The Colts were routed by the Steelers on Sunday Night Football, but what does it really say about this team?
There isn’t too much to be said about last night’s loss to the Steelers. Really it was a culmination of all the flaws this team has, especially when Andrew Luck is out. The Colts have always had issues, and against a team like the Steelers they were put on full display.
While there are many who will say the Colts are terrible after the loss to the Steelers, that discounts just how bad of a matchup they represent to the Colts. They can stretch the field better than any team in the league and were able to use max protection while still finding open receivers down field.
The most likely scenario for this meeting was a shootout, and if that happened we questioned if the Colts offense could keep up. The first half played into the Colts hands, but they failed to take advantage of all the great field position the defense and special teams gave the offense (four red zone trips, just 10 points).
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We saw Matt Hasselbeck hit the wall, and thankfully quiet all of the people saying he should remain the starter. Unfortunately he reportedly has a shoulder and neck injury, and while Hasselbeck may have played poorly last night he’s still talented enough to beat the Jaguars. The drop off from him to Charlie Whitehurst is about as deep as the Grand Canyon.
As a starter, Hasselbeck has had two solid games and now three bad ones. Sunday was easily his worst as he didn’t seem to see the field or have any pocket awareness. He’s played well enough for the Colts to win in the past, but that says more about the quality of competition than Hasselbeck’s skill level.
On the other side of the field, the defense was slowly beat down as the game progressed. This game felt like any of the ones played in 2011: defense is slowly picked apart as the offense failed time and again. Only this time around the Colts had zero pass rush.
And herein lies the problem with the 2015 Colts. Name one thing this team does particularly well, kicking and punting don’t count. This team completely lacks an identity. Even with Luck on the field, they don’t pass the ball well. They can’t run the ball. They’re struggling to stop the run and can’t cover consistently down field. And worst of all is the utter lack of a pass rush.
The Colts currently lead the AFC South courtesy of a tie breaker over the Texans, but does anyone have confidence this team can make a run in the playoffs? Injuries certainly have played a role in the Colts struggles, and we don’t just mean to Luck. The offensive line is a mess right now, but hopefully it will get better before Luck returns (otherwise he might not last the season).
There were a few things that stood out, however, from last night’s game:
- Hilton or Moncrief? T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief were non-factors last night. Moncrief, a week after a career game, wasn’t even targeted once by Hasselbeck. The Steelers secondary is bad and there is no reason these players shouldn’t have been able to get open regularly. And if you want to know how bad their secondary is, the Colts actually ran a successful wide receiver screen against them and just to rub it in they did it with Andre Johnson.
- Better Running. Frank Gore had a decent game, with nearly 100 yards from scrimmage. The Colts seemed to use a simpler run blocking scheme and it led to a number of big gains for Gore. The Colts have far fewer “forced” run plays than they’ve had in the past two weeks (less telegraphed plays against eight man boxes). The Colts could learn from the Steelers last night as the home team effective used the pass to set up the run. This is the modern NFL, not a smash mouth run team that sprinkles in some passing.
- Gutless. At times we’ve seen Chuck Pagano go for it on fourth down this season when he didn’t have to. But without Luck, he’s far less likely to take any risks. Punting on fourth-and-short inside the opponent’s 50-yard line rarely works out, but it did once for the Colts last night. The Colts would have benefitted for some more aggressive play calling but it didn’t appear that Pagano had any confidence in the offense.
- Tight Ends? That Colts still have Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, right? Those two have been virtual ghosts all season long. It feels like the team has forgotten how to use either one of them properly. Fleener is basically a wide receiver in a bigger body (especially when you consider how bad he is at blocking) and Allen can be used in almost any situation (I suggest a seam route now and then). Those two coupled with the talent at receiver should create matchup problems across the field, but we haven’t seen that happen at any time this season.
The Colts face the Jaguars next week to take a huge lead in the AFC South. The Jags just managed to lose to the Titans, who entered that game tied for the worst record in football (and that was with Blake Bortles throwing five touchdown passes). A road game against a division opponent is never a sure thing, but the Colts should still be favored against the 4-8 Jags.