On Sunday, the Colts lost to the Houston Texans 29-17. Today, we’ll discuss some of the players’ and Bruce Arians’ takes on what went wrong, as wells as the team’s focus moving forward. As usual, quotes are provided by the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department. Now, on to the notebook:
Owning Their Mistakes
If you only knew that the Colts defense had allowed only one touchdown and 22 points (the Texans’ other TD was on special teams), Andrew Luck had a 95.6 quarterback rating with no interceptions, and Vick Ballard ran for 105 yards on 18 carries, you might think the Colts had pulled off another unlikely victory. There is, of course, more to the story.
Mistakes abounded for the Colts on Sunday. The injury-decimated offensive line was tormented by the Texans’ pass rush, namely the incomparable J. J. Watt, who finished the game with 10 tackles (all solo), and 6 for a loss, including 3 sacks. There were also several penalties, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and a game-changing fumble at the goal line.
In the second quarter, sandwiched between two brilliant three-and-outs by the Colts defense, Indianapolis drove down to the Houston 1-yard line where running back Mewelde Moore had a ball carrier’s worst nightmare, a goal line fumble. The ball was knocked loose and recovered by none other than J. J. Watt.
For Colts fans who were lamenting the fumble, and wondering why Moore was in the game instead of their best healthy running back, Vick Ballard, neither Interim Coach Bruce Arians, nor Moore would deflect any of the blame. When asked why Ballard wasn’t in the game in that situation, Arians said, “Well, Mewelde had been in on that drive and it’s my fault for not having him in there because after that time out, after they stopped the clock he should have been in there.”
Moore said exactly what one might expect from a professional who expects more of himself, “No excuse for that and it’s not acceptable,” he said of the fumble. “A play like that is not acceptable and I totally—it’s all on me. I’ve got to make sure I take care of the football.”
Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, who caught a touchdown but also gave up the blocked punt, also didn’t shy away from taking responsibility for his mistakes, saying, “It’s my responsibility first of all to be a professional. When you have injuries and other guys are called on to do other positions, if you’re a professional, a true professional, you step right in and you don’t miss a beat and I wasn’t able to do that. That one guy (OLB Bryan Braman) was my guy and I wasn’t able to block him securely enough so that Pat (McAfee) could get the punt off.”
Allen had not played that position on special teams before and was filling in for an injured player. As for the mistakes and having to play from behind, Allen was also asked if it would help to get off to better starts and play more sound football early in the game. “I’m sure that would be the case,” he said. “We’re not afraid to go down and were comfortable playing from behind. That’s kind of been our M.O. (main objective)* the entire season, so us getting behind today wasn’t a factor in this game just us not being opportunistic enough. There were some opportunities, especially after the defense made a great stop and we got the ball back and we had a three-and-out. You just can’t do stuff like that and offensively we got to do better.” *(Author’s note: Although the transcription says otherwise, the abbreviation M.O. normally stands for modus operandi, or way of doing things.)
Trouble on the Offensive Line
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) is tackled by Houston Texans' Antonio Smith, center, while trying to throw as Whitney Mercilus (59) defends in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Houston. Luck was called for intentional grounding on the play. The Texans won 29-17. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)
Before they began dealing with a rash of injuries, many already didn’t consider the Colts’ offensive line to be a great unit. They have struggled all season, showing flashes of brilliance, yet losing in the trenches far more often than they would like.
On Sunday, they gave up a great deal of pressure, resulting in 5 sacks, and 10 quarterback hits. Indianapolis has given up the most quarterback hits in the league, with 107 this season. Only the Philadelphia Eagles (105) are close to that number. When asked if he found it at all alarming that Luck was taking so many hits, Arians replied, “No, he’s going to get hit. On the road and in a hostile environment like that he’s going to get hit. He’s got to throw the ball away some too, some of them he’s on his own.
“He’s going to try and extend plays and we’re not going to stop him from that. He extended a play and made a touchdown. So when you stop and extend plays and don’t throw it away you’re going to get hit. When you get hit in the head I expect to see a flag.” The last part of Arians’s quote refers to a first half play during which he believed Luck was hit in the face by a Houston defender.
