Well, we saw more of the same this week. Since Reggie Wayne’s injury, things have gone somewhat poorly for the Colts. They’ve won three close games over two floundering division rivals by an average of 4.7 points and been beaten soundly by everyone else. Indianapolis has lost to the Rams, Cardinals, and Bengals by a combined 74-point margin (though if not for a bad call at the end of the half by Jeff Tripplette, this could easily have been a one score game).
Life without Reggie Wayne (and Donald Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, and Dwayne Allen) has been rough.
The Colts finally unleashed Andrew Luck and came to life for a while in the second half, but against a quality opponent, it just wasn’t enough. Fortunately, they get the 2-11 Texans at home next week, which brings us to the good news – yes, there are some positives after this odd 3-3 stretch.
First, the Colts and Texans have each seen wave after wave of players miss time with injuries. Houston has 10 players, three of them starters, on IR, and the Colts have 12 with 5 starters out for the season (counting Bradshaw).
The difference? Well there are actually several, starting with the quarterback position, but the biggest difference has been the Colts are still winning here and there, clinging to a division championship, and stumbling into the playoffs while the Texans are, well, not. Indy hasn’t been great in the face of adversity, but they certainly haven’t been Houston, which hasn’t won since September 15.
Second, Da’Rick Rogers may not be a mirage, after all. Rogers, getting some playing time in place of the wayward Hayward-Bey, had 6 catches on 9 targets for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns. Yes, one of them was in garbage time, but if Rogers can continue to be a reliable receiver, to earn Andrew Luck’s trust, (he nearly reeled in Luck’s second worst pass of the day) Indianapolis may have their much-needed second wide receiver in the coming weeks. Oh, and LaVon Brazill can get open, too. More on that later.
On to the game. The story of the first half is a short and familiar one. The Colts went 0/6 on third down, punting on their first four possessions.
They tried to run to set up the pass, keeping Luck sort of harnessed – 10/20 for 96 yards, while the running game faltered (Trent Richardson: 4 car. 12 yds. Donald Brown: 3 car. 6 yds). Richardson would finish with 6 carries for 20 yards, 3.3 ypc, his second “best” rushing game since October 14th (presented without comment).
Indy’s defense held Cincinnati in check early after giving up a touchdown on their first drive, forcing three straight punts, but they eventually wore down, giving up another scoring drive to the red-hot Bengals and a 14-0 lead. On the play, on fourth down, Colts NT Josh Chapman tripped up Benjarvus Green-Ellis short of the goal line. After a surprisingly lengthy review, official Jeff Triplette overturned the ruling on the field, calling it a touchdown.
The Colts mounted a 10 play, 62-yard drive to regain some momentum later in the second quarter, but Adam Vinatieri missed his first field goal since November 3, leaving Indianapolis scoreless going into halftime.
Cincinnati marched right back down the field to start the second half and took a 21-0 lead on Green-Ellis’s second (or first?) touchdown run.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the Colts answered back quickly. Indy faced a 3rd and 5 after a 5-yard run by Donald Brown. Andrew Luck surveyed the defense and threw a slant to Da’Rick Rogers, who caught it for the team’s first third down conversion of the day, then powered through a couple tacklers and galloped 69 yards to pay dirt. 21-7, Bengals.
The Colts defense held up their end of the deal, setting up a punt that took a tremendous Indianapolis bounce to the Bengals 48 yard line. Two plays after he scrambled for 29 yards, Luck found LaVon Brazill for another short slant. Brazill fought through some contact from the cornerback, caught the ball, and proceeded to break six tackles, evading a seventh defender for a 19-yard touchdown.
Suddenly, it was 21-14 (14-14 if not for the strange call). This was a game again. The Colts were storming back again. Sadly, it did not last. Cincinnati answered back with a touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to TE Jermaine Gresham and a 28-14 lead. After a quick three and out by Indy, Dalton found A.J. Green from 9 yards out for a 35-14 lead, and the route was (back) on.
