Before the season, I predicted a slow start, especially for Andrew Luck. Unfortunately, this has become a reality, mostly because of the below average play of the offense. For the first time in who knows how long, the Colts defense is carrying the Colts offense. Go figure.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the Colts defense has allowed 56 points and considering two of those games were on the road, including one against the defending Super Bowl champions, that’s impressive. They’ve adopted a “bend don’t break” mentality, allowing only 5 touchdowns in 3 games. Their 347 yards allowed per game average ranks in the top half of the NFL. They have 10 sacks through 3 games, which is in the top 5. Three of those sacks have come from Margus Hunt, another three from Darius Leonard and another 1.5 each from Kemoko Turay and Jabaal Sheard. Things have clearly changed on defense.
The special teams unit is ranked in the top half of the NFL through two weeks, according to Football Outsiders. Their rank should only increase after a very solid performance against the Eagles. Rigoberto Sanchez’s 43.5 net yard per punt average ranks in the top 10 in the NFL.
Adam Vinatieri continues to break records and hasn’t missed any must-make kicks. His only miss this year came on a 55 yard attempt that fell just short. Their coverage teams have continued to be solid, not allowing any major returns this season. The special teams has not been an issue, and if anything, has been a strength of the team this season.
The Colts have always had an above average offense, so what’s happened this season? On top of the fact that Andrew Luck isn’t 100% and is still adjusting to the game, the offense has been hit with many injuries. Starting left tackle and mainstay Anthony Castonzo has missed all three games, Jack Doyle missed the last game versus the Eagles and Marlon Mack has missed two games. While the injuries have hurt, the Colts’ biggest issue has been Andrew Luck.
On Sunday, Luck averaged 4.1 yards per passing attempt and that average this year is at 5.3, which is the second lowest in the NFL out of all the starting quarterbacks. The Colts have no plays over 40 yards and only 5 over 20, both well below the NFL average. Their offense isn’t generating a lot of big plays and that’s on Luck and receivers.
On top of that, the Colts are not getting a lot of first downs. Their 18 first downs per game average is in the bottom 25% percent in the NFL. The Colts are averaging 4.5 yards per play, which is also in the bottom 25% percent. The Colts just aren’t consistently putting together long, effective drives that end in points. Against the Colts, the Eagles averaged 4.9 yards per play, which was one of the lowest around the NFL in Week 3 and would rank them in the bottom 25% of the NFL.
The Colts, on the other hand, averaged 3.7 yards per play, which was the worst in the NFL that week and it would rank them as the worst team in the NFL if that was their average. To sum up this entire paragraph, the Eagles were not great on offense, but the Colts were very bad. Wentz made some good throws, but he was average at best, with a 6.9 yards per attempt average, too many missed throws and a bad interception. Their running game averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which is slightly above the league average.
The Eagles absolutely dominated the time of possession against the Colts, totalling 40 minutes, compared to the Colts’ 20 minutes. The Colts’ inability to consistently get first downs (they were 2/12 on 3rd downs) absolutely killed them as they weren’t able to put together too many long drives.
Excluding Luck’s 33 yard scramble, the running game averaged less than 3 yards per carry and considering the Colts like to run on 1st down, that sets them up for difficult 2nd and 3rd down conversions, especially against one of the strongest defenses in the NFL on the road. The Colts had 14 first downs in the game, and only 12 by passing or running the ball (2 others by penalty), compared to 26 from the Eagles. Other teams controlling the ball does not bode well for the Colts at all.
Another issue has been finishing in the red-zone. The Colts had a 20% touchdown success rate in the red-zone against the Eagles which is the 2nd worst in Week 3 (out of teams who actually went into the red-zone at least once). That percentage is hovering around 45%, which ranks them in the bottom half of the NFL and they dropped several spots from last week.
Another startling stat is that the Colts offense ranks 28th in total yards, below Seattle and just slightly above Tennessee, who started Blaine Gabbert the last two weeks. The Colts were even out-gained by over 50 yards in their win against the Redskins. What saved them is that they were 3/3 in the red-zone, which essentially got them the win. Had they been 1/3, it could’ve been a different story and we could be here talking about how the Colts are 0-3 with a strong defense.
As mentioned earlier, the Colts are averaging 5.3 yards per pass play, which is disgustingly low and it shows that the passing game is not what it used to be and it’ll take a few games (at least) to get back up to par. The league average is around 7 yards per attempt and Luck’s career average is 7.1 yards per attempt. If the Colts passing offense expects to get back to normalcy, they need to break that 7 yard per attempt barrier.
The reality is this team has playoff potential if their offense gets going. Considering the uncertainty in the AFC, they might be able to win a game or two if they reach it. Their defense has been very strong and they’ve received tremendous performances from a few different players. Their special teams units are still strong, so that shouldn’t hurt them either. But for the first time it what seems like forever, the offense is holding this team back.