The Colts were a 7-point underdog going into their home opener this Sunday and, if social media and local sports talk radio were the barometer by which people would place their bets, it appeared Vegas gave the gamblers a lock. Unfortunately for those who took the Cardinals to cover the spread, the Colts gave the fans a close and entertaining game as well as some reasons to be cautiously optimistic going forward.
When news broke that Jacoby Brissett would be the starting quarterback this week, most Colts fans were elated, but not because they saw Brissett as a savior. No, it was simply because he wasn’t Scott Tolzien. Tolzien possesses talents that make him a very low floor and very low ceiling NFL quarterback. He’s a known (bad) commodity. Even with only 6 practices and working knowledge of about 60 percent of the playbook, Brissett gave the Colts a better chance.
The expectations of a victory were still quite low. Even with what appeared to be an upgrade at quarterback, I only gave the Colts about a 10 percent chance of winning the game. They would need to win the turnover battle, score touchdowns in the red zone and minimize penalties (yeah, I know...some really profound analysis). All of these would be tough tasks considering they had a banged up offensive line, a banged up and inexperienced secondary and a formidable opponent. Had I written a piece prior to kickoff, my prognostication would have been laughably bad. I have the luxury of hindsight, but I won’t dare lead you to believe I had this one figured out.
I, like most fans, believed the Colts offensive line would be a major problem. Injuries have forced Pagano to play musical chairs with nothing but warm bodies. Pagano was optimistic, but I figured Brissett would be running for his life from a defense that would pin its ears back due to the Colts playing from behind.
The reality was pretty much the exact opposite. The Colts had a lead for most of the game and the offensive line held up. Even on plays that were designed to allow the receivers to get downfield, he had time to stand in the pocket and make throws.
Despite the protection, Brissett was a little too conservative and the wide receiver play in the first half was quite poor. Unfortunately, the offense was unable to capitalize on some opportunities and it eventually came back to haunt them.
My expectations for the defense were not much better. After getting pulverized last week by the Rams, I figured a veteran quarterback and an aggressive head coach would expose the Colts’ beleaguered secondary. It wasn’t until late in the game Arizona decided to abandon the run, open it up and get the Colts into their dime package.
After that, they were able to move the ball with relative ease down the field. This was very disappointing due to the fact that the Colts were winning the time of possession battle.
Despite the bad fourth quarter, the Colts defense and their youngsters looked pretty darn good. Even the touchdown catch by J.J. Nelson was well defended. The reality was the Colts showed us a defense that was able to control the run, create pressure on the quarterback, and whose young defensive backs appear to be capable. They just need to get healthy.
I really expected this game to be a blowout loss. I assumed the Cardinals would spread it out, build a lead, control the clock and have Brissett running for his life. Maybe I thought the Cardinals were a better team? The reality was the Colts were able to keep it close with some impressive play on both sides of the ball but were ultimately unable to do what they needed to do to pull off the upset.
A turnover in overtime, settling for field goals and a roughing the passer call in the fourth quarter that eventually led to a touchdown were all contributors to a tough loss. I didn’t even mention a really bad punt that led to a potential game-winning field goal for Arizona.
There were enough silver linings in Sunday’s defeat to create optimism, but until the Colts are able to overcome imperfect play and still win, the reality is a sub .500 team. Going forward, my expectations for this Colts team have not changed. A healthy offensive line, healthy secondary and Andrew Luck under center are paramount to their success.