Fourth quarter rallies seem all too common for the Indianapolis Colts. So common that when one falls short, we are often left dumbfounded when they fail.
Such was the case in the week 2 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. Down 24-20 on their own 14 yard line with minutes to play, Andrew Luck and the Colts managed to drive all the way to the Miami 23 yard line and it seemed lightning would strike once again.
On first down: An incomplete pass to T.Y. Hilton in the end zone. Second down: Incomplete to Coby Fleener, almost intercepted. Third down: Incomplete to Griff Whalen. With 4th and 10 and the game on the line, the Colts lined up to take another shot. Miami, not liking their defense with the formation the Colts brought out, called a time out. The teams line back up after the break, and the ball is snapped. Andrew Luck barely has a chance to read the coverage before former Colt Philip Wheeler is in his face, sacking Luck and effectively ending the game.
There was a short moment after the Dolphins got the ball back and were forced to a third and long with the clock stopped that we thought the offense might get yet another chance at it, but the defense promptly let Lamar Miller slip through for 8 yards and a first down. With no timeouts left, Miami QB Ryan Tannehill took the knee and the final whistle blew.
The Colts now fall to 1-1 on the season. The loss certainly isn’t a death knell on the season. As a matter of fact, WR Reggie Wayne said it best: “It only means we won’t go undefeated.” While true, there were several things I saw that left me concerned that this team has much further to go before they will be legitimate contenders.
But what does this game teach us? A few things.
1). The second half offense sucks – so far
I’m not exactly sure what offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s thought process has been these first two weeks, but in both games the offense ended to first half hot, and then really took the foot off the gas in the second half. Against Oakland, the offense ran the ball 13 times for 89 yards in the second half, but called just 9 pass plays for a total of 30 yards (including 2 sacks for -21 yards). They managed to score 7 points, but only on a 3rd down, 19-yard scramble by Andrew Luck that gave them the lead. And that’s after trailing the Raiders most of the fourth quarter.
Against Miami, Indianapolis did manage to put the ball in their quarterback’s hands, passing the ball 19 times versus 12 rushes. But Luck’s decision making process seemed flawed, including a bad pass to a blanketed Reggie Wayne that was intercepted by Dolphins CB Brent Grimes in the end zone. To be fair, the Colts did have a touchdown called back for a very questionable illegal shift penalty in the third quarter. They had to settle for a field goal, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Regardless, the Colts offense hasn’t played well in the second half of games so far, and they had better get it fixed, or its going to be one long season.
2). The defense is still broken
The Colts spent and spent and spent. LaRon Landry. Greg Toler. Erik Walden Ricky Jean Francois. Aubrayo Franklin. So far, it hasn’t worked. Tackles are missed, receivers are running free, and the defense just looks bad. Landry has been a stud, totaling 26 tackles in two games. But when you’re safety is the leading tackler on the team, it means the front seven aren’t getting it done. Vontae Davis has looked particularly bad, especially this past week facing off against Mike Wallace. I know Wallace is a stud receiver, but he made Davis look like a little lost lamb. And when Ryan Tannehill drops 300+ pass yards, the time for re-evaluation has come. At least the pass rush was there, getting to Tannehill five times and forcing two fumbles.
We also know that the Colts can’t defend against running quarterbacks (see Terrelle Pryor), and that is of great concern considering that Indy faces both Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in key games that will determine exactly how legitimate Indy is this year. Based on what I’ve seen so far, its not going to be pretty.
3). Ahmad Bradshaw and T.Y. Hilton are still pretty good
It can’t all be bad, right? Bradshaw looked really good running the ball against Miami. He ran with toughness and good vision, something that has been lacking from the Colts game since the days of Edgerrin James. The only problem I have with Bradshaw is the amount of time they spelled him with Donald Brown. I understand why they did that – Bradshaw missed all of training camp and preseason while recovering from and injury – it’s just that Brown was his usual, ineffective self. Look for his reps to increase greatly in the coming weeks as he transitions into an every down back for Indy.
As for Hilton, well, when I’m right I’m right. I said Hilton could have a huge game this week, and he did: 6 catches for 124 yards, the Colts leading receiver. He’s going to need to be able to produce like that again next week against the 49ers defense, and that could be tough to do.
4). The injury bug bites
The Colts lost starting RB Vick Ballard last Thursday to a torn Achilles. The lost starting G Donald Thomas for the season in the first half against Miami. Starting WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is undergoing tests for a shoulder injury. All in all, things couldn’t really have gone worse for the Colts this week.
The bottom line is that there are still quite a few kinks this team needs to hammer out if they want to be contenders. Pep Hamilton needs to stay aggressive the whole game – especially the close ones. The offense as a whole needs to be able to execute and not commit dumb penalties. And the defense – well, they just need to be better.
Expect a tough one next week in San Fran.
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