlike most of the rest of the team, it wasn’t terrible on Sunday. Frank Gore rushed for 37 yards on nine carries (4.1 yards per rush), while Robert Turbin rushed for nine yards on two carries (4.5 yards per rush). That’s a healthy run game when it comes to the average, but the Colts didn’t run it as much as they were trying to play catch up for the rest of the afternoon. And even Andrew Luck contributed in the run game in a big way, finishing as their leading rusher with a career-high 60 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per rush.
- Robert Mathis looked better than he has all year. On defense, one of the encouraging things was that Robert Mathis actually looked the best he has all year. He made five tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit, and two tackles for loss, and on his sack he managed to get by the lineman to drag down the quarterback. We haven’t really seen much of anything from Mathis so far this year, so it was good to see him step up on Sunday, even if in a losing effort.
- Edwin Jackson may be the best option at inside linebacker. I say this mainly because of the other options and not because of Jackson, but Edwin Jackson might be the Colts’ best option at inside linebacker right now alongside D’Qwell Jackson. Josh McNary has been bad this year, while Antonio Morrison has also struggled - and both of their snap counts have significantly dropped. Enter Edwin Jackson, who made his first carer start on Sunday and recorded four tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hit. He wasn’t great by any means, and he had his struggles - but he’s probably a better option than McNary and Morrison at this point. Again, the position is the worst on the team and the Colts don’t have many options.
- T.J. Green is really playing bad. Contrary to what has been said about him in the local media so far this year, T.J. Green’s struggles extend well beyond this past Sunday - he’s had a very rough year. In preseason, he looked better than many thought he would look right away (he was a project player coming out of college), which gave some reason for optimism. But we soon saw why Green is considered a project, and he has been a liability on the field for the Colts. He’s committed a number of bad penalties, and on Sunday he horribly misplayed a jump ball in the air as well. Green is a liability, but here’s the problem: because of the huge issues at linebacker the Colts have been using Clayton Geathers down in the box some, bringing in Green to play safety alongside Mike Adams. So the poor play of the linebackers has actually contributed to T.J. Green seeing more snaps, which hasn’t really helped the defense become better.
- Punt returns are a struggle. At this point, you just close your eyes and hope the Colts don’t misplay another punt return, because it’s ridiculous. While Quan Bray is a good returner and a dangerous threat, it shouldn’t be this hard for the Colts to simply find a guy who can fair catch correctly. Chester Rogers two weeks ago made some bad decisions on when to return punts, and then he missed this week’s game due to injury. So the Colts put T.Y. Hilton back there - which they’ve been hesitant to do because of his value to the offense - and it worked, but then Hilton went out with a hamstring injury. Josh Ferguson took a try at punt returner and muffed one, and Phillip Dorsett didn’t do much better. So it went back to an injured Hilton, who at the very least gives the Colts a solid option. Hilton is a good returner, but it’s probably not worth the risk to put him back there consistently. That means the team needs to figure it out in the return game, though - and that doesn’t mean you need a guy who can go 80-yards for a touchdown but simply a guy who won’t screw things up for the offense.
- Pat McAfee has to be upset. Multiple times this year, Pat McAfee has had a perfect punt that should be downed inside the 10 that has rolled into the end zone because of stupid errors by the coverage units. It happened again on Sunday, as the team once again let a punt go into the end zone. Pat McAfee just stood there with his hands on his hips watching, stunned at what happened. And guess who it was again? Jordan Todman. It was the second time this year that Todman has been responsible for letting a good punt pinned deep go for a touchback, and since special teams is the only reason he’s on the team, he’d better start playing better in that area pretty soon.
- Jack of all trades. One last special teams note is that Jack Doyle, who has become a fan favorite, lived up to his reputation as a "Jack of all trades" on Sunday. He still managed to be the team’s second leading receiver with two catches for 36 yards (which if it doesn’t sound great, remember that nothing was for the Colts on Sunday), and he also added two special teams tackles to account for as many as the rest of the team combined.