The Colts mounted two more touchdown drives, the first ending with a perfectly thrown 29-yard pass to LaVon Brazill with the game still in reach, and the second a 2-yard screen pass to Rogers inside the two minute warning.
It wasn’t enough, however, as the two scores were sandwiched around an 8-yard touchdown run by Andy Dalton.
Currently, the Colts are limping. They’re 3-3 since the bye after starting the season 5-2, but they’re not down. Next up, a team that truly is down: the Houston Texans. Take care of free falling Houston at home, and things quickly begin looking brighter - not "contender" brighter, perhaps, but certainly brighter.
A few notes, in no predetermined order:
- I talked quite a bit about Rogers, but LaVon Brazill had a strong showing as well, with 3 catches on 4 targets and a pair highlight reel touchdowns. Coming into this game, Pro Football Focus said Brazill had caught all eight of what they consider his catchable targets. He and Rogers each are making a compelling case to supplant Darrius Heyward-Bey.
- Early in the first, the Colts stopped a Bengals running back for a short gain when Jerrell Freeman engaged the fullback, and Kelvin Sheppard waited in the gap and crushed the runner. The next play was a big gain. Much of the game went this way.
- Several penalties, as well as a phantom touchdown that should have made this a one score game at the end, were horrible calls. Those penalties on Kelvin Sheppard (taunting while down two scores) and LaRon Landry (ripping a guy’s helmet off) were not among them. Landry grabbed the guy's helmet, hands down.
- Jeff Triplette had a rough day at work. It certainly wasn't his first horrid performance as an NFL official. I attempted to be positive or nice about it all, considering how negative I'd been throughout the game. Thirty minutes after the game ended, it seemed like the decent thing to do. I'm tired of being roasted for it. Besides, you guys are right. He should stick to his day job.
Seriously, he just says "goal line," over and over. This could have been a one score game. Had Brazill's second TD tied things up, things may have been much different. Of course, they might not have, but now we'll never know.
- Andrew Luck in the first half: 10/20, 96 yds. Certainly, no one should blame that all on the play calling.
- Andrew Luck in the second half: 19/26, 230 yds, 4 touchdowns. Maybe, just maybe, Indianapolis might play as though they’re behind in the first quarter at home next week, like it's already halftime. Unleashe Luck, so to speak. Maybe? Please?
You should never defend Triplette. This guy has been the laughing stock of NFL refs for years. Being a Vet doesn't guarantee someone is a good person, smart person, good at their jobs, not gambling on the NFL etc...
I know cleveland was probably not stupid enough to do this deal, but has anyone been watching Josh Gordon and picturing that 1st round pick used for him instead of Trich? He made Aqib Talib look like a D3 college corner at times. I'm sure the Browns had some idea what they had but given the performances he's been having with no really good QB to speak of I shudder to think what he and Luck could do to the league. Knowing what we know now we could even have traded two 1st rounders for Gordon and I would still feel it was a good deal for the Colts.
FYI, Livefyre's comment boxes are **really** screwing up in Chrome. I don't know who to report that too, so if someone can tell me, I can forward off a problem report.
What does Triplette being a vet have to do with anything??? Should we have some sympathy for the horrible job he regularly does because of this?
"Andrew Luck in the first half: 10/20, 96 yds. Certainly, no one should blame that all on the play calling."
-Many people are irritated with this offense not just because of the "play calling" its also the play DESIGN. This has been brought up elsewhere so I won't go into it, but that's the way it is.
Wait... someone on Twitter complained about a play where the Colts dropped Josh Chapman back in coverage. I don't recall that, but, did that really happen once? I find it hard to believe, but not so hard that I'm automatically dismissing it. And if it's true: OMG.
Someone please tell me it didn't happen.
This site keeps going haywire on me regardless of what browser I use. Did you guys up date your software or something?
To me the offense played well enough, but the defense disapointed. Rodgers looked surprisingly good for an undrafted free agent. And once Luck was set loose he looked very good. Hopefully there will be more improvement next week.
