For 5 straight weeks, we saw firsthand the “greatness” of the Colts’ defense. It was a defense that was simply stifling opponents, and it was a big reason as why the Colts had rattled off 5 straight wins. In those aforementioned games, an opponent only scored 20+ points just once. During that stretch, opposing offenses were 8 for 51 in successful 3rd down conversions, putting them at an incredibly low 15.7%. The hysteria reached an all-time high last weekend, when the Colts shut-out the Cincinnati Bengals en route to a 27-0 win. “The Monster” that head coach Chuck Pagano had preached of building in his previous 2+ seasons of coaching, was no longer “under contruction”, as it was seemingly now alive.
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes against the Indianapolis Colts during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in NFL history with two 500 yard passing games. The Steelers won 51-34. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
There’s an old mantra that former Colts’ head coach Tony Dungy used to preach, “Don’t get too high or too low. Stay even-keeled.” For in the National Football League, especially these days where parody reigns, there’s a lot of good teams out there. The majority of which can beat you on any given Sunday.
I’m not saying the Colts looked past the Steelers on their schedule, as Heinz Field is a notoriously tough place to play no matter how good the Steelers are each season. It’s just hard when people keep patting you on the back and telling you that, “you’re great”, to always tune it all out. The Colts were starting to get viewed as an elite contending team and contending teams have to expect other teams to gun for them each and every week. They took a heavyweight punch from the Steelers early Sunday evening.
The Colts hadn’t played a good quarterback on the road since Week 1 against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. It showed on Sunday, when they allowed the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger to
throw dissect them for 522 passing yards (4th Most in NFL History) and 6 touchdowns. The defense gave up 639 total offensive yards, the most in franchise history. The Colts’ secondary couldn’t cover the likes of Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton. They couldn’t put pressure on Roethlisberger, as they had 0 sacks. It was a really bad day for what has otherwise up to this point been a really good defense.
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) catches a touchdown pass over Indianapolis Colts cornerback Josh Gordy (27) during the second half of their game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 51-34. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
51 points allowed. Is there cause for alarm? Certainly. However, no one should jump off the big blue bandwagon just yet. The Colts were likely playing at a likely unsustainable pace in recent weeks and admittedly had benefited from playing a string of quarterbacks that weren’t elite. This is still a secondary that features Vontae Davis and not many big names. It’s still a pass rush that is without its star in Robert Mathis. The Colts’ defense was playing at a level out of this world for the better part of 5 weeks. Sunday’s performance brought them crashing back into the Earth’s atmosphere. It doesn’t mean they necessarily have to burn.
In 2006, the Colts played the Jaguars in Jacksonville and their defense was shredded for 368 total rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns at the hands of Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor, and Alvin Pearman. It was a complete demolition in what was an eventual 17-44 Colts’ loss. However, rather than wallow in despair, that year’s Colts’ defense simply got better. In fact, they were a big reason as to why the Colts ended up winning the Super Bowl that season, as they were absolutely dominant in that year’s playoffs.
The Colts defense was tested yesterday, and it will be interesting to see how they both re-group and recover. While they may not necessarily return to their previous early season dominance, I don’t expect to see a defensive performance like we just saw yesterday for quite a long time. This year’s defense is simply too good for that to happen again. The Monster may have fallen, but it can still pick itself back up.