Seriously, Colts fans, this just won’t cut it.
Revel in a 25-24 escape at Cleveland as much as you can, but deep down, if watching closely, you know what I’m talking about.
The Colts (9-4) moved into the AFC’s No. 3 seed in spite of themselves Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns (7-6) almost won a game on two defensive touchdowns and a field goal as a result of a turnover.
Four turnovers boosted the Colts’ total to 26 this season. That’s beyond unacceptable or even inexplicable. That’s just plain sloppy. And at some point, that’s not just on players but coaches, because it doesn’t stop.
Quarterback Andrew Luck was responsible for three of them. He’s hard on himself, sure, but call it whatever you want, which he has, bonehead, silly, stupid, dumb. But it can’t keep happening. Yet it has.
And I’m not blaming Luck for all of it, although the turnover trend starts with him. The offensive line has allowed him to get hit. He got bounced around about a third of the time when he dropped back against the Browns. He completed less than half of his passes because he was pressured, guys dropped balls left and right and other pass catchers just couldn’t get open (Hakeem Nicks, don’t let the door hit you on the behind come January).
And the O-line hasn’t been able to generate enough holes for a rushing game to make this offense two-dimensional. Do we have to continue to hand off to Trent Richardson for minimal gains? It’s beyond old. It’s maddening.
This offense is still so one-dimensional, although thank Dan Herron for showing a lot of fight in his second-effort spin to gain one all-important yard when initially stuffed on a fourth-and-1 rush to the Browns’ 1-yard line in the final minute. If Herron doesn’t keep his legs moving and surprise tacklers with that spin, the Browns’ defense would have closed this out.
And maybe that’s how it should have been. Maybe the Colts need to lose games like this to drive the point home that they can’t keep playing like this. What will it take?
Herron’s determined effort allowed Luck to find Hilton for the game-winning score. And Hilton most definitely saved Sunday for the Colts with 10 catches for 150 yards and two TDs.
Sticking with the O-line, stay with A.Q. Shipley at center and stop wasting plays with rookie Jonotthan Harrison. The latter might be the center of the future, but he isn’t the center of the present. I thought it interesting that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano didn’t even say why Harrison exited. The in-game report was a “burner.”
Bottom line, I always thought it was about starting the best five guys up front. That’s what we always used to be told in past regimes. The Colts haven’t been doing that for quite some time. Don’t know if that’s Pagano or general manager Ryan Grigson or both. Don’t care. Stubbornness leads to insanity, as in doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Hate to bring this up, but the Colts aren’t getting enough out of Donte Moncrief because too often Luck is fixating on wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who sure looks like he’s never been the same since suffering an elbow injury earlier this season. Wayne had at least three drops. It breaks your heart to see it. He had one catch for five yards. Stop staring down No. 87. Luck must get Moncrief more involved than three catches for 33 yards.
The tight ends also could be more of a factor in the passing game, although it seemed like for much of the day the referees weren’t going to call defensive holding, which limits the effectiveness of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Credit Fleener with five receptions for 56 yards. Allen had only one 5-yard catch in his return from an ankle injury.
While I don’t make a habit of questioning decisions, it was a mistake to go for two points in the third quarter when down 21-16. There’s still so much time to play. As it turned out, if the Browns get a last-minute play or pass-interference penalty, the Colts could have lost on a field goal because they chased points with two failed two-point conversion attempts and led by only one instead of kicking two extra points and holding a 27-24 lead.
Hindsight 20-20? Sure it is. But some mistakes you can’t make. I blamed Pagano for a third-down pass that wouldn’t have gained a first down that Philadelphia intercepted with the Colts ahead by seven and in field-goal range in Week 2. The Colts lost that game, in part, because they didn’t play it smart and run the ball, kick a field goal, and take a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining. Yeah, there were other mistakes that game, including by the official who didn’t call defensive holding on the interception, but take them out of it and control what you can control. Make smarter decisions.
The Colts’ offense clearly wasn’t ready to play Sunday. That’s on coaches. Fortunately, the defense was solid. It gave up only one touchdown. The other 17 points were because of Colts turnovers.
Honest to God, I hate to be overly negative, especially about a 9-4 team, but the mistakes have just mounted on so many fronts. And it’s beyond frustrating to maintain any sense of confidence about the Colts moving forward.
Playoffs? Playoffs?!!? I need Jim Mora to come back to Indy and go off if anyone mentions that word to me now.
It’s not enough to just survive in another uneven performance against a team the Colts should have put away with a solid effort.
How many times do we hear it’s about how a team is playing in December and how teams must be playing their best football come January for the play… I don’t even want to say that word.
Right now, at his particular moment, I shudder at what will happen when the Colts host a wild-card game on Jan. 3 or 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Maybe they survive then, too, but sooner or later, all of the issues will catch up with this team. The broken record keeps skipping.
I simply don’t know how else to look at it anymore.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.