(Photo Credits - Left: Indianapolis Colts Official Instagram Account; Right: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Today, the Colts came into East Rutherford, New Jersey with high hopes and expectations against the Jets after last week’s furious and emotional comeback victory over the Packers. Many have wondered what this team can do if they put together two halves of the kind of football they played in the second half against Green Bay and in the first halves against Jacksonville and Minnesota. This time, however, Indianapolis continued to struggle throughout the second half, failing to capitalize when the defense forced two consecutive three and outs to start the 3rd quarter. We will have to wait another week to see if Andrew Luck and company can play a solid game for 60 minutes.
The game against the Jets started off in promising fashion, with two decent drives by the Colts’ offense, sandwiched around a brilliant three and out series by the defense. The first play of the game was a 12 yard pass from Luck to Dwayne Allen to start a methodical 40 yard drive. On 3rd and 1, Luck’s pass was out of reach of Allen, and Indianapolis punted from the Jets’ 40 yard line. While some may not be a fan of punting on 4th and short in enemy territory (including yours truly), the colts made it work in their favor, downing the punt at the Jets’ 3 yard line.
The Colts defense came on the field and held up strongly, forcing a 3 and out with good pressure on Sanchez on 3rd down, getting Luck and the offense back on the field in good position after the punt.
Indianapolis quickly drove 57 yards to the New York 2 yard line. Things were looking good. On 3rd and goal, Luck’s pass for tight end Coby Fleener was overthrown, the second drive to end in a 3rd down overthrow of a tight end. They settled for a three point chip shot from Adam Vinetieri, making Met Life Stadium the 38th different NFL stadium in which AV has made a field goal (per CBS). Still, with the offense looking good and the defense looking great, albeit for three plays, a 3-0 lead in the first quarter looked like the start of a strong, winnable game for the Colts.
Before the 1st quarter ended, though, the wheels started to fall off. The Jets’ second possession of the game was a 6 minute 80 yard touchdown drive. Cory Redding went down with a knee injury, and the Indianapolis run defense began to struggle. Suddenly, the unit that had looked so stout on the Jets’ 3 yard line was having trouble finding an answer for Shonn Greene and company. New York racked up 57 rushing yards on the drive, capping it off with a short touchdown pass from Sanchez to Stephen Hill at the beginning of the 2nd quarter.
That drive was the start of a 21 point second quarter explosion by the New York Jets, who had only scored 17 in their previous nine quarters of play. The Colts never recovered. Andrew Luck started off nicely, but ended up 9/17 for 97 yards and a pick in the first half, finishing the game 22/44 for 280 yards and 2 interceptions. Reggie struggled to get open, eventually finishing with 5 catches for 87 yards, mostly after the game was out of reach. Costanzo, Linkenbach, and the rest of the offensive line had a terrible time with the Jets’ pass rush for the entire game.
The positives: Jerrell Freeman had another impressive game with 14 tackles. Jerry Hughes was everywhere, racking up 8 tackles and a sack. He managed to get in Sanchez’s face quite a bit and charged in for a big hit to force an incompletion in the first half. While the defense struggled overall, giving up 35 points and 252 rushing yards, Freeman and Hughes kept playing well. That being said, it’s probably not a good thing when a couple of backups are your best defensive players.
The negatives: Andrew Luck looked like a rookie today. He had a 51.3 quarterback rating and no touchdowns. I wouldn’t be too disheartened by this. It was bound to happen eventually. The kid is resilient. He is being asked to carry a heavy load on a team that doesn’t have a ton of talent and is struggling mightily on defense. On top of all that, the whole team is struggling with a sad and strange situation with their head coach lying in a hospital fighting leukemia. So we should expect the young quarterback to have some tough games, especially in hostile environments.
The outlook: I think the outlook is still good. The emotional highs of winning for Chuck last week have worn off. They are back to the grind. Their coach is still fighting for his life. Emotion can only carry a team so far (I bet you’ve heard that a few times, but it’s true). This team had a couple chances to take control in the 1st quarter, and a couple chances to stop the bleeding in the 3rd. Often the difference between a blowout and a competitive game comes down to a few early plays. These young Colts never looked like they had given up. They kept fighting, and that's what you want to see. Next week, it’s the Cleveland Browns back in the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. If the Colts can rely on their resilience and football fundamentals, we should see a much better game against the Browns.
Let's move on and hope for a better storyline at this time next week.
-Just a quick note, if you'd like a more, um, emotionally charged recount of the game, more talk about just what fans were thinking as we watched this thing unfold, check out Greg Cowan's Colts Authority Radio Postgame Show.
-Also, if you would like to watch the low-lights, here is ESPN's Sunday Blitz Colts-Jets "Highlights" segment from Youtube:
Luck's problem today was not the talent around him, the line should have been put in the positive category atleast for the pass game, I even saw a couple running lanes that were open that the backs just missed.
But Luck had so much time back there it was amazing, after seeing how the line has played recently.
Oh yea Zbo got Tebowed again this time by a person on the Jets, might be time to give someone else a chance at SS, what is the worst that can happen...
I watched the game after I got home late last night. I should have slept instead.
I was especially disappointed in the defense and refuse to look at any of them as positives.
@gizzardfanny Ugh. I recorded the game and I think I might just delete it. At least I didn't lose any sleep over it though.
@gizzardfanny Yeah, it wasn't worth staying up late in your time zone for. It was awful. I suppose someone could send you a tweet if they have another game like that: "gizzardfanny, it's a blowout and not the good kind. Go to sleep." I agree in retrospect, it's kind of silly picking D players as positives. Hard to find any. The offense sputtered and looked terrible. Luck forgot how to check down. Looked like a rookie.
