The Indianapolis Colts are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. They are the most difficult team in the league to try and pin down.
Every time they seem to assert themselves, they fall hard back down to earth. As we enter week 12, teams have shown who they really are but the Colts remain the biggest question.
No other team has the amount of marquee wins as the Colts do.
They have beat three legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
First they out played the 49ers at their own game with a stifling defensive display and dominating ground game.
They then outlasted the Seattle Seahawks and became the only team to beat Peyton Manning and made the Broncos offense look stoppable after their historic start.
In these games the Colts themselves looked like the Super Bowl contenders, they looked like the embodiment of everything head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton envisioned.
They ran the ball down team’s throats, their press man coverage eliminated receivers, they limited mistakes and turnover and the team didn’t need Andrew Luck to always be Superman.
However, for every dominating victory there has been an unfathomable loss. The Colts reached an all new low on this rollercoaster of a season with a 38-8 defeat by the St Louis Rams. It was a complete breakdown in every facet of the game.
There was poor special teams and pass defense that gave up huge plays and made Tavon Austin look like Jerry Rice. Andrew Luck, so many times the Colts saviour was careless with the ball, committing four turnovers and the run game spluttered to a halt.
This appears to be a freak loss, one of those anomalies where everything that could go wrong, does.
The kind of loss a team needs to just wipe from their memory and move on. However this loss was coming.
After the Denver win the Colts came out flat against San Diego, struggling in their first game without their best receiver, Reggie Wayne.
They were completely unprepared for a Case Keenum lead Texans attack that exposed the Colts secondary deep time after time. They eventually came back to win, with Luck and T.Y Hilton providing enough magic in the 3rd quarter but they questions still, rightly, remained.
In the past three games the Colts have been outscored 66-9 in the first half. This remarkable statistic highlights that the Colts struggle to prepare for opponents, and take time to adjust and to many times have to rely on Luck to find another one of signature fourth quarter comebacks. This is just not acceptable for a team to consistently get off to poor starts.
Before Thursday Night Football against the Titans, the Colts said they needed a statement game after the humiliating loss to the Rams. They needed to come out fast and play with something to prove.
But again they played poorly in the first half. They allowed Chris Johnson to pound the ball and couldn’t stop the Titans using their no huddle, hurry up offense to slice up the defense.
The Titans exploited the Colts press coverage with multiple crossing routes that the Colts couldn’t defend. The offense looked equally ineffective and inefficient, as Luck struggled on third down, where Wayne was so vital.
This is all before you mention the multiple personal foul penalties committed by the Colts, who at one point looked at breaking point as Eric Walden head butted Delanie Walker.
This idiotic act has led to a suspension, and rightfully so. Again the Colts regrouped and won the game, but a good team proves itself against bad teams but making convincing statements. The Colts continue to do everything but.
Even with all these issues at 7-3 the Colts are in prime position to take the AFC South crown and their place in the playoffs. This however, shouldn’t be an excuse to dismiss their issues. They have managed to overcome them so far, but this team cannot stumble out of the blocks in the playoffs.
Good teams won’t let them back into the game like the Titans did. They have proved they are capable of beating elite teams yes, but they have also shown they play either up or down to their opponents level. Not a recipe for sustained success.
Getting to the root of this inconsistency brings you first to the roster. With their sudden rise back to success after a 2-14 season, it is forgotten that this team is still rebuilding after it gutted its roster after Peyton Manning and others left at the end of the 2011 season.
The Colts have done an incredibly good job of re-energised this team with talent but the lack of depth is still glaringly obvious. The last thing that happens to a rebuilding team is for them to get depth to complement their new found talent, a time the Colts haven’t quite reached. This issue has been even more greatly exposed by the loss of important starting players like Thomas, Wayne, Allen, Ballard and Bradshaw.
These losses along with other injuries to players like LaRon Landry would have been difficult for any team to overcome, let alone this still rebuilding Colts roster. The fact they have won seven games is a testament to the coaching staff, this explains the Colts inconsistency to a degree.
They have a new offense, new coordinator, and are having to use young and inexperienced players to overcome injuries. Some players have also shown they aren’t worthy of a starting place on this team.
Darius Heyward Bey has show why he was considered a bust in Oakland, with no ability to separate and stones of hands. Bey is a detriment to this team’s chances of success. Eric Walden hasn’t been anywhere near effective enough to justify the price tag. When his signature play is a head butt its clear his play has not been good enough.
Last season this team rode on the wave of emotion that cane with Chuck Pagano’s fight against cancer. In the same way this season, this team fights and play well when faced with adversity and superior teams in terms of talent.
But this young and injury laden team struggles to find that mindset when faced with a team they should beat. For all his positives, this comes down to Chuck Pagano. He is responsible for making sure this team is fully prepared and plays well for sixty minutes and that just isn’t happening.
This Colts team could be the biggest wildcard in the playoffs, with the ability to play with any team of the league. They have many issues to correct before the post season, from Pagano’s preparation, to Richardson and the running game to Pep Hamilton’s play calling. If they even fix a few of those, not many teams will want to find out the answer to this enigma of a team
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