INDIANAPOLIS – Another trip to Foxborough and another embarrassing Colts performance.
With offensive ineptness the story of Sunday’s game, the Colts got dominated by the Patriots, losing 26-3.
What did we learn from the Colts losing their third straight game?
1. Embarrassing Offensive Line: I wonder how many times I’ve written this line in 2022: The highest paid offensive line in football continues to fail the Colts. Well, it’s true again. In a week in which Frank Reich gave a public vote of confidence in offensive line coach Chris Strausser, that group was awful on Sunday. A constant inability to pick up stunts all afternoon long led to 9 sacks of Sam Ehlinger, the most in the Reich era. Matt Pryor was benched in the first half (replaced by Will Fries) after he was part of several breakdowns in handling New England stunts. Sure, the Colts had plenty of individual OL breakdowns on Sunday, particularly off the edge, but when you continue to have the communication/stunt problems, doesn’t that point towards coaching? The Colts finished Sunday with 103 passing yards, but a net total of 43 passing yards because the 9 sacks lost them 60 total yards. Think about that, again? Nine weeks into the season, with injuries having not yet made a major impact on the offensive line, the top core belief of Chris Ballard continues to be a joke.
2. So Much For Firing Marcus Brady: Clearly, Marcus Brady is the furthest thing from the problem with the Colts offensive ineptness. A boring, embarrassing, pitiful offensive performance continues to be on display, even after all the changes the Colts have made offensively. The 121 total yards for the Colts on Sunday marked the fewest for the franchise since 1997. Sunday brought the Colts 11th straight halftime deficit, as they have failed to score on an opening drive all season long and have yet to have a lead going into the 4th quarter, too. They went 0-for-14 on third down (and 0-for-2 on 4th down) on Sunday. The 2.01 yards per play is the worst in franchise history. What added to such pathetic futility on Sunday was this wasn’t some turnover-fest from the Indy offense. It was just a unit unable to move the football. At all. Simply, this offense has been the exact opposite of a complementary unit to what the Colts are routinely getting from their defense right now. Jim Irsay said earlier this year you need an offense to score 30 to compete in today’s NFL. Right now, his offense is barely at half of that expectation. Again, like we mentioned above with Ballard and the OL, when the supposed greatest strength for the head coach (offense) is looking like this, what does that say? Does having such a boring offensive product start to weigh on Irsay and impact his decision making? Potentially to the point of something in-season?
3. Sam Ehlinger Struggles, Too: As expected, it was a regression for Sam Ehlinger in his first career road start. Clearly, the offensive line was not helping him in protection. But when Ehlinger did have some chances to make a play, he didn’t capitalize. There were some errant throws in the first half, and a general lack of throwing with anticipation. The Colts had opportunities in the passing game, but Ehlinger’s hesitancy to challenge the Patriots vertically further stymied an already limited offense. Again, the protection in front of Ehlinger was poor, he had a few drops go against him and Frank Reich could have done a better job moving the pocket/getting him out of the pocket at a higher rate. Unlike last week at home, Ehlinger had more of a deer in headlights look in trying to process what was coming at him from Bill Belichick and the Patriots. As we said all along when Matt Ryan was under center this season, absolutely nothing seen from the quarterback position in 2022 means this franchise should think about overlooking QB in the 2023 draft.
4. Costly Kicking Game: As kickoff crept closer on Sunday, the more I thought this one might just be decided by the kicking game. In a contest with expected liming scoring chances (which held true), controlling field position and converting field goals would be a huge storyline. That was certainly true, especially in the first half. And the Patriots dominated in this area. It was veteran Nick Folk right down the middle on first-half field goals from 49 and 43 yards. It was Chase McLaughlin finally missing one of those wobbly kicks, as he pulled a 39-yarder just before half. To make matters worse, the Patriots blocked a Colts punt attempt (something Indy did to New England in last year’s meeting) to set up the lone first-half touchdown drive from the Indy 2-yard line. Yes, the Patriots had more offensive production + a higher level of defensive dominance than the Colts in the first half, but they thoroughly controlled the kicking game. And that’s why the Colts were down 13-0 at halftime, which felt insurmountable.
5. Good for Kwity Paye, Defensive Tackle Duo: Sunday had to be quite the feel-good performance for Kwity Paye. After missing the last month due to an ankle injury, Paye returned on Sunday and delivered in front of his mom and many close to him from his days growing up in Rhode Island. Paye not only looked healthy and ready for a normal workload, but he flashed in both the run and pass game, finishing Sunday with a career-high 8 tackles. For now, the Colts really need Paye, after the season-ending injury to Tyquan Lewis. And Paye establishing himself as a consistent, disruptive player is certainly critical for the future of the Colts, too. Along with Paye, you got your usual stout days from DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. They rank right up there with any defensive tackle pairing in the NFL. Once again, it was the Indy defense keeping the Colts within striking distance on Sunday, but the offense/special teams couldn’t sniff a level of winning football.
-Injury Report: The team’s inactives were as followed: CB-Tony Brown (hamstring), QB-Matt Ryan (right shoulder), RB-Jonathan Taylor (ankle), LB-Grant Stuard (pectoral), OL-Wesley French, RB-Zack Moss, DT-Chris Williams. The following players left the game and did not return: TE-Jelani Woods (shoulder).
-Key Stat: The Colts and Patriots combined for 44 first-quarter yards on Sunday. That’s the fewest in the NFL this season.
–What’s Next: It’ll be the longest road trip of the season for the Colts (3-5-1) next week. They are off to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders (2-6) at 4:05 PM.
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