Zbo was utterly fucking worthless. I believe he gave up each of the first 3 TDs almost single-handedly. He can't cover, he isn't confident at filling gaps in the run game, and he can't tackle to save his life. I know Bethea got spun on by Greene on the TD run, but more appalling was Zbo's overcommit and subsequent attempted arm tackle that ushered Greene into the end zone. Just so frustrating to watch a "starter" be so bad at his position. I hope we target someone like an Elam (UF) in the draft to make sure this guy is not on our starting roster next year.
Nice recap... the Colts definitely missed Redding for most of the game and Mathis for all of it. Here's to hoping some guys will come available for the next 4-game stretch, during which all games seem quite winnable.
@LovinBlue I am starting to believe that Redding has quickly become the cornerstone of this defense. He has proven himself to be a play maker as well as a leader. Without him, the D-Line and the defense as a whole will struggle mightily.
The defense was no different than their 4th quarter pre-season lineup. Once Redding went out, it couldn't have stopped a Santa Claus Parade. Zibkowski is useless. He hasn't made a single play all season. Freeman had another big game. He's a keeper. Can't wait until a few more healthy bodies come back.
@gaiter27 I have to disagree. Zbikowski made plays... after the Jets notched 10 to 20 yards. ;)
@gaiter27 And all jokes aside: Yeah, Zbikowski simply doesn't have the instincts to play at the NFL level. I'm sure he's a hard worker and probably even practices well, but come game time, he's lost. He's either facing the wrong way, or late to figuring out where the ball is. The game simply moves too fast for him.
And that stinks. I understand he's probably a good character guy. But if the skills are missing, then it doesn't matter, he's a liability to the team. That's just the way it is.
@MarcusDugan You know, given that he's already a retread from another team, I fear we're simply going to be having this conversation all season.
I think I'm going to have to hit up all the draft geek sites earlier than ever to see who I'll pine for next draft. Strong safety is quite obviously a "Need" position. Maybe not as strongly needed as offensive line, 2nd wideout, cornerback, etc. but there's no denying the position needs to be upgraded. There were times Z felt like he was a bigger liability than the interior offensive line, and that's a damning critique to make. At least Luck can scramble and has a running back to occasionally help block. Who's Zbikowski going to lean on to help defend? Bethea's already got other responsibilities, and depending on the play the corners sometimes depend on *YOU* as safety to help contain.
@AJ_ @gaiter27 This is a guy who was supposed to know the system already too. He'd probably be a fine backup and special teamer. But a starting strong safety, he is not. I hope he at least works on his tackling and practices getting in better position. His football instincts can't be fixed, but I'm hoping he shores up a few of his deficiencies in teachable areas. Otherwise, we'll be having this conversation all season.
@gaiter27 Yeah, there just isn't much talent on this defense. Zbikowski looks like a career backup, or just a guy who should go back to boxing. The Colts left too many points on the field.
I keep hoping the defense will get healthy, but every time one person comes back, another few leave. Mathis, unlike Freeney, is a big factor in their ground defense ... he needs to come back. Vontae Davis needs to come back. Moala and Angerer need to come back. This team is decent at 100%; any less, and they fall apart.
I don't think they actually gave up - or at least it didn't look like it until mid-way thru the 4th Qtr. I did notice that Zbkowski is a terrible tackler. All arms. Luck over threw a number of open people. And yes, the run stop was non-existent.
@buymymonkey I agree. I thought it was really encouraging that they kept fighting, even though it became clear they didn't stand much of a chance. That wouldn't have been the case last year under Caldwell. I thought Luck started to check down a little more once the game was out of reach, and I meant to include that in the recap (ran out of time). I was glad to see him trying some short passes to his backs instead of going vertical so much.
And yes, Zbikowski looks like a stop-gap at best. I kind of almost miss Aaron Francisco at this point. I hope he works on his tackling fundamentals this week. That guy couldn't tackle anything today.
@MarcusDugan @buymymonkey Oh, re: Going vertical so much - I actually didn't mind that. Yes, I realize that it won't get the receptions when two of your wideouts are Hilton (he's progressing, but he's still just a rookie) and Avery (on one of the overhead replays, his attempts to shake coverage made him look like a minivan on a slalom course... I thought the DB might collapse into pity laughter), but when Indy gets a decent receiving corp together, Luck going vertical is going to be a thing to be feared. So let him practice it now; it didn't bother me to have him show the league something that'll scare the bejeebus out of them all when Indy gets another couple of wideouts down the road.
Yes, though, it's true: That plan didn't help in this game at all. On the contrary, it seemed to hurt things; Luck kept going for covered receivers and gave up downs and therefore possessions. But thinking long term, I'd actually have Luck get all his experience and screwups out of the way **this** season. Let Luck feel what it's like to have a gameplan get shut down, and then let him play through it later. No, that's not what the coaches were thinking, not by a long shot, but rather it's a reasonable benefit to extract from what was otherwise a miserable game. So yeah, it was a bad coaching decision, but the upside is that Luck can learn from it. It can be used to make him better, and that's something good to take away from the game.
So was it smart? Nope, not at all. But in the end, I actually don't mind it; it'll help develop Luck's game if nothing else.
Giordano was not bad at all (stiff at times, definitely upgradeable, but not an open liability) , and Bullitt actually performed well (Not a Pro Bowler, but nowhere near being a liability himself... BTW don't ask about Francisco; I simply don't remember anything out of him (*blush*)). But because our reference point was Bobzilla, we all felt like those guys were already step-downs. Man, they'd be improvements compared to poor Zbikowski.