The Andrew Luck Era got off to a rocky start today as the Colts (0-1) fell 41-21 to the Chicago Bears in their 2012 regular season opener. In a game that will likely be looked back on by Colts fans as a microcosm of their 2012 season, the Colts put up the kind of performance you'd expect from such a young team: some impressive highs coupled with far too many lows.
The Colts came out of the game dominating on defense, holding the Bears to -11 total yards and recording a Jerrell Freeman pick-6 on Chicago's first two drives. But the inability of the Colts offense to compliment the hot start of the defense, coupled with a ankle injury to OLB Dwight Freeney, eventually lead to the Bears taking control of the game. The Bears would score 17-unanswered points, and finish the game on a 41-14 run.
On offense, the biggest theme - the dismal performance of the Colts offensive line - carried over into the regular season. The line was unable to provide time and space for the Colts, in neither the passing nor the running game.
As a result, QB Andrew Luck, for the first time in his short NFL career, looked the part of a rookie. He was unable to set his feet on a vast majority of his throws, and on the plays he was able to properly step into his passes, his timing and mechanics seemed rushed, leading to multiple overthrows of open receivers. This will be a theme for the Colts the entire season: Andrew Luck is good, there is a lot of talent at WR, TE, and RB, but if the Colts OL is going to perform this poorly over a 16-game season, the Colts are going to lose a lot of games in frustrating fashion.
On defense, the team started off with an energy and aggressiveness that they hadn't shown during the preseason. An opening play sack from Robert Mathis, as well as an amazing read-catch-and score from LB Jerrell Freeman had fans thinking that perhaps the Colts were going not only going to give the Bears a run for their money, but perhaps their season would be more successful than they originally thought.
As the game wore on, however, the defense started to display some of the same red flags we saw in the preseason: poor coverage from the DBs, lack of gap control in the running game, and long stretches where the pass rush is non-existent. Perhaps the most concerning area of the defense is the DLine, which failed to provide either a penetrating attack or space eating, something, anything to provide some protection to the Colts back seven.
This was a game few expected the Colts to win, but some fans may have been caught off guard by just how inept the Colts looked for stretches. There will be a lot of "teaching moments" for Coach Pagano and his staff, and we expect the Colts to improve as they grow and get accustomed to the new systems.
Quick Thoughts, The Good:
- Reggie Wayne is an amazing wide receiver. He's a better pro. On a day the Colts, a team with little expectations, were getting blown out, Reggie Wayne could have mailed it in. Instead, he caught 9 passes (on 16 targets) for 135 yards, including 4 amazing one-handed grabs. The Colts offense is going to center around Luck-to-Wayne in the coming weeks, and Wayne is perhaps the one player outside of Luck that the Colts cannot afford to lose to injury.
- Today was not Luck's finest day, but there were still more positive than negatives. He continues to display amazing pocket aware: his ability to subtly slide and shuffle his feet to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes down field is amazing. More than that, while the pass rush was clearly affecting Luck's internal clock, he continued to show the poise and calmness of a veteran player. That said, this can't be stressed enough: if the blocking from the OL doesn't improve, the Colts run the real risk of doing long term damage to their franchise QB's psyche.
- Ryan Grigson stated that he wanted to improve the special teams units. If today was any indication, he's on his way. Yes, LaVon Brazill fumbled a kick off return and Adam Vinatieri missed a crucial field goal in the first half, but the return and coverage units both appeared to be better than in recent years. It's likely the least important area the Colts need to upgrade at this point, but it's still a positive.
- Donald Brown didn't have a lot of running room, but took advantage of the few lanes he did have, gaining 48 yards on 9 carries and scoring the Colts first offensive TD. His work on the Colts first offensive scoring drive was especially good.
- Jerraud Powers played well, making 6 tackles (one for a loss) and recording 2 passes defended. He nearly had a first half interception that may have changed the complexion of the game, but dropped the ball after a hard fall onto his back.
- Jerrell Freeman had a good day filling in for the injured Pat Angerer. He made a good read and jump on the ball for his pick-6, and was able to contribute 4 tackles, and one pass defended. While linebacker is clearly not a strength for the Colts, Freeman was far from a liability out there.
- Joe Lefeged, maligned for much of the 2011 season for his play at safety, had quite a day on special teams, downing two punts inside the 5-yard line. Players often get "attacked" by fans and media for being used in roles that don't match their skills, so it's nice to see Lefeged thrive in a role that better suits him.
