Indianapolis Colts’ season plummets out of NFL playoff contention - how the once hopeful team hit a new low.
After last night’s 34-7 beatdown against the New Orleans Saints, the Indianapolis Colts now find themselves eliminated from playoff contention entirely. They’ve lost five of their last six games and will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
Many people – myself included – had high expectations for the Colts going into this season. Realistically, how could you not? This was a team that had far and away exceeded their expectations for 2018, winning nine of their last ten regular season games as well as a solid playoff win against divisional rival Houston Texans. Even after the loss to Kansas City in the divisional round, critics and fans alike started to see the pieces falling into place for the Colts to potentially make a Super Bowl run the following season – or so they thought.
After the shocking and sudden retirement of their quarterback, Andrew Luck, Indianapolis found itself in a scramble. But Head Coach Frank Reich and company weren’t going to make excuses. They felt very strongly about the kind of team that had assembled over the last several offseasons with pro-bowl caliber additions such as Quentin Nelson and Darius Leonard.
Even the GM, Chris Ballard, felt that the team he and his staff had put together was strong enough both culturally and physically to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. They were out to prove any of the doubters wrong. And although Luck was an important piece, Ballard had religiously stressed the importance of the organization being about the team and not just one player.
“We’ve got a good football team…” Ballard said during Luck’s retirement presser. “We’re young, [we’re] good on both fronts [and have] some good skill players. I connect. I love all of our players and want them to do well,” he continued.
Chris Ballard, Frank Reich, and Jim Irsay had an unwavering belief in their football team. They weren’t going to let one event – although major – stop them from overcoming yet another obstacle. After all, they had been in this position before. Just ask Chris Ballard.
“Obstacles happen. They just do,” Ballard said. “And Lord knows they’ve happened a few times since I’ve been here, but I’ll say this, every time we’ve faced one, we’ve overcome it. (And) that’s what will do again. I mean, that’s our jobs, he continued.”
This season, however, brought perhaps their biggest question of all – just how good were the colts without their star quarterback?
“We are ready to go to battle,” Irsay said during Luck’s retirement presser.
And they were – to a certain extent. Once every player became aware of Luck’s retirement, they immediately shifted their faith to their new starter, Jacoby Brissett, whom Ballard and Luck described as, “a rare leader.”
What transpired during the season was anything but obstacle free. From special teams’ blunders, to major injuries at both wideout and defense, to even their starting quarterback missing a game and a half, it was as though the Colts were given an endless supply of setbacks. They just could never catch a break - or the football, for that matter
Colts receivers have struggled to hold onto the football this season. As of November 18th, the Colts led the league in dropped passes with 17, according forums.colts.com.
What was even more mortifying was the Colts’ special teams’ play this season, and it certainly played a major role in their many struggles throughout the season. According to Colts Insider Zak Keefer, Adam Vinatieri left a grand total of 33 points off the board this season for Indy.
Translation: Of Indy’s eight losses, Vinatieri can be held accountable for a minimum of three of those losses. It seemed as if Vinatieri had lost whatever magic he once had in that right leg of his. Not only that, but Indy held an unyielding belief in the future Hall of Famer, standing beside Vinatieri despite his inconsistencies throughout the entire season.
“With 24 years of what he’s done, there’s a sense of … we believe in him, and if he’s going through a rough patch, we’re going to be a little more patient than normal,” Reich said of his veteran kicker.
Perhaps he had too much faith, as Vinatieri – who we learned was dealing with a knee injury to his plant leg – was 17-of-28 (68%) for the season in total field goals made and was recently placed on IR for the rest of the season.
Brissett certainly deserves his fair share of blame when you consider how much he’s digressed over the course of the season.
Through his first six starts, Brissett had a TD:INT ratio of 14:3 and was averaging 231.1 yards per game, according to Colts.com. Not bad, right? However, during his last seven starts, Brissett has a TD:INT ratio of 4:3, while averaging 181.8 yards per game, almost 50 yards less in his yards per game total.
What’s also worth noting is that Indy ranks 27th in total passing yards per game with a teeth-clenching 204.2. Just to put that into perspective, the Mitchell Trubisky-led Chicago Bears rank 25th with 212.8 passing yards per game. Keep in mind, Trubisky ranks 30th in yards per play with 6.2, according to teamrankings.com.
Don’t think the defense gets let off the hook, either. Despite the unit suffering its fair share of injuries, they too deserve a share of the blame. Once categorized as one of the better units in football, the defense has seen an abysmal drop in every facet thinkable this season.
It’s important to note that this unit didn’t start off being so below average. Injuries to several key starters including CB Kenny Moore, CB Piere Desir, and LOLB Darius Leonard, have certainly plagued this defense’s productivity all season long. According to Colts.com, Indy ranks 17th in points allowed per game with 23.5, 16th in total yards allowed per game with 350.7 and 21st in total passing yards allowed per game with 249.8. As I said – below average.
Some of their worst defensive showings had been displayed throughout the latter part of the season. Starting in week 14, with the Colts defense that, despite having suffered its fair share of woes over the course of their injury-riddled season, somehow managed to let Jameis “turnover-prone” Winston throw for the third-most passing yards in Buccaneers history with 456 adding to 542 yards of total offense- and the third-most in Buccaneers franchise annals.
They’ve also allowed Ryan Tannehill who -- despite playing perhaps the best football of his career and converting from wide receiver to quarterback in college – to complete 77% of his passes and toss two passing touchdowns. How about allowing Drew Brees to set an NFL record 96.6 in completion percentage in week 15? Yeah, not exactly what you’d expect out of “elite” defense, right?
“Everyone of us is disgusted (with) where we are at,” said Reich when asked about being out of contention for a playoff berth.
Quite frankly, this team should’ve been disgusted long before now. They’re about six weeks too late. And in a season where the Colts caught the bad end of the NFL’s injury bug, being well-coached while having great culture and a unique physical presence on both sides of the ball simply wasn’t good enough.
Published 19 Dec 2019, 01:06 IST