I agree with the sentiment that hopefully the Colts are using this time to figure a few things out. If Brazil and/or Rogers can get open on single coverage, it will change the offense completely. Teams will no longer be able to double or. Bracket both Hilton and Fleener on every play and just sit back. I noticed more multiple recieveing sets in the second half. Perhaps that is a recognition of that. I like the route combinations Better in the second half as well.
They still have several games to right the ship. It can be done, just hope they keep getting better.
Besides Da'Rick getting his first receptions, so did TE Jack Doyle. I can't see having 2 TE formations and using Fleener as the only credible receiver threat. Saunders caught a pass too.
With what are in effect 3 "development" games, do you think the Colts might try to use Khalid Holmes at center or guard, or McGlynn at center. It is the interior OL that is killing the offense.
How about activating Mr Irrelevant QB Harnish and seeing if he is worth keeping over Hasselbeck for next year, especially when Hasselbeck might have trade value.
Interesting point comparing us to the Texans. (Not very) arguably, they have better talent just about everywhere except QB. Yet their season is totally in the dumper. Which could mean Clowney lining up next to Watt next year.
Simply put for this game - the Bengals are a better team from top to bottom. It's still possible that we overachieve and win a playoff game. And it's even more possible that they'll underachieve and blow their playoff game.
If these two receivers can continue playing like they did today (although Rogers dropped a critical 3rd down early) this game may be the turning point late in the season.
I am concerned about the defense but that may change with adjustments, better offensive play and by getting healthy at CB spot.
The coaching stuff continue to be clueless (not that I am not :) ) at the beginning of the games, early drops don't help either. Today they started with passes but then on second series there were two futile Richardson runs. To me this shows that they keep trying all kinds of approaches but still don't know what works.
Well, let's look at this way. Let's ignore the seeding. Hopefully the Colts use the remaining games heading into the playoffs to establish something, just something on offense and defense. It's sort of a toss up each game, whether defense or offense will be a dud. Often, one feeds the other. What good is a stop by the D if the Offense just goes three and out. Sometimes today it reminded me of Curtain Painter days when our D would actually a stop, and Painter would step up and throw three incompletes. Frustrating.
Pardon me for comparing Luck to Painter, but sometimes the productivity is similar. :(
On D, I just don't know what to think. What has changed? Toler?
Looking forward to Da'Rick who, good Lord, looks like 3 feet taller than any other defender. DHB missed a simple pass (surprise!) and then caught one, and then got injured.
I have a theory that Pagano is more to blame for the first half stupidity than Hamilton. It seems like every time after the half, the colts are more reliant on Luck and are allowing him to make the throws and adjustments and allowing him to run... essentially they put it all on Luck's back after the half. However, I have rarely seen Luck run in the first half and the run percentages are much higher in the first half (as in run to pass ratio). I think coming into the game Pagano is all, "make sure you run the ball enough, keep the clock running, don't put luck in harm's way," etc. And then at half Pagano is all "okay Pep, do whatever you have to do to score points". Of course I have no proof of any type to back that up, but I really do feel Pagano is what hinders the offense in the first half. Of course, that still doesn't excuse some ridiculous play calling by Hamilton, including 3rd down plays where no one is running a route that's on the sticks (they're always either too short or too long)
Also, Luck had a healthy 7 ypa. We haven't seen that in awhile. If only it had begun that way. This could've been a classic shootout. Alas, it was a turd.
What does Triplette being a veteran have anything to do with his performance? That's no excuse for his last two weeks of officiating.
I'm not going to argue with you. Seemed like a decent idea 30 minutes after the game, but it wasn't. He didn't deserve it. I am changing that part, saving as I type this.
In case you wonder if I'm changing my mind, here's where I stood during the game:
Seriously never meant to come across as they guy's biggest fan.
Believe it or not, it looks like you can actually call them. I'm sure they'd prefer an email, but here's the contact link: http://web.livefyre.com/contact/
@Fot BollarAlso, after the game, Triplette's comments were completely asinine, which further made me look bad for trying to be "nice." Here you go:
I get a lot of people defending everyone of I'm too negative, so I tried to find something. I've to say about Triplette. It was a reach. Kind of regrettable, really.
