Intro: Indianapolis suffered a second wide-margin defeat in four games by losing at Arizona, 40-11. The Colts are at 7-4 and still own a two-game lead in the AFC South in hosting 5-6 Tennessee, their closest divisional foe.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts’ trip to Arizona more resembled the one they took to San Diego in week six (19-9 loss) than it did the one to San Francisco in week three (27-7 win).
The Colts (7-4) fell at Arizona, 40-11, in a game they never led and one that spun out of control in the first 30 minutes.
Indianapolis has responded from eight prior defeats under Chuck Pagano with victories, a resilience that must be called upon again as Tennessee (5-6) visits with intentions of tightening the AFC South race and earning a playoff berth of some kind.
Improvement is needed from the Colts, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY – The reality is Indianapolis needs to play more consistently in the next five games than it has done in the last four. Personnel losses have not been used as a crutch, and the secondary has been battered of late after most of the injuries early in the year were spread across the offense. While players said they could not “big-picture” the situation in the moments after the Arizona game, a long flight home certainly provided that time. Sure, 8-3 beats 7-4. Sure, New England had pulled it off (going to 8-3 from a near 7-4 after a 24-point home halftime deficit to Denver) about the same time the Colts’ flight landed. What’s done is done, but reality also holds that the Colts control their playoff fate with a two-game lead over Tennessee. This Sunday’s game has added implications, but no added meaning. Chuck Pagano says every game is a must-win because he wants to win them all. The approach this week will be to improve and take advantage of being in a good spot. No season-opening goal has been lost.
STILL SEARCHING POST-REGGIE – The 16 quarters Indianapolis has played since Reggie Wayne’s injury late in the Denver win have seen the team struggle much more than thrive. T.Y. Hilton has done well. Colts tight ends did well at Tennessee, but large deficits have put the offense in modes it doesn’t particularly enjoy. Needing a surge at Arizona, wide receivers other than Hilton caught six-of-13 passes targeted, gaining 57 yards. After tight ends had nine receptions in 13 attempts against Tennessee, the unit had five receptions at Arizona. The offense is laboring with a consistent identity. Early deficits have hindered the growth.
MAKE A PLAY – When Arizona moved for a game-opening score, the onus shifted to a team whose first-half struggles have been rehashed and debated for the past month. Still, Indianapolis failed to extend five-of-six first-half possessions beyond three plays. The one drive that did stalled in the red zone. The offense also gave up a defensive touchdown to Arizona in that span as the Cardinals bolted to a 24-point halftime advantage. The Colts now have converted three-of-25 first-half third downs in the last four games. Until it improves, this remains one of the key storylines around the team.
STOP A PLAY – Over the last four games, opposing quarterbacks are operating at a 122.1 rating level and though it’s a small sample compared to 11 games, only one QB in the league has higher individual seasonal rating. Since beating Denver, the success of opposing QBs (Case Keenum, Kellen Clemens, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer) has caused the Colts’ seasonal numbers to increase in pass defense – 58.7 completion percentage to 61.3; yards per attempt from 7.23 to 8.07; yards per completion from 12.3 to 13.2; TD:Int ratio from 8:8 to 16:8 and rating from 78.3 to 92.4. The Colts have allowed 11 TD passes while intercepting one.
CIRCLE TIGHTLY – A cut-throat, competitive league can have teams going from advantageous positions to peril in a matter of two-to-four weeks. Clearly the Colts are more in peril than after being 6-2. To a man, players are circling tighter to improve themselves and to lessen any noise outside the locker room that could cause harm. While this could sound minimally important outside the circle, those inside it know the imperative nature of doing so. Antoine Bethea said Sunday the Colts win and lose as a whole, and they must look each other in the eyes to spur a rebound. Hanging as a band of brothers is the only way.
Tags: antoine bethea, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton
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