This was as showdown between old school and new-school football philosophies. On one sideline, Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin (and assistant head coach Tom Moore) with their high-flying Cardinals, and on the other, Chuck Pagano, Pep Hamilton and their run and try to stop the run Colts.
Things were a bit lopsided. Running and stopping the run is all well and good, but when a focus becomes a weakness, the best football coaches adjust and find ways to maximize what strengths their teams do have. One can only hope Indianapolis’s popular coach will do just that, and very soon.
At some point, this team simply has to show up better prepared to take on their opponent. Making second half comebacks every week is not something they simply cannot sustain. At some point, the losses come, as this one did, and with them, the questions. Pagano is an inspiring personality who can motivate anyone. He’s also smart enough to know how quickly things can change if losses like this one begin to pile up. Expect Indy to come out ready to play next week at home.
And on to the game:
Today’s dismal trip to the desert began the way many games have for Indianapolis this year. The Cardinals’ first drive looked distressingly easy as their backs bounced runs to the outside for big gains while Carson Palmer played pitch and catch with his receivers.
With Arizona up 7-0, the Colts needed to answer with a solid drive. They answered instead with a three and out. The Cardinals, as everyone expected, worked on taking Andrew Luck’s top target, T.Y. Hilton away and had him blanketed on the first play.
On second and ten, Luck handed off to Trent Richardson. A hole opened up to his left, but he was wrapped up from behind as he plodded indecisively toward Samson Satele’s back side.
That set up a third and eight. Arizona had a jailbreak to the quarterback on which Luck miraculously avoided the sack, saw that no one was open, and scrambled for three yards.
Those first two drives were a microcosm of the rest of the game. Everything that went right was cancelled out by something much, much worse.
After Sergio Brown blocked what would have been a 28-yard field goal, the Colts put together a decent drive on offense, aided by an aggressive 8-yard run from the aforementioned Richardson and a pass interference call on Patrick Peterson. Peterson basically tackled T.Y. Hilton to avoid a long touchdown play (although the ball may have been a bit overthrown).
They could not convert from nine yards out, however, and settled for a field goal, their first score in the opening quarter since they played the Broncos at home on October 20th. It would also be their only score until the fourth quarter. Richardson’s 8-yard run on the drive accounted for nearly all of his rushing yards, as he went into the fourth quarter with just nine and finished with 15.
Arizona quickly fired back with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald making it 14-3 Cardinals. Following another Colts three and out, the defense finally held them to a field goal after Robert Mathis came up with a strip sack (Cardinals recovered), moving his season total to 14.5. They almost allowed Arizona to convert on the next play, and then Mathis saved the day again with a lightning fast stop on third and one.
On the second play of the next drive, Luck threw a pick six to Karlos Dansby on a pass intended to Coby Fleener. Right guard Mike McGlynn was beaten so badly and with such alacrity that Luck may have been better off simply taking the sack.
With that another field goal, Bruce Arians and the Cardinals took a 27-3 lead into the second half. Luck was 6/15 for 42 yards, the interception, and a 20.1 QB rating. Donald Brown, one of the heroes of Thursday’s win, barely saw the field and had two carries for one yard.
Luck came out firing on all cylinders to start the second half, as Pep Hamilton suddenly remembered that his quarterback is very good at running the no huddle offense. He guided the them to the Arizona 36 despite an injury to T.Y. Hilton, but then two straight passes to David Reed (one overthrown) fell incomplete before LaVon Brazill couldn’t get open on fourth and four. (Are these guys both better than Da’Rick Rogers? I sure hope so.)
The Cardinals quickly worked to squash any remaining hope with another touchdown, a 5-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall for a 34-3 lead early in the third quarter.
With Luck continually running for his life in the backfield, the offense finally managed a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, a beautiful 17-yard pass to Coby Fleener in the endzone. Pagano, understanding the need to be aggressive when your team is down a-lot-to-not-very-much, elected to go for two, and Luck hit Darrius Heyward-Bey to make the score 34-11.
There was no electrifying end to the game, or even a flourish of scoring and ball movement to make the final score look better.
This coaching staff has some great motivators and some bright minds, but if their team continues to come into games so poorly prepared, regardless of injuries or roster deficiencies, the losses will mount. The honeymoon will end. And the questions will begin.
Just as with the Rams beat down, this was only one of sixteen games. Next week, the Colts will face the Tennessee Titans in beautiful downtown Indianapolis, and a win would move them to 8-4 and in very good shape in the up and down AFC. If that is going to happen, however, Pagano and his staff will need to have their team ready and firing on all cylinders right out of the gate. It may not look like it after today’s loss, but it’s certainly possible.
Some quick notes in no particular order:
- T.Y. Hilton had 5 catches on 9 targets, but for only 38 yards (7.6 per catch). Arizona knew what they needed to do, and they locked onto the speedy Hilton.
- At one point, Luck had four straight incompletions, then a deflected pass went into the hands of center Samson Satele…
- Boom Herron looked solid in garbage time again, gaining 33 yards on 4 carries to lead the team. The Cardinals were looking pass all the way, but Herron still made the most of the space he had to run through.
- Last week, Pagano intelligently went with the hot hand, playing Donald Brown over Richardson in several situations, then spent the week denying that it had anything to do with Richardson’s play. This week, Brown had two carries – bad ones no doubt, while Richardson stayed on the field for most of the game and netted 15 yards on 7 runs.