- Coby Fleener came alive, going a long way towards alleviating some fans concerns about him following a quiet preseason. Fleener caught 5 passes for 80 yards, and seemed to become the reliable over-the-middle target for Luck that the Colts (and fans) had been hoping for when he was selected in the 2nd round of the 2012 drft.
Quick Thoughts, the Bad:
- The offensive line. You'll likely read this sentence, or something like it, for the next 15 games, as well. The line was bad to awful on most plays, completely disrupting the Colts offensive flow and game plan. This offense will go only as far as the offensive line allows it, and right now, that looks to be about 4 wins. If OL is not a major focus of Grigson and company for the rest of this season and the 2013 off-season, the Colts should be in the market for a new regime. How Jeff Linkenbach, Seth Olsen, and Winston Justice are still employed is a mystery to me.
- For all of the good things Donald Brown did in the running game and even in pass blocking, some fans will likely only be able to remember his two drops, including a crucial 3rd-down drop in the first half that would have allowed the Colts to easily convert, and, if he alludes the first tackler, may have set them up for a score.
- Tom Zbikowski continues to be a liability on defense, against the pass and the run. He'll likely remain the starter for the rest of the year, simply because the Colts have no better options, but Zbikowski's time as a starter will hopefully not last beyond this year.
- CB Vontae Davis did not have a good day. While I would never judge a player or a trade after one regular season game, I do believe today's performance illustrates the problems with the trade. Davis definitely struggled throughout the game, getting burned on a couple of man-coverage situations and picking up a few pass interference penalties (some of which may have been questionable), but more importantly: with as bad as the Colts pass rush is, no CB, even one as highly-skilled as Davis, would be too effective. I fully expect Davis to grow and improve into a very good player for the Colts, but it won't help fix the real issues with the Colts: almost their entire front-7.
- The offensive line is really, really, REALLY bad at football. Just thought you might need a reminder.
Quick Thoughts, the Ugly:
- I've been a big supporter of the replacement refs, reasoning that they weren't much worse than the regular officials. This may still prove to be true, as I think some (especially in the media) are fondly remembering officials in an oddly flattering light. That said, today's crew was especially horrible. Aside from the major issue of the game dragging on for 3 and a half hours, they inconsistently enforced rules throughout the game.
Their liberal, and weird, application of both offensive holding and pass interference left fans (and players) a bit confused. The regular officials are often bad because they choose to not enforce rules (such as illegal contact and offensive holding) but their non-application of those rules is at least consistent.
As we expect the young Colts players to grow and improve throughout the season, hopefully we get the same from the replacement refs.
Only real thing I hope Luck takes away from this game is understanding what he needs to do on out routes and deep balls, both seemed to be his weak points during this game, pressure or no pressure. Realistically, two of those deep balls that were picked could have turned out to be touchdowns. I understand this is his first game and he played pretty well, but as far as improvements this is something I think he will have to target.
Also on interesting thing, Olsen is not really good, but he did a excellent job on I believe a 3rd down, first picking up his man, and then holding Julius Peppers at the line after the stunt. A lot of his game looked bad early on, but maybe he can fix it, I sure did see a lot of potential on that play.(I know he does not have a good track record by the way)
Vernon will be okay, going against Marshall is not an easy task for anyone, and I think he will get his confidence and swagger back next week. I really like the way Pagano instantly went to him, in a nurturing way, and talked to him after that pass interference call in the endzone.
As bad as the score was, I still think think it was deceptive in favor of the Colts. Man, that was bad.
I'm just glad Luck didn't go conservative and stopped trying to make plays. Get the mistakes in this year and learn from them. We aren't going to win much anyway.
@gizzardfanny Xactly. Let Luck air out all his bad ideas out there (except for the ones that could get him hurt), ´cause if a season with a rookie QB and a rebuilding team is going nowhere near the playoffs, I´d just as soon see it become the Season of Mistakes. If Luck has any leading mettle whatsoever (which from everything reported is definitely the case), he´ll learn far more from his own errors than from following somebody else´s risk-averse strategies.
Unsurprising game. I expected a little lower scoring, but yesterday was a weird day across the NFL, with a lot of high-scoring games that were high scoring because of a bunch of turnovers (how many QBs threw multiple picks?)
Luck looked like a rookie. Sadly, if you listen to the MSM, it will be a week of glorifying RGIII (who admittedly played really well). The defense actually looked better than I expected in a way. Robert Mathis was a beast, and in the beginning when Freeney was out there in full, Cutler had nothing. The Bears, in my opinion, are a really good team, so there is no shame in losing to them. The more apt test is whether the Colts can go out and win next week against Minny.
