Initial Reaction: Coaching Costs Colts the Game


The Indianapolis Colts coaching staff needs to be held to a higher standard. Last night we saw at times just how good the play calling (at least offensively) can be for this team.

We also saw just how far this team can fall.

For all the attention on Andrew Luck and the offense, the Colts defense has never been able to produce. In the past four games (going back to the playoffs), this defense has surrendered an average of 37 points per game. Two of those games also featured Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea.

Now, those two great players are gone and this team is reeling. Chuck Pagano was brought in because of his defensive prowess. He was supposed to build the sort of stifling defense that can win a few games over the course of a season, but that has yet to even come close to happening.

Pagano coaches games in a way where he is trying not to lose. It is conservative, relies too much on time of possession, and takes the ball out of his best player’s hands. He has to start coaching to win. The fourth-and-goal touchdown was great, but he has to be more aggressive. On the final two series, the Colts ran the ball four times. Pagano was trying to run out the clock with over five minutes left to play and on that second drive, the game was tied.

That is painfully bad coaching.

GM Ryan Grigson and the front office have to be held accountable as well. They nailed one draft, and since then have done nothing to to improve any areas of need on this roster. They have overpaid for mediocre player after mediocre player.

Grigson refused to address the areas of need in the offseason. Safety? We’ll promote from within or sign a player who can’t play anymore. Offensive line? We’ll let players with zero NFL experience take over. Pass rush? We know Mathis will be out for a bit, but this second year player will probably produce.

Some will argue that the defense is bad because the players are bad, then why not hold the front office accountable?

The Indianapolis media refuses to ask Pagano hard questions in the press conference after games like last night. They might take him to task in their story, but that doesn’t matter since the Colts aren’t reading those pieces anyway. Someone needs to point out the errors and demand more from this team.

Here’s what stood out from last night:

  • Luck was off for most of the game. In fact, he hasn’t played very well in either game this season. It is an odd mix of a talented receiver corps not getting open and Luck being inaccurate. He continues to make the right read, but his passes are just a bit off. Last week, he was sailing deep throws across the middle. This week, his passes were a tad off target. Honestly, Luck could have won MVP last year for what he did taking that roster to the playoffs. He will have to play at that level again if the Colts want to take a worse roster to to the postseason in 2014.
  • The defense fell apart at the most basic level. Philly receivers were running free, and the only thing that kept this game from being a blowout was Nick Foles‘ poor play. The Colts rarely laid a hand on Foles and the fact that he couldn’t find his WIDE open receivers has to be troubling for Eagles fans.
  • Speaking of the pass rush, the Colts faced a broken offensive line and couldn’t even generate some pressure. Bjoern Werner spent more time on the turf than actually rushing. There is no one available to come in off the street and fix this problem, therefore it is up to the coaching staff to find a solution. Expect this to be a huge problem all season long.
  • Spare me the Trent Richardson love from last night. Yes, he ran hard, but he also fumbled twice and is lucky Reggie Wayne was there to save the turnover. He isn’t a good running back, he’s a second string back if anything and I’d rather see Dan Herron get a few carries. If the Colts don’t start Ahmad Bradshaw next week, then the coaches aren’t reviewing the tape at all.
  • It was absolutely the right call to pass on the third-and-seven interception. Twitter went crazy by saying that the Colts were gambling by throwing the ball on that play, and if they had run there it would have wasted more time and ended with a field goal. No. A 10 point lead against a team that can score incredibly fast and was carving the defense apart is not safe. You play to win in that situation and that means a pass. Had T.Y. Hilton not been dragged down, he’s making a first down catch and the Colts run more clock and likely score a touchdown.

Final Thought

I don’t like to complain about the officiating of a game, but last night’s was so painfully bad that it had an impact on the final score. T.Y. Hilton was clearly pulled down to the turf by a defender on the interception. How the officials missed that call is beyond me. It was the only bad call, but it was certainly the most damaging to the game.

What is really baffling is that pass interference and defensive holding has been a point of emphasis by the NFL this season and that was a textbook example of it. A flag on that play, and the Colts win the game.

In the end it doesn’t really matter, it is still a loss and there was more than just that one play that cost the Colts the game.

As Luck said: “It doesn’t matter what I think (about the non-call). It was an interception. That’s all that matters.”