Another 4 touchdown day by Andrew Luck spoiled by turnovers and drops

At some point GM Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich have to realize they need to surround their franchise quarterback with quality players. Surprisingly, tight end Eric Ebron has been Andrew Luck’s most consistent target. After being released by the Lion’s in the offseason because of sub-par production and many drops, he’s quickly become the Colts most reliable receiver. With 30 receptions, 326 yards, and 6 touchdowns Ebron has been one of the few bright spots in the Colts offense.

With over $50 million in cap room, many wonder what Ballard’s long term plan is for Indianapolis, and why the Colts are so hesitant to make a splash in the form of a trade or big free agent signing. With injuries piling up, and receivers dropping passes left and right, the now 1-5 Colts have to be feeling some aggravation. With wide receiver Dez Bryant still a free agent, the Steelers reportedly interested in a trade of Le’Veon Bell, and recent news of the Raiders shopping wide receiver Amari Cooper, an assortment of options are certainly out there for Indianapolis, they just have to be willing to deal.

Indianapolis was competitive at times in today’s game, even holding the lead 13-10 in the first quarter (albeit for just 8 minutes or so). However, they found themselves down 30-13 just a few minutes into the second half, and couldn’t do enough to overcome the Jets big lead.

Cutting the Jets lead down to 6 points in the 4th, the Colts couldn’t get out of their own way as they saw the Jets score just enough to keep them at bay. A late Indianapolis touchdown would bring the score to 42-34, but a failed onside kick would allow the Jets to kneel down and bring the game to an end.

A few of the big things Indianapolis is struggling with right now are the following:

Turnovers: With 3 interceptions on the day (two due to drops), Andrew Luck and the Colts offense can’t seem to find rhythm. Adding in a Robert Turbin fumble brought the turnover total to 4 on the day. You can’t win the game, if you can’t control and protect the ball. Indianapolis’ wide receivers added another 6 drops this week, and have the coaching staff and fans missing the consistency of T.Y. Hilton even more.

Time of possession: Echoing my last point, you can’t win if you don’t have the ball. The Colts are averaging less than 25 minutes with the ball and failed to eclipse 23 on Sunday. While 34 offensive points is impressive with the amount of time used, the 4 offensive turnovers gave the Jets short areas to work with, and allowed them too many opportunities to extend their lead.

Injuries: We get it…its the NFL and injuries are inevitable. However, there’s a difference between having a cold and having the plague. This Indianapolis team unfortunately has the latter. With stars like pro bowlers Jack Doyle, Matt Slauson, and T.Y. Hilton on the sideline, the “next man up” mantra is starting to sound like a broken record. It’s already difficult to win in the NFL, but when you’re working with 2nd and 3rd stringers instead of the regular starters, it makes it that much harder.

Preview for next week:

The Colts’ next contest will be a home game against Buffalo next Sunday. Buffalo may be without starting quarterback Josh Allen, as he injured his elbow late in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans. The Colts will look to get more key players back next week. T.Y. Hilton has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, and Jack Doyle hasn’t been active since Indianapolis’ win against the Redskins in week 2. Stay tuned for a game preview later this week to highlight the Indianapolis vs Buffalo matchup.

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The good, the bad, and the ugly of Colts loss to Patriots

Falling to 1-4, the heavily injured Colts just couldn’t keep pace with Tom Brady. Starting the game off, New England marched down the field with a 12 play, 75 yard drive that lasted just over six minutes. This drive, capped by 3rd and Goal pass from Brady to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, would set the tone for the rest of the game. With 9 players missing to start the game, and several more injured throughout Thursday’s contest, the Colts were scraping the bottom of the depth chart by the end of the night.

The Patriots never trailed in this game. Tom Brady would score four total touchdowns (3 passing 1 rushing), including his 500th passing touchdown of his career. Aside from 2 tipped passes that led to interceptions, Brady played flawlessly. Taking advantage of Colts turnovers, and picking the secondary apart for most of the night, Brady was classic Brady, and that was unfortunate for Indianapolis, as the end of the game favored New England 38-24.

