The Indianapolis Colts cannot get out of their own way. Four turnovers was simply too much to overcome, and it often will be. The injury situation has become so absurd that Indianapolis finished the game with only two healthy receivers. Tight end Eric Ebron was clearly on a pitch count due to injury.
On the positive end, Andrew Luck was kept fairly clean throughout the entire game. The second half saw Marlon Mack and the ground game come to life. There were a couple of occasions where the line visibly was out of sync and it hurts that this is the fifth offensive line combination the Colts have used in just six games. If the line can stay free from injury moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the units comes together — particularly the left side with Castonzo, Nelson, and Kelly.
The negative, there is no end in sight for the dropped passes at this point. Numerous drops by Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Marlon Mack, and even a key drop by Ryan Grant helped lead to stalled offensive drives. Bad decision-making by Andrew Luck played a part as well, particularly during an important fourth down drive where he was called for intentional grounding and completely missed Darron Lee in coverage.
Luck has shown a bad habit of guessing and throwing where he thinks his receivers might be on the field. It led to an interception last week and an intentional grounding penalty this week. He is not using his eyes to make good decisions. His desire to get the ball out quickly needs to take a backseat to vision and sound decision-making.
The Colts defense was unable to get off of the field in the second half. Injuries to Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley caused Chris Ballard to bring in veteran safety Mike Mitchell and it is possible that Matt Eberflus was not overly confident in zone coverage. In the second half in particular, it appears that Darius Leonard was no longer on the field. Without Leonard, Skai Moore, Geathers, or Farley, the Colts chose to go with man pass coverage. The results were disastrous.
There is no way to get around the fact that the Colts are playing bad football right now. We can acknowledge that injuries have played a role in the struggles. However, at the end of the day, Chris Ballard must make a major effort throughout the rest of this season and as he prepares for 2019 to make his team better across the board. There are key young players who provide a reason for the Colts fan base to remain confident in the direction Ballard is heading but with a projected $100 million in space next year, now is the time to go big or go home.
The Colts fell to 1-5 with the loss and any reasonable hope that this won’t be another lost season is slipping away. We’ll revisit our five keys to to game.
CATCH THE DAMN BALL
The first two passes of the game hit Luck’s intended targets in the hands. In succession, Chester Rogers and Marlon Mack are unable to haul in the pass. Rogers knocked the ball up in the air but no defender was around to take advantage. Mack was not as lucky and a tipped ball ended up in Morris Claiborne’s hands for a pick-six. Indianapolis found itself in an early hole again due to offensive mistakes.
Early in the second quarter the Colts had a chance to get a touchdown after Malik Hooker’s interception. Rather than take the lead for the first time in the game, Nyheim Hines jumped into the air in the end zone and was unable to handle a pass that hit him right in the chest. If he doesn’t jump in the air and simply catches the ball with his hands, it’s a touchdown. Instead, the Colts had to settle for a field goal.
On the next offensive drive, Chester Rogers dropped a pass that hit him in the hands on a crossing route that could have put the Colts in a great situation threatening in the red zone. Instead, it resulted in a third-and-10 and Reich ran the ball with Robert Turbin to create a manageable third down situation. The Colts had to settle for a field goal.
On the Colts two-minute drive at the end of the half, with a chance to get back on top, a quick throw to the middle of the field to Ryan Grant bounced off of his hands and into Avery Williamson’s.
Zach Pascal had a pass bounce off of his hands on first down in the third quarter while the offense was in the middle of a nice drive. It could have easily been another first down but instead setup 2nd and 10.
Darnold didn’t face much pressure all day. He took a couple of sacks but one was a broken play and was beautifully read by Jabaal Sheard. Not having Autry and Hunt played a visible role in an ineffective pass rush.
SHUT DOWN CROWELL AND POWELL
After a monster game a week ago, the Jets were unable to get either Isaiah Crowell or Bilal Powell going on the ground. This made life very difficult for their offense. It was clear early that Darnold isn’t ready to be the engine of the offense and that the Jets did not enter a game with a developed “Plan B” if the ground game stalled.
In the first half, the Jets are averaging 2.3 yards per carry. The second half saw the running backs get a little bit more involved that they still finished with just over 100 yards and only 3 yard per carry.
OFFENSIVE LINE COMMUNICATION
Outside of a penalty for a block in the back early and a false start on Anthony Castonzo in his first game this season, the offensive line did a nice job of keeping the pocket clean for Luck in the first half. There were a couple of times that Luck had to step up into the pocket but at least he had a place to go.
The running game continued to struggle in the first half, even with Castonzo back on the field. The second half saw both of the themes switch to a degree. Luck had more pressure come into his face, including some from the left side of the line, while Marlon Mack had nice running lanes to generate a lot of yards. Mack finished the game with a 7.4 yard per carry average.
NO DRIVE-KILLING MISTAKES
The first drive-killing mistakes was back-to-back drops on the Colts’ first offensive drive. The mistakes culminated in a pick-six and put Indianapolis in an early hole. The second mistake was a drop by Nyheim Hines in the end zone that turned a sure touchdown into a field goal and an early lead into a 10-10 tie. It was a scoring drive but a touchdown drive killing mistake.
Another offensive drive was killed on 3rd-and-1 when short-yardage expert Robert Turbin coughed up the football. His fumble was recovered in Colts territory and gave the Jets excellent field position.
On a two minute drive at the end of the first half, Luck targeted Ryan Grant and the ball ricocheted off of his hands and was picked off by Avery Williamson. This created another short field for the Jets with a chance to extend their lead before half time.
In the second half, Luck thew an interception that ended a key drive with the Colts down only nine and a chance to cut the game to within a field goal. This setup a short field for the Jets who capitalized with a field goal pushing the lead to 12. The following drive stalled out after Luck failed to find receiver Zach Pascal twice and missed Eric Ebron wide to the right.