Nov 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Colts 40-11. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts Struggling Down the Stretch

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The Indianapolis Colts are coming off their second blowout loss in three weeks. They once again came out flat against the Arizona Cardinals, and lost a game by halftime.

It has become a disturbing trend that even has Jim Irsay fired up.

 

The Colts have been beaten by 30 and 29 points in two of their last games. Its enough to make fans just a little nervous.

Robert Mathis compared the game against the Cardinals to the 2006 loss to the Jaguars, the same season the Colts went on the the Super Bowl. Sorry Robert, but Bob Sanders isn’t walking through that door to save the defense.

Here’s the thing, unless the Colts loss all of their remaining games they will make the playoffs. That is all that matters. Make the playoffs and anything can happen. The NFL doesn’t crown the best team in football, they crown the team that gets hot in January.

How many times did the Giants limp into the postseason only to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl? More than once.

Indy didn’t look so hot in 2006 before the playoffs either.

Yes, the past four weeks have been frustrating but the fact of the matter is the AFC South is worse than a dumpster fire. Its maybe a tire fire, or something reminiscent of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Even the rest of the AFC isn’t all that much better.

But lately the Colts haven’t looked very competitive. They have been outscored in the first half of the last four games 93-12. The fact that they are 2-2 in those games is astonishing.

So what are the Colts problems? Why have they been struggling so much recently?

Offensive Woes

Nov 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Colts 40-11. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Look at Andrew Luck’s face and tell my that everything is fine. He is not happy, despite what he’s saying to the media. Getting blown out is not fun for a player who is so competitive.

A lot of the problems on offense, at least lately, can be traced to the loss of Reggie Wayne and the fact that no has stepped up to fill his shoes. Only TY Hilton and Coby Fleener have been productive in the past couple weeks. In four games, other wide receivers have combined for 21 receptions for 205 yards. That’s five catches a game for roughly 50 yards.

So what’s the problem here? For one, none of these receivers can get open at a consistent level like Old Man Wayne did. The receivers are being left on an island, forced into one-on-one battles that they are losing on a regular basis. Hilton is generally locked down by opponents top corners, or just double teamed because they know Darrius Heyward-Bey is more likely to drop a pass than make a big play.

It also seems like Pep Hamilton isn’t sure how to effectively use Fleener. He rarely gets targets in the red zone or at the goal line. Which doesn’t make any bit of sense because he’s 6-6, which makes jump balls particularly easy.

The Colts aren’t really finding creative ways to get players open either. Most teams, even the ones with good receivers like the Broncos, use a lot of rub and pick routes that essentially force defenders off their marks and opens up wideouts for big plays.

Couple that with a less than effective offensive line, and its no wonder the Colts can’t move the ball. The interior of the Colts line is bad. Not average or slightly below, they are bad. Yet the play calling insists on keeping Andrew Luck that handcuff him to the pocket. A designed rollout would work wonders for the speedy Luck as would allowing him to run when he has space.

There are a lot of things that Hamilton and Chuck Pagano want to do on offense, but simply can’t yet they insist on doing those things (like the power run game).

Injuries killed this offense. With Allen and Thomas, they can accomplish what it looks like their trying to do. But you lose them and don’t adjust? Very much like 2011 with the Colts not changing offense w/0 Manning.

Why stubbornly stick with these notions of what you want instead of building to the strengths of the offense. Luck looks hamstrung by the style of play and lack of protection. The coaches talk about playing to the teams strengths, but they fail to do so. It makes you think that they really don’t know where this team’s best attributes

A lot of the blame for the problems of this team falls on general manager Ryan Grigson’s shoulders. He overpaid for a number of mediocre free agents (Erik “Headbutt” Walden) and then there was the Trent Richardson trade, which hasn’t produced like it should have. The fact that he gave away so many picks in the 2014 draft is the biggest problem. He doesn’t seem to care about building through the draft, which has been proven as the best way to field a productive team (see: Colts, Patriots, Steelers 2000s). 

If the offense doesn’t suffer so many injuries, we’re not having this conversation. If Vick Ballard doesn’t go down in practice, the Colts don’t make the horrible trade for Richardson. If Dwayne Allen and Wayne don’t go down with injuries, the offense looks completely different and the run heavy style is actually effective. Allen was the most important player on offense, aside from Luck, and losing him prevents the coaches from running the type of plays they really want, yet they still run those plays.

The problem has been in how the coaches have adapted to injuries. They preach “next man up” but don’t seem to realize that these players can’t do what guys like Allen and Wayne can. Pagano and Hamilton have to figure out what the individual players are best at and then come up with plays to accent those skills. At this point in the season most of the playbook from training camp should be in the trash, but they insist on dusting off plays that worked three months ago when this was a different team.

The lack of adjustments reminds me of the 2011 Colts. Peyton Manning goes down but Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian opt not to change the style of offense and it produced disastrous results. Its not quite the same, but shares a lot of similarities.

As for the problems on defense, what is their excuse? They don’t have the glute of injuries that the offense has suffered through. There is simply no excuse for the lack of execution, poor coverage, and worse tackling that we’ve seen from the defense.

The Colts can right the ship, but its going to take some work and time is running out.

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Tags: Andrew Luck Chuck Pagano Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay

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