The Indianapolis Colts have had us all feeling like we can’t trust them lately — to finish out a game without their being a need for a field goal, to make that field goal, or to put their foot on the opponent’s neck when looking as if they have control of the game.
Even with Jacoby Brissett under center the Colts have yet to have a dominant win. Either the running game hasn’t been great, the offense hasn’t pushed the ball downfield, the defense hasn’t forced any turnovers, the offensive line has been leaky, or the kicking game has let the team down.
There is so much blame to go around — not excluding Frank Reich — this season, and at different stages of the year, that it’s hard to nail down what exactly is going on with this team from week to week. However, when we simply look at the offense and defense respectively, they have been polar opposites from one side of the bye week to the other. They’ve ultimately flip-flopped their play.
The Colts now sit at 5-4, and though their record says they’re an average team, when looking at others in the league with similar records, it’s difficult to say the Colts are even on the same level as them.
Thus far this season, the Colts are 4-0 against teams that were .500 or better when they played, and are 0-4 against those teams who were below .500. I’m leaving out Week 1 against the Chargers. I refuse to think that no record at all is .500.
I don’t know that a team could be more Jekyll and Hyde, outside of the fact that the Colts have begun the season with nine straight one-score games. They could literally be 9-0, 0-9, or anything in between — and they are. But, with that, even at 9-0 this team would not be an elite team. They’d simply look like it on paper.
At this point in the season, I think the question for this roster, and the coaching staff, should be: How can we get the offense and defense on the same page each week? As I mentioned earlier, that’s just not happening, and I’m going to show you how different each unit has been since the bye week in Week 6.
One thing I simply won’t be able to do is be able to tell you how they can fix it. The coaching staff can’t fix it for crying out loud, and the gameplan for each unit has largely been the same. It’s just been the execution and play-making that has changed for each group. Let’s hope that they can merge, and get on the same page for the rest of the season without one unit doing their part, while the other let’s the team down to some degree.
Let’s get down to it, using just a handful of team stats.
*Before = Weeks 1-5 *After = Weeks 7-10
1st Downs Per Game: -3.05
3rd down %: -6.6%
Before: 32-of-65 | 46.2%
After: 21-of-53 | 39.6%
Points Per Game: -2.35
Before: 22.6 PPG
After: 20.25 PPG
Turnovers: +1 (not a good +)
Total Yards/Game: -11.75
Before: 344 YPG
After: 332.25 YPG
Before: 7.28 Plays/Drive
After: 5.7 Plays/Drive
After looking at all of these numbers it’s obvious to see that the offense has been less successful since the Week 6 bye. They’ve literally declined in every category. Some are more important than others, in spite of what may seem to be a minimal number per game, and yes, you can attribute a healthy dose of the blame on Brian Hoyer being in the lineup over the past two weeks.
Keep in mind, however, the Houston Texans game immediately following the bye is in this “after” section as well and it was one of the better games of the season for the Colts. That’s how bad it’s been over just the past three games. Also, yes, T.Y. Hilton has been out the past two games. It certainly factors in, but good teams can play without their best skill-position player. Look at the Steelers this year without their starting quarterback.
The Colts CAN win games without Hilton, but their not a good offense with him either if he’s their only hope to get into the win column each week. Some of these numbers deserve shared blame on play-calling as well. However, the point here isn’t really to argue what the Colts are missing at the moment, rather it’s simply to point out their missing contributions in these specific categories.
The Colts are minus more than 3 points per game, and down 6.6% on third down efficiency and those two are a very big deal in my eyes. Additionally, the Colts aren’t sustaining drives like they were in the early part of the season. Another point, is that the Colts allowed only 6 sacks through the first five games, but have allowed 11 in the last four outings.
The Colts have yet to play in a two-score game — win or lose — and their average score differential since the bye is 3.75 points. That’s with a 7-point win against Houston. The offense is simply not carrying its own weight at the moment. Injuries or no injuries, the offense and everything that goes into it has to get better. A lot better.
Now let’s look at how the defense has been from before the bye, compared to after.
1st Downs Allowed: -3.4
3rd Down %: -13.5 (massive improvement)
Before: 25-of-55 | 45.5%
After: 17-of-53 | 32%
Points Allowed/Game: -3.5
Before: 23 PAPG
After: 19.5 PAPG
Turnovers Forced: +.5 (a good +)
Total Yards Allowed/Game: -62.2
Before: 355.2 YAPG
After: 293 YAPG
Plays Allowed/Drive: -0.79
Before: 6.19 Plays/Drive
After: 5.4 Plays/Drive
It appears as though the defense has been picking up what the offense has been putting down. There are a few significant improvements with the defense over the past four games — they’ve been allowing a very impressive 32% third down conversion rate, allowing 3.5 fewer points per game, and are allowing more than 60 fewer yards per game.
Those are huge factors, especially the third-down improvement. This defense is attempting to give the ball back to their offense, but the offense hasn’t been making the most of their opportunities.
Allowed yardage isn’t the end-all, but within a bend-but-don’t-break style defense, that’s a pretty impressive turn around. Granted, the Colts have played quarterbacks named Joe Flacco, Mason Rudolph, and Ryan Fitzpatrick during this post-bye stretch, however, they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing against quarterbacks they should be doing it against.
On top of that, the Colts’ defense is allowing nearly 20 fewer rushing yards per game since the bye week as well. That’s not nothing, and it’s helped the defense force opposing offenses to become more one-dimensional and is helping Matt Eberflus dial up more effective looks in the pass rush and coverage aspects as games wear on.
All in all, the Colts have fallen into a pretty notable slump. Injuries, play-calling, execution and a significant uptick in mistake-riddled football are all to blame. One thing is for sure, the Colts’ offense, and defense need to get themselves working together and in sync if they hope to win many more games throughout the remainder of the season.