5 Things Learned: Colts Season Ends In Ugly Loss To Chiefs
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INDIANAPOLIS – It was an unfortunate and extremely disappointing end to a season that still should be viewed as a success.
The Colts were simply outclassed by the Chiefs on Saturday, losing 31-13, in Kansas City.
What did we learn from the Colts’ season coming to a close in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
- Pathetic Offensive Effort: Easily the most surprising aspect of Saturday’s performance had to belong to play of the Colts offense, and offensive line. Winning in the trenches is what the Colts did in Houston last week and what they’ve done for large stretches in winning 10 of their final 12 games. But the offensive line did not do its job on Saturday. This 5-man group hadn’t allowed a sack, and had paved the way for more than 150 rushing yards per game in 6 contests together this season. Well, Andrew Luck was sacked 3 times on Saturday and Marlon Mack had just 9 rushing yards on 5 carries in the first half. That was supposed to be the biggest advantage for the Colts on Saturday---their run game versus the 31st ranked rushing defense. Instead, the Colts couldn’t produce anything on the ground early on, and once the lead swelled, the offensive line couldn’t hold up. The top-ranked third-down offense this season finished the night 0-for-9 on the money down and didn’t help the defense at all with several three-and-outs to start the game. The inability to win downfield also killed the Colts in getting behind early. Outside of Dontrelle Inman, it was an awful offensive effort against a KC defense that had been routinely gashed all season long.
- Defense Struggles Early: Yes, the Indy defense did its part to actually keep the Colts clinging to fading hopes in the second half, but you can’t absolve that unit for what hit them early on. The loss of Malik Hooker (and Mike Mitchell) was apparent early. Undisciplined play from the linebackers and one of the poorest efforts from the defensive line when it came to rush defense this season led to the Chiefs scoring 24 first-half points. Chiefs running back Damien Williams (25 carries for 129 yards) became the first opposing player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Colts all season long. Travis Kelce (7 catches for 108 yards) and Tyreek Hill (8 catches for 72 yards and a 36-yard TD rush) did their usual damage, but the poor rush defense was not expected. Again, Matt Eberflus’ unit strung together some scoreless drives in the second half, but the damage was already done. This juggernaut of a Chiefs offense was unlike anything the Colts had seen this season. Before Saturday, the Colts had only played one top-14 offense all year long. The Chiefs jumped all over them early to show why they were one of the league’s top offenses in NFL history.
- Not Ready For The Opponent/Moment: What we saw on Saturday was a more talented Chiefs team beat a Colts team that absolutely didn’t help themselves with self-inflicted issues. Eric Ebron started things with a third-down drop on the game’s first drive. The Colts had 10 penalties on Saturday, one week after having a season-low 2 penalties. Some huge offsides/neutral zone infractions didn’t aid the defense at all. To beat the No. 1 seed on their homefield, you can’t afford to have these sorts of mistakes. The Colts were never thought to be of the most talented teams in the NFL this season. Toss in Adam Vinatieri missing a 23-yard field goal and a 33-yard extra point, and the Colts didn’t help themselves out at all against the best team in the AFC.
- Saturday Showed Future Needs: Playing the league’s elite will expose you, show your weaknesses and let you know where improvements are necessary. That happened on Saturday. This team needs more playmaking on the offensive side of the ball, especially at wide receiver. They need better individual pass rushers, off the edge and even in the interior. And they certainly need to improve overall team depth, mainly on defense, but in the trenches as well, to withstand injuries that inevitably occur. This is not one of the top 5-10 most talented rosters in the NFL. From a pure personnel standpoint, the Colts overachieved this season, with improved coaching being a major reason why they were 1 of the final 8 teams left in January. Improvements are definitely needed to make trips deeper into January possible, and more routine, going forward.
- Rebuild Far Ahead Of Schedule: Despite Saturday’s extremely disappointing loss, the 2018 season for the Colts was still an unquestioned success. Realistic expectations for Frank Reich’s first season had the Colts starting their off-season vacation well before January 13th. But this team rattled off 9 of their last 10 games to clinch the final AFC Wild Card berth and then won a road playoff game in Houston. Putting record aside, the Colts have some fundamental aspects now entrenched that are absolutely necessary moving forward---Andrew Luck is back to his normal self, the offensive line improved drastically thanks to invested resources and the defense now has a couple of key building blocks necessary in this 4-3 scheme. With the coaching staff in place (and the likely returns of coordinators Nick Sirianni and Matt Eberflus), plus a gaggle of off-season resources with ample cap space and important draft capital, the Colts have the makings of a team that will be playing into the month of January for years to come. Saturday’s performance in Kansas City was ugly, really ugly, but this season has shrunk the 3-year rebuild window down significantly. With another successful offseason, the Colts will assuredly be one of the AFC favorites going into 2019.
-Reich Quotable: On the difference Saturday against the Chiefs: “They outcoached us. They outplayed us. And we just gave them too many opportunities, too many self-inflicted mistakes on our part. That’s hard to overcome. It’s hard to give that team that start. It’s beyond me. We’ve been so good early in the game, generally speaking, the whole year. I credit their defense.”
-Player Quotable: Quarterback Andrew Luck on his comeback season: “It’s been a rewarding season in many ways. This is not the ending that anybody in that locker room wanted, myself included. We wanted to go 1-0 this week and continue on this journey. Very thankful I can play football. Very thankful I can be in a locker room and run onto the field and throw it to my friends. It was a rewarding season, a fulfilling season. I think I improved as a quarterback, very much so. And I know I’ve got a lot more improving to do.”
-Injury Report: The following players were inactive on Sunday: OL-Le’Raven Clark, C-Josh Andrews, WR-Ryan Grant, DL-Tyquan Lewis, LB-Ahmad Thomas, RB-Jonathan Williams and S-Malik Hooker. Three of the seven inactives are injury related: Lewis, Grant and Hooker. Marlon Mack (hip) and Ryan Kelly (knee) left the game in the 2nd half.
-Key Stat: Adam Vinatieri missed a 23-yard field goal on Saturday, the shortest miss of his career. He also missed an extra point, his first ever missed PAT in the postseason.
-What’s Next: Saturday marked the end of the 2018 season for the Colts. Next month’s Combine, free agency in March and then OTAs/Draft in April will be here before you know it for Chris Ballard and Frank Reich.