Colts vs Lions: Next Day Analysis
The Indianapolis Colts nearly pulled off an impressive rally, without the help of their defense on Sunday.
The Colts desperately need to change how they approach games. Every week, and every season, it has been the same pattern with this team and this is exactly why fans were confused with the moves to retain the coach and GM.
Here’s the fundamental problem with the Colts under Chuck Pagano:
- They have a game plan that is generally run heavy and more concerned with ball control. Which A) isn’t how the NFL operates anymore and B) doesn’t play to the team’s strengths.
- That leads to a slow start and requires a generally large comeback. That not only puts more pressure on the defense, but also on Andrew Luck who at times starts pressing with his passes. Other times it leads to him being brilliant (like against the Lions).
- This inevitably means the Colts have to spread the field out on offense and pass the ball more, which is what this offense is built for: a vertical passing attack. Then the Colts rally and make the game interesting, when they should have been doing this from the start.
This is what is so frustrating about Pagano and his coaching staff: they watch the film, and never seem to learn from it. It feels like they don’t understand what makes for a good game plan and are more interested in “winning their way” as opposed to just winning.
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If you are going to espouse the concepts of “running the ball and stopping the run” you should, you know, be good at one of those things. The Colts aren’t and need to change how they approach each game. Pagano has talked often about fixing the slow starts and seems confused as to what the core problem is. It shouldn’t be hard to watch film and see what the offense is and isn’t doing when they actually move the ball.
Adding to the list of things Pagano needs to improve is his clock management. This isn’t the only time it has been a problem, but it is the first that it indirectly cost the Colts a game. The Colts took a timeout with just over a minute to play in order to get their preferred package in, but could have taken an additional 20 seconds off the clock in the process. They didn’t and it gave the Lions 37 seconds (they only needed about 30) to get into field goal range.
That doesn’t excuse the defense being eviscerated, but it could have forced the Lions into a Hail Mary attempt instead of a series of big gainers.
The loss is partially excusable but only because the secondary was basically an aging Mike Adams and a few guys off the street for most of the game, and the final Lions drive in particular. It is understandable that players who’ve been with the team for a few days or weeks aren’t familiar with the playbook or comfortable with their teammates (it explains players being out of position).
Also couple that with the fact that most of these players don’t really belong on an NFL field. Unfamiliarity and a lack of talent are a brutal combination and that’s why so many Lions receiver were running free.
What was inexcusable was how even the real defensive starters performed. The front seven was largely intact and we saw players taking bad angle, getting blown off blocks, and missing tackles. Those are correctable errors, but it is still a major concern for a new defensive coordinator.
Andrew Luck isn’t broken. Not physically or mentally. Once the Colts started letting him do Luck stuff, the offense looked unstoppable. He was the dynamic player we saw in 2013 and 2014. This honestly might have been a top three performance in his career and it was wasted.
We saw the offensive line hold up long enough for him to make plays. After a shaky start, they settled down and gave Luck the space he needed to operate efficiently. Honestly, a player like Luck needs just an average line to be successful. Provided they can stay healthy and develop some continuity, this will be the best line Luck has had in his career.
If Luck were showing the same flaws as last season, fans would be right to panic. Many were concerned he wouldn’t return to form but yesterday proved otherwise. Frankly, all the other flaws on this team can be fixed, or at least covered up enough to give the Colts a fighting chance each week.
Next: Colts lost to Lions, 39-35
The defense should, hopefully, get healthier as well. Getting Vontae Davis back completely changes how the secondary operates, the problem is we don’t have any idea when he’ll return.
The Colts offense will face a big challenge next week against the Broncos, but they have a history of picking that defense apart. The defense probably won’t suddenly be healthy but it will be interesting to see if Trevor Simien can replicate his success from last week (especially if Demaryius Thomas is out).