By the way, is anyone else bothered by the NFL advertising campaign with the bearded blue suit guy with the lisp? I know it is just supposed to be over the top goofiness, but at times it almost seems to demean being an NFL fan. For one thing, why do I need to be told that the NFL is fun? It is sort of like declaring that someone is funny. That doesn't need to be, and shouldn't be declared. People decide that on their own.
The play calling was not correct for the situation. There should have been a healthy dose of designed multiple short dump offs, bubble screens, or similar to help the young man gain some rhythm and confidence. Or, maybe that is what did occur, but the execution was so bad it wasn't apparent.
Kudos to the Bears Defense. Booos to the refs for the no call for the contact at 8 yards and the holding around the waist on Reggie in the end zone pick. Bigger boooos to the tv heads for not making a bigger deal out of it. "Tim Jennings to a risk"? that' it? Given the ability of the Bears to do what they wanted, this or any other complaints likely wouldn't have changed the outcome, however at that moment it would have changed the complexion of the game.
It will be fun to watch the growth and improvement of this team, and see who emerges as talent to be key parts of the monster. Yeah, the monster - it is just going to take some time. See you in the 600's on Sunday.
We will do well to win 5 games and that's ok! Andrew Luck struggled against a good D but showed flashes of greatness. Fleener certainly showed up to play. Luck to Fleener could become a beautiful thing in Indy. Wayne and Mathis showed why they were resigned. We just need to be ready to pay a boatload of money to sign Jake Long as a FA next year!!! Him at LT and AC at RT would be nice!
I don't really care how many games the Colts win, as I just look at this year as a 16 game PreSeason for 2013. I just want to see Luck improve and some promise from some other guys.
But what does scare me, and I hate to keep beating this dead horse... but Justice is Grigson's guy. He knew him in Philly and actively went after him. I just cannot shake what this says about Grigson's judgement. Every GM and talent evaluator misses on draft picks. But Grigson knew this guy and had watched him play every day in practice. What could he possibly see in him?
@DougEngland I'm guessing his thinking process was something like, "Even a mediocre retread can't be worse than this Linkenbach guy... right?"
@pierrezombie @DougEngland I was thinking about the same - it's better than what we had. When they brought in Justice, they re-did his contract and took him down to about $1MM a year if I recall correctly. If that's right, Grigson knows that's about all he is worth, and didn't over value him. That figure is not too bad. i'm guessing that they didn't have the cap room to get a proven FA. That would cost significantly more than what they are paying Justice. Once the cap room frees up after this year, I would hope they get a couple of decent FAs on the line. They'll be able to pay then, and the draft slots maybe go to defense instead.
@pierrezombie @Payton I´m willing to wait a little bit before raking Grigson over the coals for Winston Justice, because after all, we Colts fans have had to endure growing mediocrity at the line for a few years now. But at the same time, I´m really disappointed, because last year looked like the much-needed, much-awaited changing of the guard. Castonzo, Reitz and Ijalana were giving me seriously hopeful feelings. Granted, Saturday´s departure was always going to be a very hard blow (because of cohesion and lucidity even more than talent), but this descent into "Charlie-Johnson looks like a legitimate Mace Windu next to Sith Olsen" better stop soon. Being right below average looks like the only achievable goal this year with this personnel.
@Payton Yeah, in that case I guess they valued Justice (or someone like him) more. Which goes back to Doug's question: WTF?
@pierrezombie @EconolineVan I have always hesitated to comment on coaching decisions regarding who plays on the O-line, because what the hell do i know compared to the guys who watch them play everyday in practice.
But with Justice, he has been monumentally bad... starting from the first Preseason game. I don't care how "reasonably" priced he is, if I can get a $20.00 pile of crap for only $10.00 have I really gotten a deal?
And while neither is going to scare being mistaken for a good NFL tackle, I do actually think Likenbach is better.
As for next year, I actually like Reitz and stilll think he can be effective.
@EconolineVan @DougEngland I agree -- he was probably the player they could afford, not the player they wanted. (Hopefully, they wanted a healthy Ijalana.) Will anyone be surprised if only Castanzo and Satele are still on the roster next year?
Alternately, maybe after Grigson saw this year's cap numbers up close, he yelled out, "I demand JUSTICE!!!", and an assistant accidentally went and signed the guy. Stranger things have happened.
After watching our offensive lineman literally running into their own QB -- while he was still holding the effing ball! -- it was refreshing to come here and not be told yet again that O-line play is overrated.
@pierrezombie I believe the statement (O-line play is overrated) is both very true and very false.
If you have an elite pocket awareness QB: Manning, Brady, Brees (Luck?), you receive diminishing returns on your O-Line play for anything over "average".
