Let’s start this off by saying the Indianapolis Colts got a win, 35-33, against the Tennessee Titans and they needed it badly (no one more so than Coach Chuck Pagano). The game was a microcosm of the season so far. There was some horrible play by Andrew Luck and the offensive line and some great defensive plays sprinkled with some defensive plays that seemed to stop no one. It was ugly and emotional, but it was a win. I sat after the game trying to think what I had just witnessed and I’m still not sure exactly what this team is.
Here is what we know after the game:
The Colts have some serious work to do on the offensive line. I know we’ve beat this like a dead horse already, but the problem isn’t going away. The team shifted Jack Mewhort back to Left Guard and put Hugh Thornton in at Right Guard and Joe Reitz at Right Tackle. As you can tell that was basically gutting the line that the team thought was the best for the first two weeks. The result was not that different than the past as far as protection and they continued to rack up several penalties (7 to be exact), but they also haven’t had much time to gel together. It seems that the Todd Herrmans experiment is over, as well as the Lance Louis debaucle.
Andrew Luck is still struggling for whatever reason, but today he found a way to look past his two interceptions and rally the team when they needed it. Clearly Luck is trying to do too much to offset the team’s lack of offensive execution, but that doesn’t excuse him from chucking the ball and hoping that something happens as a result. Something has been happening with these interceptions though and he has to cut them out. Again, I understand that he has confidence in his abilities, but right now he’d be better off taking the sack or tossing it out of bounds. What I love about Luck is he doesn’t let those picks dwell in his thoughts and tells his teammates they can still comeback and win. On Twitter he reportedly told the line to hang in there because he’s playing like sh*t. Luck understands he can play better and if the line can protect him it should help reduce his turnovers and poor throws.
The offense showed some signs of life after the Titans reeled off 27 unanswered points. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief showed why they are the best options for Luck. Moncrief scored another TD (11 yards) while Hilton was able sneak past the defense for a 48 yard play finishing the day with 4 grabs for 94 yards. Newcomer Phillip Dorsett even made a leaping grab in the end zone for his first score (35 yards). Andre Johnson, again, finished with a goose egg. Up to this point Johnson just looks done. I hope that’s not the case, but more and more I’m thinking it is so. Frank Gore proved that he still can be effective (2 TD’s, 86 yards) and is showing that if the team commits to him good things should happen.
On the defensive side of the ball the team was able to stop the run and even created a turnover. Dwight Lowery brought in two interceptions for the team, both at a critical junction in the game. For most of the game, however, the defense was unable to stop the Titans and Marcus Mariota. Due to the offense’s struggles, the defense was on the field way too much so it’s hard to criticize their effort especially when the team was able to get pressure and sacks from Jerrell Freeman, David Parry (followed by an excellent sack celebration), and Robert Mathis (his first in almost 2 years).
To say this game was a mixed bag when it comes to describing the effort is an understatement. The positives: the team won, the offense showed some signs of life, and the defense was able to create turnovers. The negatives: the offensive line, Luck’s carelessness with the football, and Andre Johnson still looking like a non-factor.
All of that aside my biggest takeaways center on the whole Pagano-Grigson-Irsay mess that doesn’t seem to go away. Rumors were swirling that had the team lost Pagano might have been given his walking papers. He showed a lot of emotion during his post locker room speech and press conference (See Justin’s latest article “How Dare You?” for more). Clearly stuff is happening, and it seems the players support Pagano-maybe this is the spark the team needed to help the “Gipper”. I also found it interesting that the CBS commentating crew basically said GM Ryan Grigson poorly constructed this team. While Pagano seems to have one foot in the gallows, Grigson for some reason almost gets a pass even though he’s basically responsible for the personnel.
It wasn’t pretty and the game definitely exposed some major flaws, but the team found a way to win. I hope this might be the game looking back at the end of the season the they may point to as the game that changed their season for the better.