The Indianapolis Colts looked amazing in the beginning of their week 1 match up against the Chicago Bears.
On the very first play of the game, Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for a 12 yard loss. Then on the Bears second drive, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman picked off Cutler’s pass and ran it in for a 4-yard touchdown. Colts led early, 7-0.
Then the first five minutes of the game were over, and reality smacked them right in the face. Chicago woke up, and lambasted Indianapolis with a 41-21 victory.
The Colts can look at this game and see that the little things they did wrong are what added up to a big loss at Soldier Field.
If it wasn’t the secondary giving up huge pass interference penalties, it was Adam Vinatieri shanking chip shot field goals. If it wasn’t the Colts run game getting stuffed for the majority of the game, it was Andrew Luck overthrowing his receivers. Then you’ve got the miscues on kick returns and three Luck interceptions. Add in one crucial Dwight Freeney injury, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.
The majority of the things that went wrong for the Colts are correctable issues, but that’s the sign of a team that still needs a lot of work. Obviously you can’t really do much about the injuries other than try to prepare the next man up for duty. But if you can’t get the fundamentals down (blocking, balanced offense, reducing penalties, and getting off the field on defense), you’re going to struggle. And make no mistake, this won’t be the last game like this the Colts have this season.
Things weren’t all bad for the Colts. Luck did look impressive at times, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne made some spectacular grabs. Robert Mathis showed he’s still got it on defense (totaling two sacks), and rookie tight end Coby Fleener made some nice plays. But it wasn’t enough as the Colts defense looked lost at times and the offense just wasn’t able to outmatch a tough and talented Bears defense.
Here are some of my reactions from the game:
Luck did struggle some against the aggressive play of the Bears defense. His final stat line: 23 of 45 passin0 (51%)g, 309 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions and a 52.9 QB rating. He looked a bit nervous at the start of the game, over throwing a wide-open Reggie Wayne twice, and under throwing a deep pass that resulted in his first pick in the first quarter. His second interception was just a rookie mistake trying to force it into double coverage to Wayne in the end zone. But Luck did also engineer a great drive at the end of the first half that resulted in a missed Vinatieri field goal. His throws for the most part had a lot of zip on them, and he made many more good decisions that he did poor ones, and was able to convert 2 fourth down conversions – one on a fourth-and-ten, the other on a fourth-and-fifteen.
Luck’s pocket presence was also amazing as you saw him move out of harms way time and time again, though the Bears did get him down 3 times on Sunday (once forcing a fumble that Chicago recovered). It’s going to be another stiff test for Luck next week against Jared Allen and the Vikings defense, but I expect we’ll some some improvement in all aspects of Luck’s game.
If Andrew Luck did not have Reggie Wayne, things would have been even worse. In the first half alone, Wayne had leaping catches, one hand grabs, and proved to be Luck’s favorite target through out the game. Wayne caught a total of 9 balls for 135 yards, but no touchdowns. Fantasy owners especially should be excited at the potential this duo could produce this year. If Luck can get decent protection and is able to cut down on his mistakes, these two could begin to develop a dangerous connection.
The defense had many a Colts fan staring in disbelief at the start of the game. Could they be a lot better than many of us thought? Well, at the sore end of a 41-21 shellacking, the verdict is a resounding “no.” After Freeney left the game, the Colts couldn’t get any pressure on Cutler. Once Cutler had time in the pocket, he was able to pick apart the defense. Cutler started the game 1 for 10 with an interception. He wound up throwing 35 passes, completing 21 of them for 2 touchdowns, and no further interceptions. The secondary was terrible, leaving huge areas of open field that allowed Brandon Marshall to eat them up for 119 yards on 9 catches. The front seven also allowed 114 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns to the combo attack that is Chicago running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
Defense was always going to be an issue this year, as the Colts changed defensive schemes, but one had hoped for a better performance from a Bears offense that hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard in recent season. If the Colts defense can’t learn how to get off the field quickly, it’s going to be a long, long season.
Some other quick reactions:
– Donald Brown, while he did have a couple of nice runs (including one for a touchdown), needs to do more than he was able to against Chicago for the Indy offense to succeed. He also dropped two wide-open passes that easily would have been first-downs.
– Vontae Davis looked slow and a little lost in his first game as a Colt, but I expect him to improve as the season goes on.
– Injuries are going to hurt the Colts if they are serious. Dwight Freeney, Cory Redding, and Winston Justice all left the game with various issues.
– Back-up outside linebacker Jerry Hughes (a former 1st round pick) was largely ineffective after taking over for Freeney. He’s going to be out of Indy soon if he can’t show he’s more than a decent pre-season player.
Indianapolis will take on the Minnesota Vikings in the Colts’ home opener on Sunday, September 16th. Keep an eye out for my preview later in the week.
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