- Carson Palmer has one heck of a mustache. Very impressive. That thing could win a game on its own. Way to win at "Movember," buddy.
- Luck’s escape acts in the face of intense pressure are exciting, but do you know what’s REALLY exciting? Good blocking.
- Da’Rick Rogers was inactive in favor of David Reed. Chris Rainey, the kick returner signed to the open roster spot created by Erik Walden’s suspension, was also inactive.
- Ricky Jean-Francois had a very good game with 5 tackles, 3 QB hits, 2 sacks, and a pass deflection, but that dance after a sack while down 34-3……I don’t think he’ll do that again.
I know football is an emotional game, but Jean-Francois sack dance... wow. (Especially compared to the great Robert Mathis.)
Not to jump to conclusions, but I admit I was really questioning what kind of culture have the coaches cultivated that one of their players would do that in that situation.
I obviously do not watch practice. I am also under no delusions that Donald Brown is the modern equivalent of Jim Brown.
But I do know that in the pivotal game of the 2010 regular season against Jacksonville (yes, the Jags) Brown had his best game ever and was a big reason the Colts made the playoffs. Then mysteriously, he virtually never played again that season.
Then last Thursday, he was brilliant. And yesterday, he is MIA. Even if he was Jim Brown, the Colts were not going to win yesterday. But to not use him at all is just mind boggling to me.
While watching the game, it was posted that Luck rolled his eyes at Pep, coming off the field. I wasn't watching the game that closely. Did anyone else notice something like that?
"Arizona had a jailbreak to the quarterback on which Luck miraculously avoided the sack, saw that no one was open..." - which naturally prompts one to ask: how can there be no receivers open on a jailbreak blitz?
Seriously? 8 guys running into the backfield, and not one receiver can find space?
I was on a plane and I missed the game. Do I even wan't to watch the recording? Or should I just delete it and avoid the frustration?
P.S. Is anyone else starting to think the Colt's may have kept the wrong coach?
Ugly all around, but Palmer also played out of his mind. Consistently made pinpoint throws with the pocket collapsing around him, sometimes off his back foot.
I'm an optimist and yes, I see this is one game, but we're looking very VERY bad. One dimensional. I don't see us going far in the playoffs if something doesn't change. And frankly, the way it's going, I'm not sure we can beat the Titans at home. Or even the newly upstart Jags.
Really scary time for the Colts this year.
I'd be interested in knowing which "bright minds" exist on the Colts coaching staff. They need to be allowed to talk in game planning and before halftime if they exist.
Also at this point, it has to be apparent to everyone that the Richardson trade was a bad idea, his production not even withstanding. The sheer number of holes on this team and lack of depth, along with horrible preparation and execution, is killing this team. Does this game or the St Louis game go any differently if Richardson is averaging 5 YPC and has scored a bunch of TDs?
I know Brown isn't going to be in their long term plans, but the short term plan should be to win and do what helps the team win (coachspeak in context). And so, benching him just blows my freaking mind. It would be different if he were playing poorly, like that one guy.........
Do you know what quarter it was? I'd be interested in seeing if I could find it, but I'll be shat on if I'm gonna watch that whole game again ;)
Hell yeah. That is far too illustrative of one of the biggest problems. The only guy who can get open consistently is out for the season, and they ignored the position in this year's draft.
@chip_bennett Havili was out for the game. Had he been there, he'd have been open
@buymymonkey Brady is his man crush?
@hankster Re: Wrong coach - yes and no.
Yes because Arians *does* better recognize the value of letting the QB actually play his game.
No because he would've gotten Luck killed behind this O-line. Forget last year, remember how consistenly banged up Ben Roethlisberger got when he was their OC?
@hankster I wouldn't bother watching it. Made my eyes bleed (figuratively, of course)
@hankster Drink a few beers, look at the recording wistfully, delete it, drink way more beer. Pray you can work from home tomorrow
@hankster Don't watch it. No reason to. Terrible game all around. Will just make you sad.
@zgs1288 He had a great game. And a great foo-man-chu
@buymymonkey Can a team be said to be non-dimensional?
@buymymonkey Which dimension was it? Did a new one get invented?
@Payton Saying they have bright minds on the staff is part hope and partly for people who think I was being too negative. They coached like a bunch of dumbshits today. It was embarrassing. Watching old Bruce with that smirk he gets when he knows he's outsmarted the shit out of the other coach. grrrrrrr
@Payton I agree about the TRich trade, but I think the coach's need to shoulder most of the blame at this point. People will say that injuries are the problem. They are. But the absolute inability to adapt to them and use the talent left indicts the coaching staff.
Looks like 5:22 pm? Here's the post (pardon the bad pasting)...
@MarcusDugan I'd have to go back to SB to see where that was posted. I don't recall exactly. Someone posted something like "Did you see Luck roll his eyes as he walked by Pep"? I'll take a quick peek to see if I can find it.
@hankster @Payton Yeah and the complete unwillingness to shake up the interior offensive line. If Holmes is that bad, well that's on Grigson for failing to keep Shipley and drafting someone who's worse than a bottom 3 C in the NFL. That said, I fail to see what it would lose to try some of the OTs or PS players at OG during practice.
McGlynn and Thornton can't get any worse. Shit even sliding McGlynn over to C seems to produce a slight upgrade.
@Payton A nickel to anyone who looks up that song! Picture the Lombardi trophy slowly floating up out of reach with Pep jumping fruitlessly (no fruit?) at it, calling out "eh eh! eh eh!"