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2016 NFL Week 12: Inside the Colts Numbers - Out To Lunch

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The Colts brought a two game winning streak into their Thanksgiving night clash with the Steelers, but couldn't stop the potent Steelers Offense and struggled in the Red Zone, leading to a 28-7 loss, leaving them still on the outside looking in for a division title.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It seems like an eternity ago the Colts played on Thanksgiving night, a game they were always going to struggle in without the services of Andrew Luck, but just how they looked losing 28-7 to the Steelers may have come as a surprise to some, as it really wasn't the QB play that was the problem (although it really wasn't as good as some people thought), but just an awful, awful Pass Defense that caused the Colts to fall to 5-6 on the season.

I'll get into a bunch of specific numbers below, but I wanted to start with the Red Zone Offense, as it was front and center last Thursday night. The Colts were stopped not once, but twice on 4th and goal at the one yard line, which would have made the game much closer than the final score indicated had those gone the Colts way. This, I believe, was the one area where Luck's absence played a pivotal role in the game. I've mentioned often how good the Colts have been in the Red Zone this year, and I believe they have five wins thanks in large part to how well they've been scoring touchdowns once they got deep in opponents' territory. Yes the receivers didn't help with drops (and there were lots), but both times Scott Tolzien ran the ball where I think Luck might have had more success, mostly because he's used to doing it (and we've seen him do it this season). I'm going to rail on the Defense a lot down below, but this was the biggest Offensive difference we saw Thursday, and it hurt them considerably.

Even though the Colts didn't get either 4th and goal to work, I really like the decisions made by Chuck Pagano to go for it both times. It's almost like he (finally) understood that his Defense couldn't be trusted to stop the Steelers Offense (only took ten quarters and 117 points over last 2+ years to realize it), but every decision he made was from the perspective that they needed to score TDs to win, and it just didn't work. They also had the fake punt in a really good spot that led to the only TD they did score, and I'm fairly certain had they scored on the super long drive in the 3rd quarter, they would have tried an onside kick afterwards. Ron Rivera turned a corner in Carolina, and it worked out great for him, so let's hope Pagano has done the same thing.

The loss also ended a tremendous streak on Thursday nights for the Colts, where they had been 12-0 in mid-season Thursday night games (they won the opener in '07 and lost in New England in '04 (Vanderjagt!)). I guess they'll just have to start a new streak next year, and preferably at home again, as they only hosted two of those 12 wins.

Let's jump into the stats, where the Defense definitely did not shine.

Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 12:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 73.1% 16 80.0% 27 N N 4-0
ANPY/A 3.725 30 13.381 32 N Y 7-1
Turnovers 2 21 0 22 N Y 8-0
Yds/Drive 38.75 9 41.00 26 N N 3-2
ToP/Drive 3:58.1 3 3:08.3 23 N N 5-1
Yds/Play 4.921 25 7.380 31 N Y 6-3
Orange Zone Eff 0.0% 32 100.0% 27 N Y 4-1
First Downs/Drive 2.25 10 1.78 13 N N 5-3
3rd/4th Down 52.6% 7 63.6% 31 N N 3-2
Avg Start Pos 23.9 25 24.6 10 N N 8-2
3 and Outs 2 10 1 24 N N 3-4
RZ Eff 33.3% 31 100.0% 21 N Y 5-0
Plays/Drive 7.875 4 5.556 12 Y N 3-4
Penalty Yds / Play 0.159 1 1.340 4 Y N 6-5
RB Success 23.5% 31 55.2% 30 N Y 5-4
Yds/Carry 3.96 18 5.10 24 N Y 4-5
Ranking - Week (32) 18 30 30
Ranking - Season (354) 160 336 309

Adjusted Stats for Week 12:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 74.2% 18 79.5% 24 N N 4-0
ANPY/A 3.248 31 12.825 32 N Y 7-1
Turnovers 2.0 26 0.3 26 N Y 8-0
Yds/Drive 38.12 9 39.96 28 N N 3-2
ToP/Drive 3:54.6 3 3:06.0 23 N N 5-1
Yds/Play 4.719 27 7.199 32 N Y 6-3
Orange Zone Eff 4.6% 32 91.8% 28 N Y 4-1
First Downs/Drive 2.29 8 1.79 15 N N 5-3
3rd/4th Down 52.1% 7 62.2% 31 N N 3-2
Avg Start Pos 24.1 26 24.9 10 N N 8-2
3 and Outs 2.1 10 0.5 30 N N 3-4
RZ Eff 48.2% 29 103.3% 31 N Y 5-0
Plays/Drive 7.860 4 5.550 11 Y N 3-4
Penalty Yds / Play 0.131 2 1.197 7 Y N 6-5
RB Success 31.2% 30 55.6% 31 N Y 5-4
Yds/Carry 4.18 19 5.00 26 N Y 4-5
Ranking - Week (32) 20 31 31
Ranking - Season (354) 172 344 324

