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INDIANAPOLIS – New year. Same embarrassing Colts.

A national television audience was at least sparred from seeing the Colts getting trucked again, this time in the 38-10 variety to the Giants (9-6-1).

Here is what was learned from the Colts (4-11-1) losing a 6th straight game:

 

FIVE THINGS LEARNED

1. At Least It Wasn’t On National TV: Somehow, it’s getting worse for the Indianapolis Colts. As the season, mercifully, reaches a close, the Colts are playing worse and worse. On Sunday, they lost to a Giants team by 28 points. Entering Sunday, the Giants hadn’t beaten a team by more than 8 points all year. The Colts offense can’t move the football, although the unit finally ended a stretch of 30 possessions (nearly 9 quarters) since their last touchdown, and this has come during some average to below average defenses. And the Indy defense, somewhat understandably, is starting to have a late-season regression. Again, Jeff Saturday was put into a very awkward situation. And after the Colts won Saturday’s debut, they’ve now lost 6 straight, with some truly pathetic performances as of late. Shouldn’t that matter to some degree, as Jim Irsay tires to put hits emotions to the side when evaluating Saturday as a real long-term head coaching candidate? Sunday was the latest example of that. In each of the last two weeks, the Colts have watched their opponent clinch playoff berths while being outscored 58-13 in those two games. Under Saturday, the Colts are now 1-6, having been outscored 212-126. Irsay has been staunch in his public backing of Chris Ballard, while also having extreme open-mindedness to Saturday as a full-time head coach. But don’t these, now, weekly embarrassments matter to the Owner? And if we are being honest, so much of this season spiraling to such pathetic proportions occurred when Irsay interjected himself for the late-October benching of Matt Ryan, and then the firing of Reich/hiring of Saturday. The Colts were 3-3-1 when Irsay demanded Ryan be benched. They are 1-8 since. If we are looking for positives from Sunday afternoon, at least a national television audience wasn’t exposed to this Colts effort.

2. Massively Missed QB Evaluation: A franchise once known for their historic quarterback play, is now being mocked for the 2022 quarterback evaluation. While the Colts didn’t offer enough QB support from positions around him, Matt Ryan and (to a lesser extent) Nick Foles looked like they were far, far past whatever prime years might have been there once for them. On Sunday, Foles got smoked on a late first-half hit on Sunday, injuring his ribs and leaving the game, but his play to that point was, again, awful. When the Colts have decided to make these shorter-term QB moves, you are saying that you are sacrificing some long-term potential, for higher expectations in the immediacy. The Colts couldn’t be further from that. If you are bad in the NFL, at least be young at quarterback while you have the win/loss struggles. That’s not the case for the 2022 Colts. They are bad, but they’ve also started two aging QBs in 15 of their 17 games this season. Sunday was another reminder of what some mobility at the quarterback position can do for you, with Daniel Jones showing off a skillset the Colts need to keep in mind as the QB search finally takes center stage, years after it should have. It looks like Sam Ehlinger will start the season finale, and I guess Matt Ryan will be the backup?

3. Is The Problem More Personnel? When the Colts fired Frank Reich, part of that indirect message from Jim Irsay was ‘I believe the coaching is more of the problem than the personnel?’ Remember, Irsay didn’t fire Reich just to fire him. He wanted Saturday, and no one else to be the interim. Well, how about that personnel built by Chris Ballard? Is a 4-11-1 record an accurate reflection of the state of the Colts roster? This offense is just as awful with Jeff Saturday in the building and Parks Frazier calling the plays as it was when Frank Reich was leading it (might me worse, honestly). Remember, this was an offense Ballard choose to stray from meaningful spring free agent signings at positions appearing to need some attention: wide receiver, tight end, left tackle. Ballard’s future sounds solid, according to Irsay. On more than one occasion since the firing of Reich, Irsay has publicly backed him a few weeks back. After the coaching change though, isn’t more attention and examination on this roster? If the results are the same or worse, with more and more embarrassment showing up, is that a reflection of a poorly constructed group? Ballard escaping all of this, and Irsay giving the GM another chance with a different head coach, would be something, considering the GM’s resume through 6 years: no division titles, 1 playoff win and 0 answer at the most important position in sports.

4. Yannick Ngakoue’s Season Over: As the Colts were about to board a plane for their final road trip of the year, they announced the late-week news of DE-Yannick Ngakoue (throat) heading to injured reserve, thus ending this first season in Indianapolis. Ngakoue got hit in the throat against the Chargers. He practiced all last week, but felt discomfort in his throat following the final practice of the week. The Colts medical staff deemed surgery was needed for Ngakoue’s injury. That means Ngakoue, who is a free agent, ends the year with 9.5 sacks in 15 games. Those numbers have been achieved just twice by a Colts defensive end since 2013 (Erik Walden in 2016 and Justin Houston in 2019). At 27 years old, unlike Walden and Houston at the ages of 31 in those years, Ngakoue will be a very interesting free agent for the Colts. While sacks and pressures from Ngakoue didn’t have tons of impact in the ‘game-changing department,’ his availability and production as a rusher were still at levels the Colts have not had in years. And this season is the first time Ngakoue has missed multiple games in his 7-year NFL career. Outside of Chase McLaughlin, you could make the case Ngakoue has the best case to return for a Colts free agent (Parris Campbell might be the other). This is the stuff that gets even more attention at this point in a season where playoff elimination has arrived.

5. Draft Position Remains At 5th: The Colts did their part, but did not get any additional help in the draft order climb this week, although the Cardinals and Broncos flirted with some major help for Indy. The Colts will enter the final week of the season 5th in the draft order. As of now, it looks like the Colts will have anywhere from 3rd to 6th pick come April. If the Colts stay in the top-5, it’s very possible they could get their choice of the second or third quarterback in this draft, assuming Chicago (currently No. 2 in the draft order) stays put and takes the best non-QB in this 2023 class. If the Colts lose to the Texans in Week 18 and either the Broncos (vs. Chargers) or Cardinals (at 49ers) win, Indy will move up in the draft order. A win over the Texans could push the Colts to 6th (depending on what the Rams do on Sunday and next week). On another note, I can only imagine what the crowd is going to look like for Colts vs. Texans inside of Lucas Oil Stadium next Sunday. It is one of the most meaningless games (non-draft order related) that building has ever seen.

QUICK HITTERS

-Injury Report: The following Colts were INACTIVE on Sunday: TE-Kylen Granson (ankle), CB-Kenny Moore (ankle), WR-Ashton Dulin (concussion) QB-Matt Ryan, LB-Cameron McGrone, OL-Wesley French, DT-Eric Johnson. These Colts got hurt on Sunday and did not return: CB-Brandon Facyson (concussion), QB-Nick Foles (ribs)

Key Stat: With Michael Pittman’s third-quarter touchdown, that ended a 30-drive TD drought for the Colts. That spanned back to the second quarter of the Vikings game (lasting nearly 9 quarters).

What’s Next: The Colts (4-11-1) have one game remaining this season, hosting the Houston Texans (2-12-1) next Sunday.