Anyway, about Luck's stats, everyone knows they're running plays that don't work in the first half. The whole square peg in a round hole power offense thing is a given. However, the quarterback only hit 50% of his passes. He'll be the first to tell us he deserves some blame for that. Nobody's perfect.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
@hankster I've had problems too... a lot of times it just won't let me post a comment... and sometimes when I do, it just freaks out while i'm writing lol
@hankster in my case, the problem was the ridiculous, auto-play flash ads. I just blocked flash on the site, and now I can read and comment again. (Sorry guys; I'm not trying to deny ad impressions, but Bloguin's approach made the site unusable for me (and auto-play ads need to die in a fire.)
...Hah. not a new text box, just the head of the comment!... @hankster I've been having problems the past 2-3 days. Internet Explorer (and I think a few automatic updates were sent out over that span. May try in Chrome). Whatever happened sure sucks. I cannot hit "return" in my comments. I'll do so now to see what happens--I think it bounces the cursor up to the top in a new text box...
I don't know. Sorry it's not working right on yours. I'm on firefox right now and doing fine. Sometimes with all the ads, I've had to kill flashplayer, but not tonight.
I agree about Rogers and Luck for sure.
I noticed as soon as they realized Rogers could get some serious YAC, they set him up with a couple WR screens, which they haven't been using as much lately. It's refreshing to see them making adjustments and not just standing pat. Now to see some of those plays from the start next week and just clobber the Texans
@thellamajockey I agree about the development games. Not 100%, but I assume the 3rd seed is dead for us and certainly #2 is. We will face KC in the playoffs, which makes the KC reg season game a great chance to try shit out, show nothing, ... not lose, but not risk Luck getting killed by their DL. Certainly next week is like weeks 2/3 of preseason for us--get the damn win, but try new stuff, play new guys, actually take a 14 pt lead into the halftime locker room! Get Mathis his record, Keep Luck healthy.... sigh.
I am probably repeating myself, but I really thought Hass would be on the block for a WR this year, but it never happened. They set the price too high when they traded for T Rich.
I agree the Texans are probably a better team. Considerable better, except at QB. That's probably the difference between hanging on for a playoff spot and withering away they way they have. The thought of them getting a high draft pick and being even more talented next year is unsettling.
@smonroe Yep. The Bengals are a talented team. With a credible QB that offense would be elite. I guess they are evidence of years of crummy play and good drafting can do for you.
I sure hope they can figure out something. Glad to see they're not just banging their heads into a wall and expecting a different result.
I know Toler doesn't look like a star, but the drop off is tremendous. Butler and Vaughn both look so very good in the slot, but they struggle mightily on the outside. It's too bad they aren't more versatile.
Yeah, I commented on the quotes by Hamilton in another post, speaking about how I think Hamilton is not as much to blame and should be given a chance to transition.
And like I said there, I'm not going to give up on Pagano or Hamilton yet, I don't think either should be fired next year. Both should be given the chance to come back and prove something (I'm not a believer in firing head coaches after 2 years, I think there should be minimum of 3 years to allow the HC to get their system in place). But if this trend continues, I will be on that bandwagon next year. @hankster @chip_bennett
I've vacillated all season regarding whom is to blame for the offensive ineptitude, especially in the first half. I'm currently leaning toward Pagano being responsible, compounded by Hamilton's obvious NCAA-to-NFL growing pains. I believe Hamilton said something this past week regarding running the ball being some sort of "mandate" from Pagano.
Each week, I'm less and less of a fan of Pagano as a Head Coach. Maybe he'll turn it around, but he certainly seems stuck in his obsolete, run-and-stop-the-run ways. The problem is: I don't see him going anywhere. Manusky probably falls on the sword after this season, and in my nightmare scenario, Pep Hamilton bolts for an NCAA DI head coaching job, and Andrew Luck gets the Sam Bradford treatment with three Offensive Coordinators in three seasons.