Some thoughts:

  • As far as our passing stat goes, this was the worst adjusted number of any game this season (nearly 13 adjusted net yards per attempt), and the raw stat was the 2nd worst given up all year. It's so clear that the Steelers have figured out what the Colts are doing Defensively that I don't believe there is any hope in stopping them while this current coaching staff is in place. This means that along with New England, the Colts now have two teams they absolutely must avoid in the Playoffs, as I believe they have no shot at beating either team.
  • On top of the miserable pass Defense, they allowed over 63% on 3rd/4th downs, some of them 10+ yarders, that just killed any chance of a win.
  • The Colts were also bad in Yards per Play (over 7), Orange/Red Zone Efficiency (scored a TD on each trip), and at Run Defense (well, this was expected. Le'Veon Bell is really good).
  • I'm not concerned about the two turnovers. Both came in the 2nd half when they were trying to come back, so more chances were taken. Neither were critical to the outcome.
  • Nineteen plays, 89 yards, 11:22 off the clock, and no points. Love the 4th and 4 call at the 18, and we already talked about the 4th and goal call, which was dropped by Phillip Dorsett.
  • That drive is also why I'm very cautious when using Time of Possession per Drive, as just holding the ball for a long time doesn't necessarily get you points at the end, especially when two separate long drives come up completely empty.

Season Stats through Week 12 (Adjusted):

Statistic Offense Rank Best Defense Rank Best Record Win %
DSR 72.8% 8 Cowboys 73.8% 28 Ravens 56-13 0.812
ANPY/A 5.410 21 Falcons 7.373 32 Broncos 65-9 0.878
Turnovers 1.61 16 Falcons 0.96 32 Chargers 78-18 0.813
Yds/Drive 31.08 10 Cowboys 35.26 32 Ravens 48-17 0.738
ToP/Drive 2:52.0 8 Cowboys 2:40.0 16 Chargers 67-26 0.720
Yds/Play 5.131 20 Falcons 6.057 31 Broncos 46-19 0.708
Orange Zone Eff 54.9% 16 Giants 62.1% 26 Cardinals 56-28 0.667
First Downs/Drive 1.88 8 Cowboys 1.96 26 Ravens 53-19 0.736
3rd/4th Down 40.7% 11 Saints 40.1% 20 Raiders 58-18 0.763
Avg Start Pos 27.5 28 Falcons 28.0 8 Patriots 74-32 0.698
3 and Outs 3.42 9 Redskins 3.02 26 Ravens 42-25 0.627
RZ Eff 73.6% 9 Panthers 73.0% 25 Saints 52-30 0.634
Plays/Drive 6.028 7 Cowboys 5.766 20 Texans 55-32 0.632
Penalty Yds / Play 0.762 12 Bengals 1.013 5 Titans 51-35 0.593
RB Success 47.2% 8 Cowboys 53.3% 32 Ravens 33-57 0.367
Yds/Carry 3.97 22 Bills 4.67 28 Ravens 39-42 0.481
Overall 11 Cowboys 30 Ravens

A few things:

  • The Colts have played a pretty "average" schedule strength, which means their adjusted and non-adjusted numbers aren't far off of each other. This means seeing our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most important stats all ranking dead last Defensively (along with RB Success Rate) is not a good sign. Yes, both Rush and Pass Defense are ranked 32nd in the NFL. Yikes.
  • The Offense didn't dip too much without Andrew Luck, which is good to see. All signs point to him being back this week in a must-win game.
  • Not only are the Cowboys the best Offense in the NFL, they are in the top 5 of every category save Avg. Starting Position, which they really have no control over. They are insanely good on Offense (and almost as bad as the Colts Defensively).

Week-to-Week Comparison:

Colts Opponent Non-Adjusted Adjusted
Week Offense Defense Total Offense Defense Total
1 Lions 14 344 187 64 334 232
2 Broncos 253 278 305 147 324 285
3 Chargers 144 107 86 89 91 45
4 Jaguars 179 156 158 176 225 234
5 Bears 131 254 213 127 329 283
6 Texans 203 221 246 114 318 264
7 Titans 21 274 90 33 229 77
8 Chiefs 310 240 327 309 233 319
9 Packers 157 232 216 215 194 239
10 BYE
11 Titans 110 194 119 146 139 122
12 Steelers 160 336 309 172 344 324

While the Colts Defense hasn't been good as a whole this season, you can see in the above table they actually were improving in five straight games, and I thought maybe they had turned a corner and were becoming "average", but they had to go out and lay a giant egg (somewhat aided by injuries), which especially hurt because we knew the Offense clearly wasn't going to be 100% without Luck.

The Colts now have to win at least four of their final five games (in my opinion) to have a chance at winning the AFC South, which will be especially difficult with trips to both Minnesota and Oakland looming, as well as the game Monday night against the Jets. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? I don't believe so, no, and the numbers suggest the same.