How did the Colts contribute to their own demise today? Let’s count the ways.
1) The Colts should have scored a touchdown on their first offensive drive. This drive started with a short field after Kenny Moore picked off a Mason Rudolph deflected pass.
On this drive, Deon Cain was wide open for multiple seconds and at multiple points in his route but went unnoticed by Jacoby Brissett. On this play, Brissett scrambled right with a defender on his heels and rather than throw the ball away, he took a sack. Indianapolis settled for a field goal.
2) Unnecessary big runs to the outside. Edge contain was a problem in the first half and two long runs gashed the Colts defense. Say what you want about volume stats, the Colts linebackers need to take a very long look in the mirror to figure out why they’re not playing with the same speed and tenacity as they did a season ago. This unit has been noticeably slower to the edges too often this year.
3) Brian Hoyer threw a deep downfield pass to Jack Doyle for what would have been his second receiving touchdown. Instead, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick returned the pass for a touchdown. If the game had ended here, or if Brissett had re-entered the game after, fans would have had a legitimate reason to believe that Brissett’s conservative nature could have changed the outcome of the game.
4) As the first half was coming to a close, the Colts held a 16 - 10 lead. The defense sniffed out a dump-off pass short-left to Vance McDonald and shut down a bid for last minute points. Well, that is until Darius Leonard decided to threw a late hit on McDonald that gave the officials an excuse to throw a flag for a personal foul and setup the Steelers in field goal range. Had they not been gifted a late first half field goal, the Colts have a one point win.
5) Adam Vinatieri continues to show signs that the end is near. I don’t care what any of his apologists have to say, it has been clear for awhile now that he is inconsistent at best and is searching desperately to rediscover “it.” I understand he hit a game winner last week, but he has been horribly inaccurate for much of the season and is personally responsible for costing Indianapolis two games this season.
Also, anyone wanting to blame Rigo for the laces needs to stop. The kick was embarrassingly inaccurate. The laces were not to blame.
6) The officials made a pathetic call on Darius Leonard for his second personal foul as he shoved JuJu Smith-Schuster out of bounds on the Steelers sidelines. The Pittsburgh sideline whined like children and the officials folded like the spineless group they have proved to be all season. Later on the drive, Rudolph hit McDonald for a touchdown.
7) The officials blew it on another unnecessary roughness penalty where Bobby Okereke made a great coverage play against Steelers punt returner Ryan Switzer. Switzer failed to call for a fair catch and fielded the ball clumsily. Okereke did as any special teams coverage player should do and laid a hard shot on Switzer to stop the play. This gave the Steelers a free 15 yards and could have easily led to points.
8) Chester Rogers fumbled the return after the Colts defense generated a safety. This could have been a huge momentum swing opportunity for the Colts but instead gifted the ball to the Steelers deep in Colts territory and led to a field goal.
9) The Colts needed their timeouts in a sloppy contest but gave up two of them for ridiculous reasons. The first was a timeout blown on a two point conversion attempt and the second was a terrible challenge by Frank Reich.
10) The offensive line should be embarrassed. The unit gave up five sacks in one game. That’s pathetic, no matter your quarterback situation. Negative plays forced the Colts into very difficult offensive situations numerous times in this game.
There were other plays that cost the Colts a road win but suffice to say that this loss was primarily self-inflicted. Officiating was awful both ways — a consistent theme this season.
One final thought, if those who have been confused about the quarterback debate heading into this game don’t now understand the reason for the debate, I don’t really have much I can say. Outside of the big mistake that led to a pick-six, Brian Hoyer showed superior vision, patience and presence in the pocket, and the ability to throw players open before they break on routes.
His three passing touchdowns almost undoubtedly wouldn’t have existed with Brissett in the game.
It now comes down to the question of — would the ultra conservative, slow to get through progressions, mistake avoiding Brissett have give the Colts a better chance than the more aggressive, more productive Hoyer.
Who knows? But the debate about whether Brissett is the long-term answer shouldn’t be difficult to understand at this point.
I’m still learning squarely toward the idea that the long-term solution at quarterback for the Colts isn’t on the roster. I hope that is proven wrong.