For the Colts, however, since 2007 until today, what we've seen is the not-so-steady decline from an average (or above average) offensive line (and I'm merely speaking of pass blocking) to one of the worst in the league.
This is where the disconnect is. It is much more important to get from "horrendous" to "average" than it is to get from "average" to "great". While it's probably the same jump on the scale, a QB's play can make an average OL look great, but no QB out there can make a horrendous OL look average.
I think the two years to really look at are 2012 and 2010. 2010 basically destroyed Manning's ability to play beautiful football. That line removed almost all of his physical gifts, and instead, made him beat every team the Colts beat that year with smoke, mirrors, and audibles.
What we're seeing this year is a QB who is not yet (and likely never will be) on Manning's level. He's not going to audible every play, he has great pocket awareness, but is it elite? And while he's likely very physically gifted, the NFL game is likely still a bit too fast for him to put that on display every play of every game.
Fixing, upgrading, whatever the OL *HAS* to be the Colts first priority this off-season. Nothing else matters. Nothing.
@GregC So if your line is a D, you invest like crazy to make it at least a B-, but if it's already a B, the cap space is probably better spent elsewhere? I can buy into that idea.
@GregC @dmstorm22 @pierrezombie Now that I think about it, Greg, if we´re talking about page hits, you´ll never out-shoe BBShoe (that Marty Stu), but based on dmstorm22´s comment and your own...fixations, I´d say that if you really want to attract the attention of the not-living, all you have to do is declare you´re better-looking than Tim Tebow, and presto! You´ll get your horde of decomposed-brains mechanical vectors chasing after you.
@dmstorm22 @pierrezombie @Goéland Part of the innuendo problem is that Laura used to be good for a few suggestive comments herself, but has really stopped lately. Now it's me carrying the immaturity on my shoulders. I'm constantly trying to work in demeaning, degrading, sexually explicit jokes, but I'll work even hard in the coming weeks.
As far as cheerleader of the week goes; It's a concept I struggle with, daily. On one hand: someone literally took no food, water, or survival tools with them on this island, opting instead for books and ipods. On the other hand, I don't like making fun of someone (who is hot, but not completely out of my league hot) behind their backs. All the time.
Long story short: I'm going to hell. I'll come up with ways to get there faster.
@GregC @Goéland Yeah, it really seemed like we were onto something with those demos we recorded of 'The GregC & PZ Podcast', except every time it started to get interesting, you'd accidentally drop in some weird double entendre about my "tag line" and I'd lose my composure.
Plus, I mean, who wants to work until one in the morning?
An unofficial take veiled shots at Stampede Blue and BBS. Man, have we been missing out on the fun.
I still venture over there from time to time (yeah, i'm giving Brad TEH HITZZ) and it basically reads like the comment section of an ESPN article mixed, except 75% less Tebow related.
BTW, Greg. Can we get some innuendos back on CARadio, or at least a Cheerleader of the Week. If the Colts aren't pimping out their Cheerleaders for such causes, who cares? There are about 25 other teams with Cheerleaders named Meaghanne who would take an iPod to a deserted island.
@Goéland @pierrezombie PZ and I have tried to work together before. The sexual tension was palpable. I respect his talent and work ethic, but I can't really see past him as a piece of meat, to be frank.
Hm.. Skynet you say? I'm OK with being the "entity" that ushers in the end of modern man. It's a lot of responsibility, but I have the artificial ego to handle it.
@pierrezombie @GregC You two could have your own comedy channel and I wouldn´t complain a bit. Although it would usher in the Apocalypse, no doubt, and not because of the Undead seeking brains (after all, even rotten from the inside from too many years of watching a league with Andy Reid´s time management and Brad Childress´everything, you still have your own), but because after that "I don´t have a soul" line, I now have all the proof I need that Greg, you´re indeed Skynet. A nerdian Skynet with a degenerated sense of humor (the best kind), but Skynet nonetheless.
By the way, what's the most optimal way of getting page hits from dead people, @Goéland ? Do I just call out the GM 5 times a day? Refer to every draft pick of the past 10 years as major busts? Or do I just leave some brains laying around? Thanks! ;)
@GregC @Goéland And let's not forget about the demographic of people who are technically living, but completely dead inside. I don't know what you call them up in O Canada, but down here we call them "sports fans".
It sounds crazy, but word is these people are so craven as to revisit 10 day old blog posts over and over again to make lame jokes and natter on endlessly about virtually nothing, in a desperate attempt to try and feel something. I say you target those poor jerks.
