Intro: Indianapolis suffered a 38-8 setback to the Rams, the first-ever NFL game that ended by that score and the club’s largest-margin loss of the season. Here are Five Things Learned from Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are 6-3 and lead the AFC South by two games, but the game that dropped Indianapolis from two to three losses was a 38-8 home defeat to St. Louis.
The Rams scored touchdowns offensively, defensively and on special teams before the game was 20 minutes old. Indianapolis was not able to get on track the rest of the day.
The Colts have four days to rebound in facing Tennessee in Nashville on Thursday Night Football. The Titans are 4-5 and are the Colts’ nearest divisional competitor.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
COMEBACKS NOT THE BLUEPRINT – During the week, Andrew Luck said the Colts would not be able to survive their mistakes forever. Miscues in every phase of the game put the Colts behind by three touchdowns before 20 minutes ticked off the clock. Twice under Luck and Chuck Pagano, the Colts have rallied from 18-point deficits to win. The franchise record for the largest deficit overcome is 21 points on four occasions. No one wants this scenario, and Luck likely would prefer that an 11th comeback win in late, dramatic fashion doesn’t happen any time soon. Early execution can avoid these deficits. It has not been a consistent part of this team’s DNA, but it doesn’t mean it cannot become so going forward.
EFFORT NOT ISSUE – Pagano made clear his team battled for 60 minutes Sunday, though the field was tilted heavily against it quickly. He is correct. The team will not give up its fight. Improving the techniques, fundamentals and communication can yield the desired results. Pagano has a “process” instilled in this team. He told it Sunday to give credit where it is due – to the Rams – then put the game behind it and move on. It’s the only approach. Dismissing problems is not done in Pagano’s program. Correcting ills is the tactic. It starts today and will be on display again Thursday in Nashville.
PROTECTION IMPROVEMENT – St. Louis was the NFL’s top team with one quarterback sack per 9.8 attempts, and Indianapolis knew this going in. In less than three minutes clock time, Luck suffered a sack-strip-touchdown. The Colts knew going in protection was a premium. Luck had been taken down four times among 11 hits at Houston. Sunday was three more sacks and seven hits. A team with an elite quarterback like Luck is going to have protect their asset with schemes, chips and protection from backs. Anthony Castonzo said there was a misjudgment in protection on that first play. Pagano stressed execution is the issue. In seven remaining games, the target is for marked improvement in this area.
WINNING FIELD POSITION – Putting pressure on an opponent can be helped by winning the field position edge. St. Louis clearly did so in the first half Sunday, averaging its five-possession half with a start point at its 40. Indianapolis had seven possessions in the half with an average start at its 15-yard line. The Colts had six punts and turnover. Indianapolis did not start a drive outside its 35 until St. Louis had scored all its points. Kickoff returns netted the Colts starts at their 35, 7, 7, 20, 13, 13 and 20. Field position is not an intangible among statistics.
RED ZONE/THIRD DOWNS – The Colts did not convert a third down at Houston until the third quarter and then not until their eighth attempt. For the game, they were four-of-13. The Colts were one-for-eight Sunday against St. Louis in the opening half and two-for-12 for the game. Extending drives lies in execution and staying in manageable situations. The club has converted 13 of its last 52 third downs over four games, a total that needs juicing. A heavily-tilted scoreboard took the Colts out of typical game situations and precipitated aggressive play calls. Indianapolis scored on one-of-five red zone chances against St. Louis. Entering the game, the Colts were 11th in the NFL in TD percentage in the red zone with 15 TDs in 25 trips (60%). Prior to Sunday, Indianapolis had not failed to score in the red zone (25 trips, 15 TDs/10 FGs). It was the NFL’s only perfect red zone scoring percentage. The club now is tied-for-17th with 16 TDs in 30 trips, and its total red zone scoring percentage is 86.7.
Tags: Andrew Luck, anthony castonzo, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts
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