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The Colts are in a slump—who is to blame?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts are stuck in a rut, and with injuries plaguing the roster and a slate of divisional games ahead, they could be at risk of spiraling out of control. There are a host of people at fault, and if you are like many Colts fans, you are more than eager to assign blame. Whose fault is this slide? There are more than a few opinions.

Blame the kicker. Certainly there’s room to do it. Adam Vinatieri has been among the worst kickers in the league in 2019, kicking 73.7% of his field goals and just 70% of extra points through the uprights. There are solid arguments to be made that 3 losses rest on Vinny’s boot.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Blame the offensive line. A group that rounded into dominant form down the stretch of 2018 has been mediocre or worse in their last 3 games. They’ve failed to protect the quarterback, giving up 10 sacks in 3 games, and they haven’t had nearly the push up front in the running game that they did early in the season. On a team where this is the best and most talented unit on the field, they’ve looked lackluster and wanting.

Blame Eric Ebron. A guy who broke out to score 14 touchdowns in 2018 has just 3 so far this year and his catch percentage is at its lowest since his rookie season. Sure, he’s had a few bad calls go against him, but ultimately for a player with his talent in a contract year to be such an insignificant part of the offense is unacceptable, and he hasn’t made himself stand out in a positive way when he’s on the field.

Blame Jacoby Brissett. Sure, he wasn’t the problem this game, but while Brian Hoyer seemed to throw every pass into double coverage, Brissett is his opposite—afraid to challenge downfield for fear of throwing a pick. Neither guy seems to be able to see the whole field consistently, and Brissett pairs moments of brilliance with moments of extreme frustration when he misses players who are open or takes a sack rather than throwing the ball away. Is he a massive upgrade on Brian Hoyer? Certainly. Is he the answer? That question is still hotly debated.

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Blame the pass rush. They don’t exactly deserve the benefit of the doubt. Yesterday was a perfect microcosm of the effectiveness of the Colts pass rush over the course of the season. They repeatedly got hands on Ryan Fitzpatrick, only to watch him slip away and make a play. Almost doesn’t give your offense the ball back, not that they could do anything with it anyway. Guys not named Justin Houston simply haven’t been a game changing factor in the pass rush with any kind of consistency.

Blame the secondary. They’ve routinely let no-names and backups carve up their zone looks, and even when they’ve played tight man, they’re lucky to get their heads around in time to see the ball arriving, and if they happen to notice it coming, they’re almost assuredly getting flagged for pass interference. They’re starting a rookie at corner and one at safety, you say? Still have to perform.

Blame Frank Reich. For a coach who is undoubtedly gifted as a leader and play caller, Reich has led a team in 3 consecutive weeks to completely flat performances against opponents that, from all appearances, should have been completely over-matched. There is no doubt that having Reich at the helm has kept this team afloat through all the traumas of this season, but his team has been wildly inconsistent from week to week in terms of contributions from his various position groups.

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Blame Chris Ballard. Many are happy to do so, and they aren’t totally without reason. He has taken 3 wide receivers in the draft, and so far there hasn’t been any meaningful contribution to the team from any of them. Injuries have been a factor, true. However, when you neglect a position group in favor of the trenches, you’d better be winning big time in those areas. The Colts aren’t, and the lack of receiver depth has reared its head as injuries have decimated the group.

Blame the medical staff. How much blame can you really place on the people whose job it is to get players rehabbed and recovered in time to play on game day? Who knows. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t hurl at least some of the blame their way for not managing to return players like Pierre Desir to the field in a reasonable amount of time, or keep seemingly half the roster from suffering spontaneous hamstring combustion.

While we’re at it, blame Andrew Luck. If Luck guts it out through more months of rehab and recovery, maybe he is back on the field by now. Maybe this team makes it through their toughest stretch of schedule, just in time for Luck to arrive to take the reins and light opposing defenses ablaze, wowing us with jaw dropping moments and fueling a deep playoff run. Instead, he’s at home, living the domestic life and running his book club. The nerve of that guy, leaving us hanging just so he can enjoy his own life.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter who you blame. This is a team that has a lot of problems. They’ve under-performed in many areas this season, and while they managed to win some big games early in the season and put themselves in a good spot in an AFC that remains wide open, they have also proven capable of dropping any remaining game on their schedule.

There is no doubt that this team is talented. They are young and fast, and should only get better. They have a good coaching staff, and have been severely impacted by injury. Are they capable of getting healthy and making a run down the stretch of this season? Certainly. Unfortunately, they might be just as likely to stumble to a miserable finish.

That’s the team we’ve got right now, and it is everyone’s fault.