INDIANAPOLIS – For the third time in four weeks this season, the Colts (1-2-1) have been unable to a win a game with more than just divisional importance on the line.
It was another slow start Sunday afternoon with the Colts unable to complete the comeback, losing 24-17 to the Tennessee Titans (2-2) inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here is what we learned from the Colts moving to 0-2-1 against the AFC South this season:
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. So Much For The Run Emphasis: Whenever the Colts and Titans meet, so much of the focus in this matchup boils down to Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor. Well on Sunday, Henry ran for 114 yards on 22 carries against a defense that entered Sunday ranking 1st in the league against the run. And Taylor had 42 yards on 20 carries. The 2.1 yards per carry for Taylor is the worst for him since Week 10 of the 2020 season. And the overall rushing performance, against the NFL’s 32nd ranked rushing defense, has to be the worst of the Frank Reich era. Indianapolis was unable to get anything going on the ground, and then Taylor fumbled on a 3rd-and-2 late in the 4th quarter. That was another reminder of when you get down by 3 scores in a game, which the Colts have done in 4 straight divisional games, your margin for error is miniscule. Former Colt Denico Autry (2 sacks, a forced fumble, 3 quarterback hits) feasted on his old team, bringing back up the mistake Chris Ballard made in not offering him a slightly better contract than the divisional rival from Nashville did. In now losing 5 of their last 6 games to the Titans, the Colts have been outplayed in the area of the game they want to be known for—high-level trench play.
2. Matt Ryan On The Issue List: Nothing seen from Matt Ryan in the first four weeks of his 15th NFL season should scream, ‘Run it back with him in 2023!’ If you are going to get ‘meh’ quarterback play, getting it from a 37-year-old, thus stunting any opportunity to help a younger quarterback grow, what is the point in committing to that plan again? Is Matt Ryan the sole problem right now offensively? Certainly not. But Ryan has lacked ball security all year long, which is compounding the lack of support around him. Honestly, you can group several other highly paid Colts, along with Ryan, who have played far below expectation in this dismal start to the season. Outside of Alec Pierce and the Colts tight ends, Sunday was another dismal day for the Colts offense, turning the ball over on multiple occasions to put the Indy defense in terrible situations. The Colts have yet to score more than 20 points in a game this season, and that includes one in overtime. In today’s NFL, that’s pretty hard to do.
3. Another Big Divisional Defeat: In a week the Owner took to social media to make it crystal clear what he thinks of this matchup, his team again started awful and lost another massive divisional game. It is utterly embarrassing the recent effort, especially early in games, the Colts have given against the AFC South. Unlike the previous Colts regime of winning 16 straight against the AFC South, the Colts are now just another team in the worst division in the AFC. Since the Colts last won a divisional title (2014 season), every AFC South winner has won at least 4 of their 6 divisional games in a season. With Sunday’s loss, the most wins the Colts will get in the AFC South this season is 3, and they will have to run the table to do that (vs. Jacksonville, at Tennessee, vs. Houston). From a divisional record standpoint, potential tiebreaker scenarios and Jim Irsay’s mandate, this one was massive. And the Colts failed, which is a major blow to any favorable tiebreakers late in the year. Of course, in true AFC South fashion, the Jaguars and Texans both lost today, so that means Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indy all have 2 losses, and Houston is winless through the first four weeks. What are the Colts right now? A bad football team, playing in an even worse division.
4. Shaquille Leonard’s Debut Ends Early: After 14 practices spanning 5 weeks, Shaquille Leonard made his 2022 debut on Sunday. Unfortunately, Leonard’s debut ended just past the mid-way point of the second quarter. Leonard left the game after he took a hit from teammate Zaire Franklin. Leonard suffered a concussion on the play, and was bleeding pretty significantly, too. The Colts planned to keep Leonard on a pitch count entering Sunday. He started in place of Bobby Okereke. Leonard played the first two series, with Okereke then replacing him for the third series. Leonard then got hurt on the 4th defensive series of the game. Judging by the reception Leonard received when announced last among defensive starters on Sunday, those inside of Lucas Oil Stadium was extremely happy to see his return. He had two tackles on the first two plays of the game, but that was his only stat book contribution before exiting in the first half. It goes without saying that you never want to see anyone suffer a concussion. But with everything Leonard has been through in the past year, this injury is something that will deserve ample attention.
5. Important Injuries To Watch On Short Week: Every NFL team has to endure what the Colts are now in this week. It’s two games in five days with the Colts heading to Denver for their Thursday night game. That means any injuries that happened on Sunday really limits chances for that guy to recover in time for Thursday night. There’s no practice this week, and the Colts will take one of their longer road trips of the year, playing in the altitude on a short week. So that concussion for Shaquille Leonard almost assuredly means he will not be able to clear protocol in time for Thursday night. Outside of Leonard, we saw Jonathan Taylor listed as questionable to return after injuring an ankle on his 4th quarter fumble. Obviously, that is one to monitor on this short week. We will see if Monday brings any other knicks and bruises which could impact the availability for Thursday.
-Injury Report: The following Colts got hurt on Sunday and did not return: LB-Shaquille Leonard (concussion), RB-Jonathan Taylor (ankle).
–Key Stat: The Colts tight ends, Mo Alie-Cox (6 catches for 85 yards, 2 touchdowns), Kylen Granson (4 catches for 62 yards), Jelani Woods (1 catch for 33 yards) combined for 11 catches, 170 yards and 2 touchdowns on Sunday.
–What’s Next: The Colts (1-2-1) are now on their short week of the 2022 season. No practice for them this week as they travel to take on the Denver Broncos (2-1) on Thursday Night Football.
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