The Indianapolis Colts have played in close games nearly every week this season. Early in the year, they were winning those contests regularly and established one of the best records in the NFL. Since about the halfway point of the season, things have started to go the other way.
While it is disappointing to see the Colts lose again, fans need to start to turn their focus to what pieces the franchise has and what moves to make to turn a corner.
For instance, Darius Leonard lost three weeks earlier this year to recover from a concussion he suffered in the season opener. When he returned, it took him a little bit of time to get back to his game wrecking ways. Right now, he looks like one of the best linebackers in the NFL for a second consecutive season. Very few players at his weakside position have a larger impact on the game.
After today, Leonard has 92 tackles, 4 interceptions, 6 passes defensed, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown. Those stat lines are really rare.
The loss of Kenny Moore was difficult to miss in this one. He plays an extremely important role and allows things to open up for safeties and linebackers. When he is not on the field, the rest of the secondary has to adjust and it was clear through numerous instances of miscommunication that the team struggled to function properly without him.
One thing is clear, despite having some important pieces and few glaring defensive weaknesses — outside of perhaps the pass rush — this team needs to continue moving away from soft zone coverage. Linebackers filling in spaces in the middle of the field early in the game created some turnovers but in the second half there were more blitzes and they didn’t regularly get to their target.
When a blitz doesn’t result in a sack and tipped pass, it usually means there is huge open spot in the zone. Jameis Winston played against the softest and easiest pass defense he has seen in his career and it led to the biggest passing yardage of his career.
Offensively, it was disappointing that Frank Reich couldn’t figure out a way to get the run game more involved. I understand that this is a team that likes to run between the tackles but we also have one of the most athletic offensive lines in the league, one that is very capable of pulling to the outside. It was clear that Suh and Vea on the interior were going to be difficult to move so why not exploit the edges, at least a little? And not with the predictable bubble screens that almost always fail.
Jacoby Brissett put together a couple of nice drives, especially in the third quarter. He made a couple of big deep throws that kept the Colts in the game. Unfortunately, he also continued to show some of the issues with inaccuracy at key moments in the game. I’ll say this, there were period in this game where it was clear that Brissett continues growing at a quarterback.
The next step is finding some consistency. Getting more healthy weapons also wouldn’t hurt.
The Texans dropped a big game at home which is important. The loss today all but takes the Colts out of the wildcard discussion. The odds of winning the division aren’t much better but the Houston loss makes it mathematically possible.