The Colts fourth quarter defense went from great to abysmal this season

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) rushes in the ball for a touchdown Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) rushes in the ball for a touchdown Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. /

After starting the season impressively, the clutch defense for the Indianapolis Colts has been one of the biggest weaknesses for the team.

The Indianapolis Colts have been underwhelming all season but the defense has been impressive. Powered by some Pro Bowl-worthy players, the Indianapolis defense has kept the Colts in games and even won them some. It’s because of the defense that Indy isn’t out of contention for anything yet. However, the defense has been coming back down to earth recently and they’ve begun hurting the team as well.

The biggest problem for the defense has been maintaining its level of play through the fourth quarter. Early in the season, the Colts were especially clutch defensively. Often playing from behind, Indy’s defense was able to shut opposing teams down in the second half and allow the offense a chance to stage a comeback. However, that hasn’t been the case in recent weeks for Indy and it’s demonstrated in fourth-quarter scoring.

In Indianapolis’ first five games, the defense didn’t allow a single point in the fourth quarter. Going against some quality opponents, the Colts always came out of the locker room at halftime with the perfect adjustments. In Week 6 against the Jaguars, Indy allowed six points in the fourth quarter. It was bound to happen eventually so everyone just hoped it would be a rare instance. Unfortunately, it was the start of a nasty habit for Indy.

Colts defense has been the opposite of clutch

Since giving up six fourth-quarter points to Jacksonville in Week 6, Indianapolis has surrendered fourth-quarter points in every matchup. Since opening the season with five straight scoreless fourth quarters, the Colts have allowed six, six, 10, three, six, 14, eight, and 27 points in their last eight fourth quarters respectively. Even without the explosion from the Dallas Cowboys, Indy is allowing 7.6 fourth-quarter points a game since Week six. If Dallas is included, that number rises to 10 points.

The hard truth is that a team isn’t going to win many games with a fourth-quarter defense like that unless the team’s offense is explosive. As we know, the Colts don’t have a good offense, and with the bad late-game defense, it makes sense why Indy is losing so much. Since the defense started allowing fourth-quarter points in Week 6, the Colts are 2-6. In the first five games when opposing teams went scoreless in the fourth quarter, Indy was 2-2-1.

That’s a big difference with a direct connection. During the past eight games, the Colts have allowed game-winning scores in the fourth quarter. In Week 8 against the Commanders, a late score gave Washington the lead and ultimately the game, and that was also the case in Week 11 against the Eagles and Week 12 against the Steelers. In Weeks 6 and 10, the defense also surrendered the lead late but was bailed out by clutch drives from the offense.

Ultimately, the defense has been the better unit for Indianapolis. Their issues often get to fly under the radar since Indy’s offense is so horrendous. However, they have to shoulder a fair share of the blame for Indy’s record. If Indy’s defense had been better in the fourth quarter all season, the team’s record would be drastically different. Three late-game drives are the difference between being 7-5-1 and 4-8-1.