@mshah9008 The more I hear PAgano talk about running the more I think your right. To me the defense hasn't been any better than the offense and hsa no injury excuses. Plus the who run, keep things close and play defense is straight out of Ravens play book.
Interesting theory. Maybe it's Pep. Maybe Chuck. Maybe both. But that definitely seems like it's their first half mission, to keep Luck out of harm's way.
@MarcusDugan how much of that is bc of Rogers & Brazil's YAC, though?
Just trying to find something nice to say about him. That was the best I could do after roasting him on twitter.
If only Grigson had hung up immediately upon hearing the name Trent Richardson, you mean. It´s clear the Browns knew perfectly well what they were doing, and that they fleeced the Colts.
@MarcusDugan speaking of running plays that don't work in the first half: yet another screen to a back on third and 10. *Sigh*
Good grief. That's it. That's my limit. When you're dropping a 300lb nose tackle back in coverage - a tackle who's job schematically is to stand up linemen, which doesn't require that much lateral mobility - then you're being too "clever" for your own good. Manusky is being too clever for his and the team's own good.
There's thinking outside the box, and there's abusing the notion of being different. I've officially had it with a defense who even once thinks it's okay to make a damn 3-4 fireplug of a nose tackle cover. That's just plain stupid. It's second only to wildcat formations splitting the QB out wide as a receiver, and has one aspect that's worse: At least a QB isn't as mobility limited as a 0-tech.
I know many are sick of hearing about the "good ole days", but Dungy had one thing right: Execution is paramount. When the coach is complicating things with idiotic details <i>like dropping a nose tackle into coverage</i>, he's spending too much time on gadgetry and not enough on fundamental execution. A nose tackle should never, ever have the word "coverage" in his list of assignments. That's what the entire freakin' defensive backfield is for.
No one wants a coach so rigid he can't so something unusual. But no one thinks a coach is clever when he does novelty for the sake of novelty. Unconventional thinking must meet one criteria: It must work. Someone explain to me how Chapman in coverage works. Because I don't see it. And it threatens to be indicative of a bad way of thinking and coaching.
@hankster My comment above reads a little like James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake with the circular first sentence continuing from the last sentence. Only a whole lot shorter and fewer references to Dublin.
@MarcusDugan When they have sessions midweek, don't the coaches watch the guys who're not starters? How is the YAC shown by Rogers a surprise? Or is it that what we have is a bunch of guys who are crap in training but turn up when the lights come on?
@Bobman1 @thellamajockey agreed. We are essentially locked into the #4 seed now, with a date set with KC in the WC round. As much as it will make my eyes bleed, we need to do to them what we did to Denver in 2003: play utter vanilla in the regular season game, and unleash the hounds in the playoffs. I'll be happy to see Brown and TRich running 1 yard and a cloud of dust into 9-man fronts in two weeks.
Apparently Hamilton has been given 3 mandates by Pagano. Protect Luck, run the ball and get TDs. It´s a recipe for disaster to constrain the passing game like that. I´m no fan of Hamilton, but isn´t it clear to everyone by now that Grigson and Pagano believe in their run-first philosophy?
@matt_hasHmmmm.....probably a whole crap load of it.
@MarcusDugan Well go be nice somewhere else, dammit! I'm busy making a voodoo doll, tearing off Tom Brady's head and sewing on a Jeff Triplette head. Apparently I started about ten minute too soon today, as the Brady doll could have used a couple more pins. D'oh!
@chip_bennettThat should be called the white flag play.
I agree, not a good idea with dropping the NT in coverage. I guess they tried to get a surprise pick similar to that by BJ Raji against the Bears the year the Packers won the Super Bowl.
And yes, I like the idea of emphasizing execution over trying to fool the opponent, on both sides of the ball.
@Bobman1Dammits. We NEEDED that Brady voodoo doll. Also, I'm getting roasted for being nice to Triplette. Screw him. Plus, his quotes afterward were completely asinine. https://twitter.com/MarcusDugan/status/409849292870807553