Oct 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle (32) breaks up a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener (80) during the second half at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 19-9.
Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Colts 9 – Chargers 19
It was their first appearance on Monday Night Football in over two years. It was their time, their moment to shine under the lights, to prove that they were as good as their record indicated, to prove that they were contenders. It was their chance to establish a two-game lead in their division over the Tennessee Titans.
The Colts didn’t capitalize on any of those opportunities. Instead, they turned in their worst performance of the season.
Where to begin?
Penalties. The Colts were averaging a league-best 3.4 penalties a game, but they had 5 costly ones Monday night. It wasn’t so much about the penalties themselves as it was the timing. There were several defensive penalties on third down that would extend San Diego drives — those long, tiring, clock-eating drives that resulted in a large discrepancy in the teams’ time of possession. The Chargers had the ball for 17 more minutes than the Colts. That’s more than an entire quarter of football.
Drops. There were at least five of them, which is inexcusable. Wayne, Hilton, Heyward-Bey, Fleener, and Richardson each dropped the ball at crucial moments in the game, costing the team third-down conversions, touchdowns, and any chance of getting themselves back in the game in the fourth quarter. There were no late-game heroics from Andrew Luck, who didn’t play all that poorly but had absolutely no help from his teammates. Luck was 18-for-30 for 202 yards but was completely shut out of the end zone and threw a bad interception on the Colts’ final drive that sealed the deal for the Chargers.
Bad decisions. Even the coaching deserves some blame for the loss. Down by 7, the Colts opted to punt on fourth down with 3:29 remaining in the game. What would have happened if the Colts had gone for it? Yes, the attempt to convert could have failed, but the team could also have converted and then marched right down the field and tied the game. Instead, they allowed San Diego to get the ball back, and the Chargers added another three points to their lead with a 50-yard field goal. The Colts’ coaches were too conservative in that situation. They have at their disposal a quarterback who has led a whopping 9 game-winning drives in the fourth-quarter or overtime in just a season and a quarter of play. Why wouldn’t they want the ball in Luck’s hands?
Injuries. Jerrell Freeman left Monday night’s game early after suffering a concussion. If Freeman is forced to miss any extended period of time, it could be devastating, especially since LaRon Landry, who was leading the NFL in tackles prior to injuring his ankle, is still hurt and has not played in four weeks. The Colts have been plagued by injuries this season and simply cannot afford any more.
There were a few positives. Reggie Wayne surpassed the 1,000 reception mark, becoming just the 9th player in NFL history to do so. Trent Richardson is beginning to grasp the playbook, and although his statistics indicate another average performance, he had a few impressive-looking runs and did a good job of breaking tackles to gain extra yardage (and the offensive line created very few openings for him to run through). Donald Brown, overlooked, averaged 5 yards per carry. And 18-year veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri was perfect on the night in field goals, including a 51-yarder. He contributed, on his own, all of his team’s 9 points.
Who were the Colts that we saw last night? Both the high-powered offense and stingy, gritty defense were noticeably absent. Did San Diego expose the team’s flaws, or was the performance just a fluke? We’ll find out soon enough, for the Colts have just five days to prepare for the looming Denver Broncos on Sunday night at Lucas Oil.
Oh, and did I mention Peyton Manning is coming home?
This is going to be a very interesting week.