The Good: Andrew Luck is possibly playing his best football of his career. Completing 78 of 123 pass attempts (An NFL record for passes in a five day stretch), Luck has been incredibly efficient. He has thrown for over 800 yards and has a 7:2 touchdown to interception ratio in the last two games. What’s crazy, is that Colts receivers have dropped over a dozen catchable balls in the two game stretch. If he and the receivers can get on the page going forward, this could be a career year for Luck and the Indianapolis offense.

The Bad: As good as Luck is playing, he can’t do everything. The lack of a running game, and injuries piling up, have the Colts forcing Andrew Luck to pick up the slack and put the team on his surgically repaired shoulder. Although the Colts did manage to rush for 4.0 yards per carry on Thursday, the 24-3 deficit in the first half kept them from consistently running the ball. Luck knows passing this much is not sustainable, and head coach Frank Reich echoes those thoughts. Drops that lead to turnovers and drops that could’ve been touchdowns have plagued Indianapolis since the beginning of the season as well. The Colts have dropped over a dozen passes the last two games, and with the depleted receiving core, it doesn’t look to get better.

The Ugly: I’ll say it louder for those in the back…INJURIES! Missing the likes of T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle and Marlon Mack is tough. Then you add in all the defensive absences, and you have a big problem. Injuries to Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore II, Nate Hairston and Quincy Wilson have the Colts looking very deep in their depth chart. The Colts preach next man up, and expect all members of the team to perform as if they were starting, but you’ve got to admit that the lack of primary players played a huge difference in Thursday’s matchup. Only 44 players were dressed for Thursday’s game due to the amount of player who are banged up.

Looking Ahead:

Indianapolis’ next test will be in the Meadowlands, as they travel to New York to face the Jets. This will be the Colts 4th away game in 6 weeks. Indy has a 10 day gap in action, so hopefully the extra time to prepare will allow them to get healthy. The Jets are the first of three, 1-3 teams that the Colts will face before the bye. Indy faces rookie quarterbacks over the next two weeks, and will travel to Oakland to face the now Khalil Mack-less Raiders in week 8. They have a good opportunity to go streaking, and put some check marks in the win column before a week 9 bye week. Perhaps they can pull it around and reach 4-4?

Picture Credit Jim Davis/ Boston Globe

Derek Barnett trips up Andrew Luck to preserve Eagles victory

In a situation that many fans didn’t expect to see, the Colts had an opportunity in the waning moments to steal a win in rainy Philadelphia. After trading blows all day, the Eagles began (and nearly ended) the fourth quarter, by running a exhausting 17 play drive that lasted 11 minutes and 18 seconds. Down 16-13, Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense started their game winning drive at their own 21. With consistent passing (8-8 on the drive), and a little help from penalties, (most notably a critical defensive hold on 4th and 5) the Eagles methodically marched down the field, eventually punching it into the end zone with a 13 yard strike from Wentz to tight end Dallas Goedert. That drive left Indianapolis with just 3:02 on the clock. The Colts would take possession at their 25 yard line, starting with a pass play from Andrew Luck to Nyhiem Hines for 12 yards. From there, the Colts would drive down the field into the Eagles red zone. At the Eagles 11, Luck threw a pass incomplete to Eric Ebron leading to second down. The next play, a 7 yards strike to Eric Swoope, put the ball on the Eagles 4 for a 3rd and 3. On 3rd down, Luck would try and float one in to T.Y. Hilton, but Hilton was unable to track the over the shoulder throw. Finally on 4th down, down 20-16, Luck dropped back to pass, evaded defensive end Derek Barnett for a moment, but couldn’t escape gravity, as Barnett caught Luck’s foot sending him to his knees for the sack. A quick 3 and out by the Eagles offense would allow the Colts offense to get back on the field with under a minute left. Playing a deep zone defense, the Eagles didn’t allow a deep pass, but did allow a few quick passes to Ebron and Hines to move the ball to midfield. With 5 seconds on the clock, head coach Frank Reich made an interesting decision. He brought on backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett to try a long Hail Mary. With the Colts on trips formation the Colts snapped the ball, Jacoby rolls out right and launches a deep rocket of a throw to the back of the end zone. With a sea of hands from Colts and Eagles players, the ball is tipped for a moment, but sadly falls to the turf, just out of reach of T.Y. Hilton. That’s how it would end.

