Initial Reaction: Colts Defense Can’t Cover Steelers


The Indianapolis Colts failed to show up on Sunday to an NFL game. The Pittsburgh Steelers, and more specifically Ben Roethlisberger, took the defense apart in the worst loss of Chuck Pagano’s career as head coach.

It wouldn’t have taken much for this to be a close game. A stop or two, and the Colts had their chances, and it gives the offense a chance.

Some people have blamed the offense, which was directly responsible for coughing up nine points, but when you score 34 you should win the game. Had the defense shown up for just a quarter, it would have been a game. Pagano and his staff have to reassess their approach in the near future.

Here’s what we saw on Sunday:

  • Busted Coverage. The Colts just gave up another completion to Ben Roethlisberger. Remember those coverage issues from the first two games of the season? You know, the one’s where receivers are running WIDE open? We saw that again Sunday. Its a flaw that was never addressed before the season started and has more to do talent than scheme. Losing Vontae Davis hurt, but the defense was getting torched even with him on the field. In other news, Heath Miller just got another wide open first down.
  • Collegiate. We need to talk about the coverage a bit more, and I say collegiate because it reminded me of a certain college in Indiana. Here’s a hint: they’ve never had a good defense. Sunday, the Colts defense looked like IU. Missed assignment, players not knowing where to be, and bad tackling are all hallmarks of the Hoosier “defense.” We didn’t even address the lack of a pass rush, but that’s going to be a problem all year. If you’re going to emulate a college, don’t pick IU.
  • Confusion. Pagano looked lost Sunday. He had a confused and beaten look on his face all game. Everything they tried to do on defense failed. He must have been frustrated, but you have to still project confidence to you team. We saw Andrew Luck keeping his teammates in the game on the sideline, and Pagano has to do the same thing.
    • This was also the second time this season that Pagano said he didn’t have his team ready to play. This has happened far too many times in his career and its generally led to a blowout or some crazy Luck related heroics.
  • Second Guessing. The Colts have been able to at least appear decent on defense due to a combination of man coverage and heavy blitzing. The game plan they opened up with completely got away from that formula. At the same time, the way the Colts had been blitzing was completely unsustainable. You simply can’t send that many players against a quarterback and expect your secondary to hold up. If ever there was a question about who the best QB in the AFC North is, it was answered yesterday.
  • Two of the Best. Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton are in the upper tier of the NFL at the wide receiver spot. They are not physically dominant like others, just face and incredibly precise route runners with great hands. 16 receptions for 288 yards and three touchdowns between the two and they both played on the same peewee football team.
  • Bounce Back. Luck might be the best quarterback at rebounding from a bad mistake. Following his pick six, he tossed a beautiful touchdown pass to Dwayne Allen. Luck’s done this all season, and most of last year as well. There are times when he makes some bad throws or decisions, but the good far outweighs the mistakes. You can mention the second interception if you want, but it really didn’t matter. It was a desperation pass in garbage time.
  • Protection? That’s was easily the worst job protecting Luck the offensive line has had all season. He rarely had time and took a shot after seemingly every pass (makes you wonder what a late hit is too). He felt pressure on half of his dropbacks. It looked Luck was back in his rookie season. It was so bad he even tripped over a lineman en route to the butt safety. Gosder Cherilus continues to have a horrible season and it seems like it might be time to give someone else a shot at right tackle (and makes you wonder if he’s injured).

Up next, the Colts will face the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. Its a nice chance for a bounce back game to give them a little momentum into the Bye Week (and before hosting the Patriots).