Dec 8, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano congratulates the Cincinnati Bengals after the game at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals beat Indianapolis Colts 42-28 Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

UNDER REVIEW: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals

The Indianapolis Colts suffered yet another embarrassing loss on Sunday. In what has become a clear pattern where the Colts alternate wins and losses, Indy fell to the Bengals 42-28.

It was another game where the Colts did absolutely nothing on offense for the first half only to score a bunch of points when the game was already out of hand. To their credit, the defense played well in the first half and, if not for poor officiating, would have limited Cincinnati to just a single touchdown.

The only saving grace for this years Colts team is that the AFC South is absolutely putrid. The other three teams are 11-28. Houston, which comes to Indy this week, has lost 11 straight games. The Jags have managed to beat the Titans once, Houston twice, and Cleveland. It is easily the worst division in all of football.

This team isn’t the same one that entered the season. What’s most frustrating about that fact has been the lack of adjustments made by the coaching staff. Chuck Pagano has been incredibly stubborn all year long in a variety of ways.

Pagano’s blunders:

  • Not adjusting the offensive line sooner. Its been very clear all season that the line has problems, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that significant changes were made. The Colts stuck with their guys for far too long. The Bengals game was the second time all season that Mike McGlynn received a positive grade. Continuity is important for an offensive line, but if they’re getting beat every week, personnel changes have to be made.
    • The play calling doesn’t help either. There are plenty of ways to give a QB extra time, like play action or designed rollouts. This type of play calling has disappeared, and its something that Pagano should be demanding from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
  • Sticking with Darrius Heyward-Bey. Why have a wide receiver, whose job is to catch passes, on the field who catches just 45-percent of the passes thrown his way? Why did it take so many weeks after Reggie Wayne’s injury to make a change at wideout? A game or two I would understand, but six weeks before significant changes are made is unacceptable.
  • Where are the defensive adjustments? I understand that the Colts don’t have the depth on this side of the ball to make personnel changes, but maybe some schematic changes? Outside of Robert Mathis the pass rush has been non-existent, the secondary has been completely torn apart (generally by back-up QBs), and the linebackers have been spectacularly bad in coverage. At least the offense can point to injuries as the source of its problems, what excuse does the defense have? Andrew Luck managed to throw four touchdowns Sunday, marking the first time a Colts QB threw four TDs in a loss. How does that happen? Well, the defense played horribly in the second half and was picked apart by Andy freaking Dalton.
    • Why has the secondary been so bad? Pagano started out as a secondaries coach before moving to defensive coordinator and then head coach. Did he forget his background or is the system too complex for these players? Since the Bye week, the secondary has gotten worse and worse (and it doesn’t have anything to do with Greg Toler’s injury).

General manager Ryan Grigson spoke after the game about redefining the team time and again due to injuries. “But it seems like at every point in the season we’ve had a key piece ripped from us to where we’ve had to redefine ourselves,” Grigson said “But we’ll keep grinding, keep moving the chess pieces.”

That’s great, but the team hasn’t redefined itself. They keep plugging away with “their” system despite not having the right pieces to run the system properly. Part of coaching in the NFL is making adjustments week to week. The Colts are heading into week 14, and we’re just now starting to see some changes.

Here are some things that stood out against the Bengals:

  • The Offensive Line played well. I know, I was surprised too. Aside from center Samson Satele, the entire line received a positive grade (even McGlynn). They faced a very good defensive line and didn’t give up a single sack. Luck was hit just four times which is a vast improvement over previous games.
    • Luck also helped himself. He was getting the ball out a lot faster than he has been the rest of the season. Sacks are just as much on the QB as the protection. Luck didn’t zero in on receivers quite as much and was more decisive with the ball, a trend that needs to continue.
  • What happened to LaRon Landry? In the past six weeks, he has been one of the worst players on defense. He has been mediocre in pass coverage, and flat out bad in run support.
    • The same goes for Antoine Bethea. The past two weeks he has shown improvement, but the four games after the Bye week he was atrocious. Before the Bye, Bethea was generally above average. Did the coaches
  • How is Jeff Triplette still employed? Triplette is no stranger to controversy when it comes to NFL officiating. After this past week he has become the feature player in a spotlight on the shoddy reffing across the league. He overturned a play on the field that clearly wasn’t a touchdown. The fact that he didn’t even review the entire play in question is just appalling. If it is a review of a play, shouldn’t the review include the entire play? Did the NFL say anything? Not really, just that he made a judgment call and didn’t comment on if it was right or wrong (hint: it was wrong). He’s been at the center of a lot of these types of calls and the fact that the NFL is fine with his “judgment” speaks to much bigger problems with the league and its officials.
    • While the poor officiating didn’t help the Colts Sunday, its far from their biggest issue. The defense couldn’t stop a flag football team at this point. The offense is so beat up they’re having to scour the streets and find practice team cast offs.

The Colts need to find something that works, and they have three weeks left to do so.

Up next, the Colts will host the Texans who have never won in Indianapolis (yes, even in 2011). If the Colts fall at home to Houston (2-11), then its time to panic.

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Tags: Andrew Luck Chuck Pagano Indianapolis Colts

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