@pierrezombie @GregC Even if only for the Deshawn Zombie reference, this comment wins the Internet today. But hey, "cake icing" is not the worst thing you could be. Imagine never having found 18to88 due to being a Pats fan. Or even worse, you could be worshipped by hordes of Pats fans trying to pander to you...
@GregC In that case: You're welcome.
@pierrezombie The only real demographic I'm out to get is "living"
anything else is just icing on the cake.
Colts Authority Radio: Supporting Big Busts Since 2009
I think this could work, although perhaps not for the listener demographic you're hoping for (?).
@Goéland @pierrezombie if it's in the reader blog, I have no issue with it, and neither should other readers. That reader blog section is for you guys. I'm personally against putting too much Manning content on the front page, but I think a Manning "open thread" in the reader blog section would be perfect.
As far as a name, I'm constantly thinking about something quirky. I'm currently thinking about something about empty backfield formations.
@GregC @pierrezombie Thanks for the answer, pierrezombie and Greg. Your reasoning is completly sound, I just hope you soon find a kooky name. I´ve always enjoyed the off-balance nerdhood on this site.
By the way, and taking advantage of this deserted thread, I wanna ask you, Greg, would it be contrary to the spirit of Readers´ blog to discuss Peyton´s games as a Bronco? I would understand if the answer was no, but I´d love to be able to have a kind of Open Thread (by way of a Readers´ blog article) during the Broncos game with this crowd. It would have made yesterday´s game a more pleasant experience, for one, and it would mean a lot to me to be able to read the comments of the regulars here in real time, is what I´m saying. And I don´t know if you read the one I submitted about an alternative world where Peyton stayed a Colt, but the idea is for "18, once and future Colt" to be written and posted every Saturday. Is that cool with the writers of the site?
@pierrezombie @Goéland PZ got it pretty much. People have been telling me that, while CitP was a good/funny name, it wasn't branded very well. With Manning/the Old Colts being cut, this seemed like the best time to move in a different direction. I'm still opened to changing it to something with a little more personality, and perhaps that will happen organically as we get more attached to this team, but for now, we're Colts Authority Radio.
this is the new iTunes feed:http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/colts-authority-radio-blog/id544330439
@GregC @Goéland Also, bonus points for both a Cthulhu and a Voltron reference in the same thread. Nerds!
@GregC I've been waiting for months for my Check It To Pancakes feed to update... No, I do still listen, but I missed your OL commentary -- about an hour a week is enough for me during preseason.
@Goéland @pierrezombie Yea, I'm not sure if you listen to the podcast anymore or not, but in recent weeks I've joked that the OL is split perfectly in half: Anthony Castonzo is great, Joe Reitz is good, and the left side of Samson Satele is above average.
But the right half of Samson Satele is below average, the dynamic duo of Mike McGlynn and Seth Olsen are horrible, and Winston Justice ... I have no words.
I also joked, for those of us who are old enough to remember, that Olsen, Satele, McGlynn, and Justice are the Voltron of Offensive Linemen:
"I'm Winston Justice, I'll form the Right Leg!"
"I'm Seth Olsen, I'll form the Left Leg"
"I'm Mike McGlynn, I'll form the Right Arm"
"I'm Samson Satele, I'll form the Left Arm"
oops, NO HEAD.
@pierrezombie In Soviet Canada, you don't receive grades, you're just praised for trying!
@GregC A C is average?! Clearly you've not been in an American institution of higher education lately, where, like at Lake Wobegone, a B+ is the expected norm. Ha!
@GregC @pierrezombie Yup yup Greg. We´ve learned from these horrendous Ol years (2008 onwards) that really, decent OL play can come from decent talent and good cohesion. The problem is that this year, even if we´re optimistic about latent talent levels, the Colts OL is split in two, with the left side capable of playing without being embarrassed every other play, but a center-to-right side in competition with the Saints defense and Vick´s football acumen for most Cthulhu-like clowney abomination on the field. How can cohesion apply if there is no mortar to put between the broken bricks?
The Colts are currently an F (as low as I can grade them)
Grigson's goal should be to get them to a C. I say C, because I believe they already have a LT who is good enough to do all the tings a LT has to do, at that point, you merely need average at every other position.
I think everything over a C is merely a luxury; and this grading scale is only regarding the passing game, not the running game.
Colts have issues there, too. A smart QB can only do so much to cover up a line's inability to run block (always putting them in the best possible play, etc).Improving the pass blocking should be first and foremost, but we've seen what happens when your OL can be average in pass blocking but horrible in the running game (2008, 2009, 2010)