Much has been said about the Colts frustrating performance against the San Diego Chargers. There were many reasons the Colts lost. Dropped passes, poor decision-making, a failure to get the Chargers offense off of the field, the list could go on. The best way I've been able to describe my opinion of the game is to say that the defense failed to win the football game for the Colts but they're not the ones responsible for the loss. I place more blame on the coaching staff and the offensive execution.
Arguing about which factor was the biggest reason for a loss earlier this week won't get fans or the team anywhere. What might get the team somewhere is learning important lessons when tough losses like the one in San Diego occurs.
I have been following the opinions of traditional and new media regarding this "new" version of the Indianapolis Colts all year. There is no doubt that Indy managed to grab the biggest trade headlines of the year with the move to pick up Trent Richardson. Nothing could have been a bigger statement from General Manager Ryan Grigson, Owner Jim Irsay, and head coach Chuck Pagano that building a monster is precisely what the Colts have in mind.
I happen to love the trade because, proven in the NFL or not, Trent Richardson creates another wrinkle in an already scary offense. I love the trade not because I concern myself with stats (YPC) but because I realize that it causes opposing defenses to stay honest.
The problem with the Colts offense isn't YPC, current personnel, or a focus on being a power running, "body blow" style. Indy's offense can take on just about any form it wants to take on. It has the weapons, even without Dwayne Allen, to exploit the biggest weakness of any opposing defense.
The problem is that even though the Indianapolis Colts offense has the ability to do just about anything it wants to do, it apparently has no interest in changing its forms to best attack its opponents weaknesses.
No matter what statistical ink is tossed around in support of the idea that running backs or running the ball is no longer important in the modern NFL, that is a silly notion. Want to be able to dominate opponents with a power running game? Awesome. Do it. It will pay off big at certain times in games (often close ones) -- ask the Chargers.
Having a balanced offense is a fantastic goal as well. Why not drive the ball down the field through defensive linemen on the ground, use play-action to move big chunks of yards, use the short passing game and screens to keep defensive players toward the line of scrimmage and call strategically timed go routes to punish defenders who want to take the short game away?
The problem isn't an inability for the offense to take a form. The problem is that the Colts coaching staff needs to be smarter about what form the offense takes on based upon their current opponent. The best offense is a chameleon.
Don't "invest in body blows" just because it's a part of your "philosophy." Don't ignore your strengths against a given opponent. Exploit defensive weaknesses by displaying your flexibility.
Monsters don't just go away when their prey is lucky enough to get to their car and speed off. Monsters find a way to appear, sneak up on you, get inside your home, and surprise you just when you think you've figured out how to be safe.
The Colts management and coaching staff is about to get a really close look at a monster. When Denver arrives and Peyton Manning takes the field, beware the chameleon. It's what Peyton Manning does. Find the weakness, exploit it, ruthlessly.
Unless Pep Hamilton and Chuck Pagano find a way to do the same, or allow Andrew Luck to do the same, they will find themselves in another struggle where they can only hope their "philosophy" is an effective one against the Broncos defense.
This week the offense will need to score. The offense will need to play up-tempo and stay aggressive. If they don't, if they're inflexible, the Colts have another week of soul-searching ahead.
It´s great to see an article of yours, Brett. I happen not to share your point of view, but bradicus18 has already stated perfectly well most of what I think (except I´m personally not sold on Richardson´s abilities at all).
Good piece, Brett. I feel like you are making two different arguments (maybe I'm wrong): one for investment in the run game and one for a balanced offense that exploits a defensive weakness. Evidence suggests you don't need the former to achieve the latter.
I'm in agreement with much of what you said but I still don't like the trade for Richardson. It still doesn't make sense. There is no reason for such investment in a running back. The Colts ran the football fine without Trent Richardson (better). They were already forcing opposing defenses to be honest. Richardson changed nothing. He has the poorest vision of anyone that has carried the ball for the Colts this year.
The running game is great to have to exploit a poor run defense. BUT! But don't build a running game at the expense of the passing game or stopping the pass. The Colts decided to give up that first round pick that could have been used on a difference-making pass-catcher, pass-blocker, pass-rusher, or pass-defender. The Colts decided the running game is worth more investment than it is and that in order to have a successful running game, the team had to give up a first round pick on a running back. Unnecessary.
Set up the running game with a passing attack. Use personnel packages that don't tell the defense what you are doing. Run the ball out of passing sets. Trent Richardson has been his most successful in those instances when the Colts go no huddle with a 11 personnel grouping. The defense has to respect both facets of the offense. Yet the Colts use a 22 grouping way too often. They don't have the interior OL to be successful running the ball in those sets. The defense knows what's coming and it is easily stuffed nearly every time. This is true no matter what opponents they have faced and the weaknesses they have. Stop doing it! Peyton Manning exploits defensive weaknesses without a power running game that telegraphs plays. As you said, that is a monster of a chameleon offense!
Please don't mistake my dislike of the Trent Richardson trade as a dislike for Trent Richardson. I think he could become a very good running back. I hope he does and we need him to. He has all the physical talent necessary and I like watching him on the field. This offense will still depend on the development of Andrew Luck and the passing game. Richardson does not change that and he is not helping that. For that reason and the cost of obtaining him, the trade probably did more harm than good.
I like your points that suggest using a balanced offense that can run and pass the ball depending on what the defense gives them (chameleon offense, I like that) I think most of us would agree with all of that . I'm just not sold on the suggestion that Trent Richardson better allows for that. If the Colts ditch the power running game, I think they could better exploit those defenses.
@Goéland I should say that as well. It is good to see you here, Brett.