The Colts, although unlucky in this game, do have some big takeaways.

  1. The defense showed up to play: For the second straight week, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard was a force. (13 tackles, 9 solo,5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 qb hits) The Colts finally have an identity on the defensive side of the ball, and it looks really promising. Indianapolis managed to sack Carson Wentz 5 times on the day, bringing the season sack total to 10. The switch to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 scheme has been virtually seamless, and Eberflus has them playing at a high level.
  2. Colts won the turnover battle: after at least 2 turnovers in their first two games, the Colts offense was clean in the turnover department this week. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to too many points, but hey, it’s a stepping stone.
  3. Too many drops in the end zone: Eric Ebron, Chester Rogers, and T.Y. Hilton all missed scoring opportunities, as the ball slipped from their grasp. Much of that can be attributed to a rainy day, but they can’t squander key opportunities in the red zone.
  4. The Colts really need to establish a run game. Not having Marlon Mack (hamstring) or Rober Turbin (suspension), has really made the Colts offense one-dimensional. There is news in the rumor mill of Indianapolis exploring trade opportunities with the Pittsburgh Steelers for Le’Veon Bell, but unless that dream becomes a reality, we’re left with rookie Jordan Wilkins as our leading rusher. (6 carries for 19 yards in week 3)
  5. Congratulations to Adam Vinatieri, who is now tied with Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen with 635 career field goals. Vinatieri has truly had legendary career, and I would expect him to collect his gold jacket when he finally decides to hang up the cleats.
  • Overall, the Colts did do better than expected. With plenty of adjustments to make, the Colts did manage to make some highlights and keep fans interested. Indianapolis (1-2) takes on Houston (0-3) at home next Sunday for a divisional matchup. While Philadelphia (2-1) will travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans.
  • Colts get the win; rookie linebacker has stellar performance

    The Colts did something on Sunday, that they had not done since week 15 of the 2016-17 season. They held an opponent under 10 points. In a game that featured tight end Eric Ebron and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton finding paydirt for the second straight week, the Colts defense was really the bigger headline. To open the game, Indianapolis drove 75 yards on 11 plays to go up 7-0. From that point, they would never trail, but weren’t without mistakes. The next two Colts drives would be a three and out, and a three play drive that ended in an interception (the first of two Andrew Luck interceptions). Following the pick, the Redskins drove 27 yards in 5 plays, settling for a 49 yard field goal. The Redskins momentum would be short lived though, as the Colts marched down the field on the next drive, capping it with an 8 yard Nyheim Hines touchdown. This put Indianapolis up 14-3, and they would take that lead into halftime.

    To open the second half, the Redskins ran an 8 play 38 yard drive that fizzled out near midfield, as the Colts defense forced Washington to punt for a fifth time on the day. The next Indianapolis drive would be costly, as Andrew Luck threw a bad pass into double coverage. The pass found it’s way into D.J Swearinger’s hands for a second time. The interception would allow Washington to put three more points on the board, making the game 14-6. The Colts faced their 4th three and out of the game on the very next drive, which gave the Redskins a bit of momentum. Still, the momentum would only go so far, as the Washington offense was stopped in the red zone. They would settle for another Dustin Hopkins field goal, and inch closer to a score of 14-9. That’s as close as the Redskins would get on Sunday. Indianapolis answered right back with their only long drive of the second half. T.Y. Hilton would cap the 13 play drive with a touchdown, putting the Colts back up by 12 points. The next Redskins drive showed that the Colts may have found a second round gem in this year’s draft. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (18 tackles/1 sack/1 forced fumble) knocked the ball from of the hands of Washington tight end Jordan Reed, while cornerback Pierre Desir jumped on top for the recovery. The turnover, with five minutes left in the game, proved insurmountable for the Redskins. Washington would get one more chance to put points on the board, but the Colts defense once again stood their ground, forcing the Redskins into a turnover on downs. 21-9 is the final, and there are quite a few big takeaways from this game, as the Colts prepare for the Eagles next Sunday.