Luck, never the one to blame his teammates, added, “I thought our offensive line did a great job. I know myself that I put them in a bad situation a couple of times by maybe stepping out too early and creating an easier rush lane for the defensive linemen but we’ll watch the film and get better.”
The line may have taken yet another hit as backup center A. Q. Shipley, who has played well filling in for Samson Satele, limped off the field with an injury on the game’s final drive. After Shipley left the game, OT Tony Hills checked in at right guard, and Mike McGlynn moved over to center. If the unit doesn’t see some improvement health-wise, there could be more roster shuffling in the coming week to add depth along the line.
A Few More Quotes: Playoffs Are Still the Focus
Despite losing a game they felt they could win, and along with it, the long-shot chance at a division title, the Colts players sounded like a team ready to move forward and focus on getting that next win, which should earn them a playoff berth. Different players were asked about what they had left to play for, and each echoed one another’s assessment, which is what fans should want to hear after a loss.
Cornerback Vontae Davis: “Oh yeah. We have a whole lot to play for. We have our heads held high and we are going to keep working.”
Andrew Luck: “Obviously we don’t want to lose. We do realize there is a chance to still make the tournament and we’ll fight for that. We’ll move on to the (Kansas City) Chiefs next week and see how we can do.”
OLB Robert Mathis: “We have a whole lot to play for. We haven’t accomplished our goals and we aren’t settling for mediocrity. We have to pull it together and go get one next week.”
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As frustrating a game as it was, I'm pretty happy with it. We played the best team in our division and one of the better teams in football competitively and could have come away with a victory without some mistakes on our part. That's something to be pretty happy about in my book for a very young team which is supposed to be the middle of a rebuilding year.
Listen, all us Colts fans love Dwayne Allen, and expect him to be part of many great Colts victories for years to come. (Shoot he'll probably have a big game next week.)
These guys aren't robots and everyone makes mistakes. And Allen does not normally play on the punt team, but that effort on the blocked punt was really bad. The tragedy is that it seemed to be as much mental as physical. I mean all Allen has to do is "chip" the Texan player a little bit, and McAfee probably gets the punt off.
@DougEngland It was painful to watch. Just awful. He and Moore were the difference in the game...for the Texans.
@MarcusDugan As I said, I'm an Allen fan and I'm not remotely blaming him for the loss. (And our boy Nate didn't think it was all that big a play.)
I'm just sayiing on that one play, I had to make sure that while I wasn't paying attention, the Colts resigned Gijon Robinson.
@AJ_ It really is hard sometimes, watching Luck scramble around with the pocket collapsing around him, and all his receivers are 20 yards downfield.
@MarcusDugan *Sigh*... but now with the rant out of the way, I do think that sometimes Luck holds onto the ball too long. I do admit that. But if the idea is to let the ball go sooner, then B.A. needs to impress upon the best preparing and learning QB since Manning that he needs to do so. He'll listen. And BA also needs to have some plays in the playbook that allow for some short passes. Again, if he tells Luck what to do, he'll do it, but BA had better not imply that Andrew's doing that all on his own, not when the coach doesn't appear to have many plays that allow him quick releases (other than those damnable bubble screens that you never give enough blockers to).
Coach Arians: I'm not saying you should adopt the West Coast offense or anything like that. All I'm saying is that you are partly to blame for hanging your QB out to dry so much. It's not all just him.
@MarcusDugan Re: Arians: I know!! I mean, my God...
"He's going to get hit"?? THE IDEA IS TO KEEP THAT FROM HAPPENING, YOU SUNUVA.. #%^$^&&*&^%^*&&^^!!! What, are you trying to Jeff George/David Carr him with all those damn hits?? Also: Any wonder why Big Ben was always injured for the Steelers? My God... that statement right there convinces me he's not the Colts coach for the future.
@DougEngland nice Gijon Robinson reference. The worst thing I got from these quotes was Arians' lack of concern for how many time Luck is getting hit.