The Indianapolis Colts season came to an end against a familiar foe. The New England Patriots bounced the Colts from the playoffs with a 43-22 win in Foxboro.
It was an impressive run for a Colts team that was at times astonishing and others bafflingly bad.
Despite a weak division, winning another AFC South title is nothing for this organization to turn its nose up at. The Colts over achieved after losing six starters and having 17 players on IR by the end of the season.
The media talked up all the injuries that the Patriots had suffered before Saturday’s game, but the Colts lost just as many key players and had more of them out for the season.
The Colts had plenty of chances to win this game. They trailed by just a touchdown going into the fourth quarter. Andrew Luck was forced into making difficult passes that resulted in bad interceptions. Two of his four picks were in the fourth.
The offense and defense never seemed to be on the right page at the right time Saturday. When the defense would get a big stop, the offense couldn’t do anything with the ball. An unlucky break for the offense led to the Patriots scoring.
For all the talk of “run the ball, stop the run” the Colts did neither. Indy rushed for 69 yards and gave up 234.
The Colts lack the players necessary to run the system that coach Chuck Pagano wants. It’s especially frustrating that the coaches continued to run a system that: a) didn’t play to the teams strengths, and b) they didn’t have the personnel to run.
Pagano has a lot to answer for after this loss. He admitted that the decision to punt on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter was a bad one. He made a number of calls this season similar to that one that need to be rectified next season. Pagano too often plays the safe hand and opts for ball control over going for the kill and scoring as many points as you can.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton needs to tweak his play calling as well. The fact that fullback Stanley Havili was getting plays called specifically for him, in the passing game no less, is appalling. He’s not a playmaker, as we saw by him causing an interception at the end of the first half.
Defensively, this team is a mess. Giving up 87 points in two playoff games is beyond awful. The fact that they managed to win either of those games is a testament to Luck’s abilities as a quarterback. Three other times this season they gave up 38-points or more. Aside from Robert Mathis, this defense was bad all season and it culminated in these last two games.
Equally distressing in this game was the officiating. Let me preface this rant by saying that the Colts didn’t make enough plays to win the game. Anytime you give up 43 points, you’re generally going to lose. That said, the officials were horrible Saturday.
There were two missed blatant pass interference calls that would have kept drive alive for the Colts, and one in the end zone that would have led to four more points. There was also a phantom PI called against the Colts on third down that resulted in a first and goal for the Patriots as well as a touchdown (the ball was uncatchable and it should have been offensive PI).
Then there were two bad missed calls against Luck. The first was a late hit that was so late Luck’s arm was down and he was completely relaxed. Then there was a blatant missed tripping call early in the fourth, when the Colts were driving to tie up the game. Luck could have run for a first down on that play.
Every game I have watched this season (all the Colts games and dozens more) have had questionable calls made in the game. Yes, these are people making the calls and they are not infallible. At the same time, the NFL has the ability to make these people full time employees that spend the offseason getting better at their job. I have no idea what a catch really is or what constitutes pass interference. If the NFL is happy with the officiating, they’re fooling themselves. They can take a step in a positive direction by firing Jeff Triplette
There are a lot of questions going forward for this team. We have heard about a plan, but how are they going to execute it? The Colts don’t have a first round draft pick, so finding an impact player there is unlikely.
The number one goal has to be getting better across the offensive line. Two is to get better receiving options for Luck. Three has to be shoring up the defense, all of it.
We’ll be looking at everything the Colts need to do and should consider in the coming weeks. This was a good season for the Colts. Making the playoffs is still an accomplishment and the Colts will be better next season.
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