    Takeaways

    1) Jordan Wilkins was productive: The Colts rookie quietly rushed 10 times for 61 yards (6.1 avg). Indianapolis will need this type of ground production in order to keep the pressure off of Andrew Luck.

    2) Darius Leonard was a beast: Rookies who act like veterans are my favorite kind of rookies. Leonard stepped up on Sunday with 18 tackles, a sack, and a key forced fumble in the fourth quarter. This could be the beginning of something special for this young Colts defense.

    3) Colts can win, even when Andrew Luck isn’t playing his best ball: A fairly pedestrian day, Luck only threw for 179 yards, and also threw two interceptions. The turnovers could have been costly, but the defense stepped up, and held the Washington offense two field goals as opposed to touchdowns.

    4) Indianapolis might have more defensive depth than we realize: Defensive tackle Jihad Ward, who had been taking up space on the Colts, had a great day. With a sack and 3 quarterback pressures (led team), we may see Ward on the field again next weekend.

    5) The offensive line held up, even with missing pieces: Coming into the game, Washington’s defensive front looked worrisome. The Colts have lost three offensive linemen since the start of the preseason, and were thought to be a week unit. However, this line managed to show excellent resolve, keeping Luck upright (gave up only 1 sack for -2 yards) and paving the way for Colts running backs (running backs ran for 4.25 yards per carry)

    Late fumble spoils Colts season opener

    The Colts pulled out a piece of 2017 in the final minutes of their matchup against the Bengals this afternoon. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, it was a bad piece. Trailing 27-23 with less than a minute left, Andrew Luck and the Colts attempted to make another classic fourth quarter comeback. Andrew Luck tossed a would be first down pass to Tight End Jack Doyle, but Doyle could not secure it, as he turned up field and fumbled it away. The fumble would then be picked up by Bengals Safety Clayton Fejedelem, and returned 83 yards for a Cincinnati touchdown to seal a Bengals victory.

    After an early interception to start the game, Andrew Luck and the Colts offense settled in. Luck’s final stat line was 39-53 for 319 yards, 2 touchdowns, and that first quarter interception. If there is one positive to take out of this game, it’s that Andrew Luck has certainly shown he can outlast an NFL game. Taking multiple hard hits, (one of which led to a Bengals ejection) two sacks, and 53 pass attempts was probably enough for two games worth of action; However, Luck popped right back up on every play, as he showed the grit and determination of a grizzled NFL veteran.

    Indianapolis definitely has a few things to work on heading into next week. Here are 3 things the Colts need to tighten up on, as they head into next week.

    1. Don’t make Luck do everything! We love our quarterback, and we want to see him out there all season. A poor rushing attack was a big reason why Luck threw 53 passes.
    2. Establish a running game. The Indianapolis running backs combined for just 68 yards on 21 carries.
      Don’t make critical turnovers/Keep creating turnovers. It was a fantastic start for the Colts defense, as the got great pressure on Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton on his second pass attempt. Colts defensive back Kenny Moore intercepted Dalton after a tipped pass, nearly returning it for a touchdown. That put the Colts in the red zone early, but two plays later the Bengals defense would force an Andrew Luck interception (the first of two red zone turnovers by the Colts), spoiling the big play by Moore.
  • The Colts will look to get their first victory next week against the Washington Redskins in Washington D.C. next Sunday.
  • The Bengals will look to build on their win, as they will have a short week, hosting the Baltimore Ravens this Thursday.