Andrew Luck throws for 300 yards and four touchdowns, but turnovers come back to haunt the Colts in a 42-34 loss to the Jets.
If I were to summarize a 2018 Colts game by saying “Andrew Luck balled out, the receivers dropped passes and numerous players got injured en route a loss in a game Indy could have won” you would probably not be able to tell me what one I was talking about.
The Indianapolis Colts came into Sunday’s game at the New York Jets on a three game slide, including a pretty lopsided defeat to the New England Patriots 10 days ago on Thursday Night Football. So one would be fair to assume that the Colts would use that mini bye week to game plan for a middle-of-the-road Jets team being led by a rookie quarterback and get healthy, right? Nah.
Just 12 seconds into Sunday’s game, the Jets’ Morris Claiborne returned a tipped Andrew Luck pass 17 yards for a touchdown to give New York a 7-0 lead, a play that would set the tone for the rest of the day. To their credit, the Colts did answer back quickly, with Luck finding Marcus Johnson on a busted coverage play ending in a 34 yard score. A few field goals later and the Colts were up 13-10.
Maybe that early pick six was just a fluke. Maybe the depleted Colts receiving core (which was missing Pro Bowlers T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle, among others) would stop dropping passes (like rookie back Nyheim Hines did in the end zone which resulted in the Colts needing to settle for three) and Indianapolis could pull ahead and start to build some momentum returning home to face an equally-injured Buffalo Bills squad. Nah.
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Terrelle Pryor caught a seven yard TD from Sam Darnold and Jason Meyers kicked another two field goals (he had a Jets franchise record seven on the day) and the Colts went into the locker room down 23-13. New York would then come out and score an easy touchdown and suddenly it was 30-13. In true 2018 Colts fashion they were able to add some garbage time points to give fans faux hopes of a comeback and make the final score look closer than the game actually was, with Luck throwing a pass to a diving Chester Rogers (one of two healthy receivers left standing by the time the final whistle blew) to have Indianapolis only lose 42-34.
The Colts had just six points off of two turnovers, while the Jets turned four Colts mistakes into 20 points. For those of you keeping track at home, that would (hypothetically) turn this into a 28-22 Colts win (there’s a hundred other factors, I know).
Zak Keefer of the IndyStar tweeted after the game that the first two players he approached in the locker room said the same thing: “this [expletive] is getting old.” It is almost two years ago to the date when, following a Sunday night collapse to the Houston Texans, Frank Gore exclaimed “I didn’t come here for this. I came here to get into the tournament.” Things seemed rough then, with Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano managing (used in the loosest of terms) a poorly assembled roster. Do things look much better now? Nah.
Not that there aren’t a few bright spots of hope to take away from Sunday’s loss to the Jets. The fact Andrew Luck shows no real signs of rust (and certainly no hesitation to throw the ball) is comforting, Marlon Mack (89 yards) returned to a decent showing and young defenders like Malik Hooker (a sexy interception in the style of Ed Reed) and Darius Leonard (nine tackles and a forced fumble) continue to ball out. Plus the offensive line, using a different rotation yet again, allowed no sacks for the first time since the Bush administration (don’t fact check me on that). Clearly, some things are working in Indianapolis, but stupid mistakes from a young roster and injuries (many of them to key players) aren’t helping a team with a rookie head coach and roster that basically had to be rebuilt from the ground up after the dark days Ryan Grigson era.
Are the 2018 Indianapolis Colts a good football team? I mean, no, but I don’t think anyone thought they would to be. They are headed in the right direction (no matter how slowly) and are able to show flashes of competency but until they can put it together for four straight quarters, days like Sunday are what we can expect.