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Knee-jerk reactions: Colts’ early miscues and defensive struggles lead to 29-10 loss to Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 of the 2023 season.

Indianapolis Colts v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In one of their more inconsistent showings of the season, the Indianapolis Colts lost to the Atlanta Falcons 29-10 in Week 16 of the 2023 regular season. Indianapolis falls to 8-7 and will look ahead to their final two games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans, both of which will be at home.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES AND OFFENSIVE LINE STRUGGLES LEAD TO SLOPPY COLTS’ OFFENSIVE SHOWING

It was an afternoon to forget for the Colts’ offense as a whole. After an opening-drive touchdown that gave Indianapolis an early 7-0 lead, they struggled heavily to produce any form of consistency throughout the remainder of Sunday’s affair. Quarterback Gardner Minshew was under heavy duress all game long, as the Colts’ offensive line surrendered a season-high six sacks, by far their most given up in a game this season. Couple that with a lackluster ground game, and you’ve got all the ingredients that result in a 19-point loss.

Running back Jonathan Taylor returned to the starting lineup but only managed to rush for 43 yards on 18 attempts, an average of just 2,4 yards per carry. After playing ‘bully ball’ against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was Atlanta’s defense that bullied Indianapolis’ offensive line all game long, which certainly didn’t aid Taylor’s rushing efforts nor Minshew’s pocket presence.

It was evident the Colts’ offense missed its most productive playmaker in wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who missed the game with a concussion. Nothing really went right for Indianapolis’ offense against a tough Atlanta defense, Gardner Minshew’s 20 completions on 37 attempts for 201 yards and an interception only further show just how difficult it was for the Colts to move the ball. There were just too many missed opportunities early, including a few high throws from Minshew and breakdowns throughout the offense.

COLTS’ DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES AND MISCUES TURN OUT COSTLY IN UGLY, 19-POINT LOSS TO FALCONS

Much like the Colts’ offense, their defense had its fair share of struggles in a 29-point showing from the Falcons’ offense. In total, Indianapolis’ defense surrendered 406 yards of offense to Taylor Heinicke and Co. Heinicke completed 23-of-33 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, while the Falcons’ offense as a whole rushed for 177 yards on 30 attempts, an average of nearly six yards (5.9) per carry.

Simply put, it was the kind of performance we’ve seen from this Colts defense now in two of the last three weeks. Indy’s pass rush mustered only one sack all game long, which played a critical role in Atlanta practically being able to move the ball at will. Running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier were Atlanta’s leading rushers, with the rookie Robinson garnering 72 yards and Allgeier 69 yards and a rushing touchdown, respectively.

The Colts’ defense had their opportunities to come away with stops, especially on a few third and longs but missed way too many tackles and just looked lost at times. Safety Julian Blackmon exited early with a shoulder injury and did not return, which certainly didn’t help their defensive struggles. Atlanta has several dynamic weapons on offense, and many of them were on display due to Indy’s defensive inconsistencies.

Yes, the Colts remain alive in the AFC wild card race at 8-7, but performances like the one against the Falcons Sunday cannot happen if the organization wishes to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2020 season. The next two games against the Raiders and Texans will be significant in determining Indianapolis’ playoff fate, and the Colts are going to need a much better performance overall or they’ll be watching the postseason from their couches.