All week, the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano said that the starters would play the entire first half and into the third quarter in the third preseason game. The idea was not only to get them more playing time but to try to come as close as possible to simulating a regular season game (with halftime adjustments and things like that).
Andrew Luck and several other starters didn’t begin the third quarter, however, and there was a very simple - yet concerning - reason why the franchise quarterback’s night was cut short: the play of the offensive line.
The unit was, frankly, offensive on Saturday night, allowing six quarterback hits, three sacks, and opening up very few running lanes. Luck was taking a beating, and I don’t think anyone watching the game would have blamed Pagano for getting him out of there sooner had he decided to. Nonetheless, Luck’s night ended early, and after the game Pagano was honest when asked how much the struggles of the offensive line had to do with it: “A lot,” he responded plainly.
It’s safe to say he wasn’t particularly pleased with the play of the unit up front.
“We didn’t play well,” Pagano said. “We didn’t open any run lanes for our guys. The pressure – Schwartzy [Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz] and that defense did a nice job, a bunch of zero pressures and came from everywhere with everybody they had. They did a nice job and we didn’t. We didn’t do a good job protecting. We gave up 3.0 sacks and a bunch of hits.”
As a result of the offensive line struggles, the Colts struggled to get much of anything going consistently on offense.
“It’s hard to get anything going [when] you are in second-and-long or you have a holding penalty and you are first-and-20, second-and-20, whatever it is,” Pagano said. “When you don’t have a clean pocket then you don’t have time to stand in there and push the ball down the field like we wanted to sometimes. There were some decent plays made here and there but we’ve got to be better obviously.”
The Colts will need to get better in a hurry, too. The regular season opener is just two weeks away, and in that game the Colts won’t be pulling Andrew Luck after just one half. They’re going to need him in there, and so the pressure will be on the offensive line to give him enough time to throw. They didn’t do that on Saturday night and instead let Luck take a beating. Because it’s preseason, Pagano didn’t like his franchise quarterback taking so many hits and so he decided to end his night early. It was absolutely the right call, but it’s concerning that it’s one he had to make in the first place.