Intro: The Colts’ season ended Saturday at New England with a 43-22 loss where Indianapolis trailed after 79 seconds and never was able to draw even. Indianapolis allowed 234 rushing yards and committed four turnovers to end a season that had a number of accomplishments.
INDIANAPOLIS – Saturday’s 43-22 Divisional Playoff loss at New England was a disappointing ending to a second straight year that featured 11 regular-season wins.
Indianapolis advanced one round further in the playoffs than it did last season and for a roster that featured 27 players finishing their first year with the team, a team that had to use a league-high 73 players because of injury, it was a year that had noteworthy accomplishments that can point toward a bright future.
The Colts absorbed a tough loss to a talented New England team, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
ANDREW LUCK WILL HAVE HIS DAYS – It is evident readily that Andrew Luck is one of the special talents in the NFL, though Saturday at New England was not his night. Playing the toughest position in sports can mean a player will have a game like Luck did with four interceptions. While each throw had its own story, Luck shouldered the blame and will take the experience with him into his third season. Coming off a wondrous Kansas City performance, this likely felt like both ends of the football spectrum for him, but Colts fans are heartened by what they have in Luck. Sure, it will sting watching veterans Peyton Manning and Tom Brady battle next Sunday, as well as youngsters Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick but given a logical progression for Luck, there should be future title Sundays for him. There already have been many special ones for Colts fans with him at the controls.
GROUND IT OUT – When Chuck Pagano states the importance of running the ball, he could point to the eight playoff results as exhibits why. The Colts ran 19 times for 100 yards (5.3 avg.) against Kansas City, and that was the lowest rushing total of any eight playoff winners this year. In the Wild Card round, New Orleans (185, 5.1 avg.), San Diego (196, 4.9) and San Francisco (167, 5.6) pounded the ball. In the Divisional Playoffs, New England (234, 5.1), Seattle (174, 5.0), San Francisco (126, 3.7) and Denver (133, 3.9) ran effectively, and often. The Colts were out-rushed by Kansas City, 150-100, the only post-season winner with fewer yards than its opponent. In two playoff games, opponents had almost twice the rushing attempts (78-40) than did the Colts, and a 90:40 pass:rush ratio was not healthy. Establishing a better blend is necessary (there were scoreboard factors that tilted it), and it would not damage the effectiveness of the passing game.
STOP RUN – The Colts allowed a 192.0 rushing average in the post-season, with New England getting 234 yards, the second-most allowed in a playoff game in franchise history. At the start of the season, Pagano said rushing for a 5.0 average would be the club’s dreamed-of goal since that average would “lead the world.” Kansas City and New England combined for a 4.9 average. Counting the playoffs, Indianapolis allowed 150-plus rushing yards in five of its last seven games. When subtracting the Jacksonville and Houston outings, the remaining five opponents ran for 856 yards (171.2 avg./game), a 5.1 average and 12 touchdowns. Being more stout in the run defense has to be on the mindsets heading forward.
THIS ISN’T ‘RUDY’ – The Colts were ahead on the scoreboard in the post-season for just 4:21 in two games, and Indianapolis was in a tie score situation with Kansas City and New England for only 11:49. Other than that, Indianapolis was trailing, and the offense took the field just once in two games while not behind (that was the game-opening possession at New England). While comebacks are great theater, it is not the way to thrive in this business regularly. Four major comebacks (Seattle, Tennessee, Kansas City and Houston) are memorable and will have their rightful place on the highlight film, but consistent adverse scoreboard conditions (one first-half lead in a six-game mid-season run was arduous) spell trouble.
TRENT, PAT, VINNY – Here’s hoping Trent Richardson has a solid upcoming off-season to get fully acclimated. Four post-season rushes in two games is not what Richardson or anyone wants, and he was credited with appearances on 35-of-130 offensive snaps in two games. He is a young talent that needs to contribute in 2014. Pat McAfee had a good playoff showing (six punts, 51.7 average, 44.7 net), particularly against Kansas City in helping keep a dynamic return team at bay. Adam Vinatieri was perfect in the post-season after having one of his best-ever regular-season performances, and he’s had 17 prior to this past one. There is a business side to the game, but the Colts were in good hands with these two performers in 2013.
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts, pat mcafee, trent richardson
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