RUNNING OFFENSE: C+
This is becoming a theme: Frank Gore runs reasonably well during the first half, looks like he’s well on his way toward ending the drought without a 100-yard runner, and then disappears in the second half because the Colts are playing catch-up. Fifty-six yards in the first half, 12 in the second. Nobody is suggesting that Gore is still at the top of his game; according to Pro Football Focus, which we use when it helps make our point, Gore failed to break a tackle for the second time this season. As for the fact that Gore wasn’t on the field on fourth-and-1 at the end of the game, I have no problem there. It made no sense running into a brick wall with the Jags loading up on the line. Leave the ball, and the decision, in the hands of your best player, Andrew Luck. It just so happened the play didn’t work, but I had no issue with the call.
RUNNING DEFENSE: C
The Jags came into the game ranked 31st in the league in rushing, averaging 55 yards per game. They finished Sunday with 136 on 29 carries. Again, the tackling was suspect. Worst, though, the Colts consistently allowed Blake Bortles to get outside the pocket, either to run or to pass, and that’s where he does his best work. Shoot, I don’t even spend my every waking hour watching tape, and I could have told you that. For the first time, all 11 defensive starters were healthy (although Art Jones will be coming back from his suspension this coming Sunday), so there’s no excuse.
PASSING OFFENSE: F
Where do you want to start? The Colts dropped five passes, several of them on third downs when they could have kept drives alive, and then on the huge fourth-down play – although I’ve watched it several times and still can’t tell if Dwayne Allen dropped it or if defender Josh Johnson got a finger on it. And the offensive line, well, it’s hard to play much worse. The three rookies on the right side of the line got worked over, allowing 18 pressures, a sack, two hits and 15 hurries. Anthony Castonzo, who is looking more and more like a colossal waste of big money, gave up two sacks. Total: a career-high six sacks on Luck. When he didn’t have pressure, he had a 119.8 passer rating. With pressure, a 20.5 passer rating. Luck has not been blameless in the 1-3 start, but he needs more help than that.
PASSING DEFENSE: B-
Have we seen enough of Antonio Cromartie yet? He had a miserable game, and had a hard time finding the field in the second half, which suggests to me the coaching staff had seen enough, too. Bortles only threw for 207 yards, but the Colts never put consistent pressure on him, nor did they do their one primary job, which was to keep him in the pocket. I hate to suggest this, but I’m thinking we’re seeing the beginning of the end for Robert Mathis, who doesn’t have a single sack yet. This is a bad Jacksonville offensive line, and the Colts failed to pressure Bortles into the kinds of mistakes he’s inclined to make.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
If nothing else, the Colts finally have found a kick and punt returner in Quan Bray. He had one kickoff run-back for 39 yards. Jordan Todman had one for 28. In two punt returns, Bray averaged nine yards. I would expect the special teams to be much better now that more players are returning to health. Notice, too, that Pat McAfee is now kicking short and forcing returns, largely because the coaching staff now has some faith in the kick-return teams.
It’s hard to look smart when your receivers are dropping footballs and your offensive line is getting man-handled. But I come back to this: Bortles likes to play outside the pocket. The Colts never figured out a way to keep him in the pocket. Whether that’s lousy preparation or a failure to implement the defensive game plan, I don’t know. As for the slow starts, I’ll say it again: Start the game in no-huddle and stay there. Look, they’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked. I know it’s a risk because the defense isn’t particularly good and you want to protect the defense, but at this point, what could it hurt? I’m no genius, but it seems like every time the Colts go no-huddle, they move the football. Am I missing something?
When players start to talk about a lack of professionalism and a lack of focus, my antennae go up. That was clearly a team that wasn’t ready to play a football game. Dropped passes, penalties, blown assignments, you name it. I don’t want to hear about jet lag and trans-Atlantic travel; the Jaguars had to do precisely the same thing. It’s time for the Colts to take stock, look in the mirror and decide whether they’re willing to let this season completely circle the drain.