Don’t let the Colts defense off the hook for the disappointing end to the season

The Indianapolis Colts defensive line gathers between plays during the second quarter of the game on Sunday.
The Indianapolis Colts defensive line gathers between plays during the second quarter of the game on Sunday. /

The Indianapolis Colts defense must take some blame for their part in Indy’s epic collapse.

The Indianapolis Colts defense has an All-Pro linebacker in Darius Leonard, two additional Pro Bowlers in DeForest Buckner and Kenny Moore II, and a coordinator that is one of the most coveted head coaching candidates, Matt Eberflus.

With all of this going for Indy’s defense, they didn’t deliver the necessary performances to get Indianapolis into the playoffs.

Following the Week 18 meltdown loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the majority of the blame fell on Carson Wentz. As more time passes since the end of the Colts’ season, Wentz is becoming an even bigger scapegoat.

Wentz was far from perfect and certainly deserves some blame, but the defense played a major part in this collapse as well over the final two weeks of the regular season.

Defense is also responsible for the Colts collapse

Everyone initially looks to the Jaguars game as the reason Indianapolis didn’t make the playoffs. It was the final game and against an easy opponent, so it makes sense, but the collapse started in Week 17.

Indy could’ve clinched a postseason spot with a win against the Las Vegas Raiders. Although the Raiders ultimately made the playoffs, Indianapolis was expected to beat them, and the Colts were in a position to do so.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Indianapolis led 17-13. At that point, it’s a simple formula for victory, don’t allow Las Vegas to score a touchdown. With effective clock management, field goals likely wouldn’t have got the job done.

However, on the Raiders’ first drive of the fourth quarter, they went 62 yards in six plays, scoring a touchdown to take the lead.

The Colts offense drove down the field, drained the clock, and settled for a field goal to tie the game. While a touchdown would’ve been great, they gave the team a chance to fight in overtime— if the defense held up.

Instead, Derek Carr took the Raiders offense right down the field to kick a game-winning field goal.

It’s easy to say, “well the defense only gave up 23 points” or “if the offense scored a touchdown” or “If Wentz didn’t miss TY” or any other excuse that absolves the defense of blame.

The simple truth is, the defense didn’t show up when they needed to. One of Wentz’s biggest critiques is that he isn’t reliable in clutch moments, the defense also needs to be ridiculed for the same.

As far as the Jacksonville game, the entire team was just terrible. Indy’s defense allowed the Jaguars to score twice their average amount of points and were routinely walked down the field.

Colts defense must make changes this offseason

While the majority of off-season discourse will be about the quarterback position, Indianapolis also needs to focus on the defense.

That may start with finding a new coordinator if Matt Eberflus lands a head coaching job, but it can’t end there. The pass rush has to be better and the secondary has to be more consistent.

If the necessary players aren’t on the roster to make that happen, the front office must spend this spring acquiring the right guys.