Photos courtesy of Colts.com.
ISR Colts Beat Writer
FOXBOROUGH, MA – Saturday night, the Indianapolis Colts’ (12-6) whirlwind season came to an end at the hands of the New England Patriots (13-4) in a 43-22 defeat.
Many had very high hopes for the Colts going into the game, but the fact of the matter is the Colts just were not prepared for what the Patriots brought to the table. The Patriots have a good ground game with Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen and they dominated the game from start to finish to the tune of 6 rushing touchdowns and 234 yards on the ground.
Not only were the Colts overmatched against the run, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made plays in key situations, as well. The Patriots will now play either the Denver Broncos or San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship. The winner will go to the Super Bowl.
Heading into this game, I had three main points I was looking for:
- Will the Colts adjust their game plan to attack New England’s run defense? – The Patriots boast the NFL’s 30th-ranked run defense, and the Colts are able to put together some solid rushing performances from time to time. However, the Patriots continued to make plays and it quit making running the ball an option for the Colts. Donald Brown ran the ball 17 times, but there were only 3 other designed runs aside from that. Overall, the Colts had just 69 yards on 21 carries.
- Will the small receivers for New England be a more favorable matchup for the Colts? – On paper, the Colts getting a break from facing big receivers was welcome, but the Patriots know how to use their tools better than any other team in the league. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Vereen (all under 6’0”) had 11 catches for 176 yards among them. Not only did the Patriots get their receivers open, but they were put in position to make plays after the catch, as well.
- Will the young Colts receivers continue to dominate New England’s banged-up defense? – The Colts receivers didn’t have a bad game and the lopsided victory took away the accomplishments some of these receivers had. T.Y. Hilton had over 100 yards yet again, LaVon Brazill had another 2-touchdown performance and Griff Whalen made a few crucial plays. Coby Fleener also had a good performance with 6 catches and 74 yards.
- Andrew Luck – [Stat Line: 20/41, 49% Completion, 331 Pass Yards, 5 Rush Yards, 2 Total TD, 4 TO] – This was the first game this season where I can say Luck just truly had a bad game. He didn’t look settled, he made bad decisions and some bad throws. This loss is far from just on his shoulders, but Luck didn’t come with his “A” game.
- Donald Brown – [Stat Line: 17 Carries, 63 Rush Yards, 1 Catch, 3 Receiving Yards] – What a shame that this may have been Donald Brown’s final game as a Colt. He really came into his own this season and was the reason for a handful of Colts wins. He got ample carries in this game with 17, but I can’t help but think getting him the ball on the outside or getting him more involved in the short passing game would’ve helped create rhythm on offense.
- T.Y. Hilton – [Stat Line: 4 Catches, 103 Receiving Yards] – The Patriots did a great job containing Hilton through most of the first half, but Hilton figured out how to win his matchups and made some plays. Despite only getting 4 catches, he made them count with 100 yards. Hilton consistently shows effort and has a bright future.
- Griff Whalen – [Stat Line: 5 Catches, 67 Receiving Yards] – Griff Whalen has made the Colts front office’s job much less stressful heading into the offseason. When Reggie Wayne went down with a season-ending injury, the Colts seemed to have nothing. Aside from Wayne, Whalen has the most reliable hands of the receiving corps. He showed he deserves to be a part of the Colts in 2014, and anything less would be a disservice to the team.
- LaVon Brazill – [Stat Line: 2 Catches, 73 Receiving Yards, 2 TD] – LaVon Brazill is another player who has shown a good amount of potential, providing the Colts’ only touchdowns of the game. If he can keep his head on straight this offseason, he could really become more of a complete, reliable receiver. Brazill will surely see less action in 2014 when Wayne returns, but he deserves to be on the field.
- Coby Fleener – [Stat Line: 6 Catches, 74 Receiving Yards] – Fleener has really emerged as a reliable tight end when you consider what the fan base’s perception of Fleener was one year ago. With Dwayne Allen coming back in 2014, Fleener and Allen will surely form one of the best tight end tandems in the NFL.
- Anthony Castonzo – [No Stats] – Anthony Castonzo really did not do so well matched up against New England’s Chandler Jones. Jones was constantly defeating Castonzo and harassing Luck. Jones had 4 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 tackle for loss and an extra QB hit.
- Mike McGlynn – [No Stats] – Mike McGlynn was another Colts offensive lineman who struggled. He struggled picking up stunt rushes and dealing with the Patriots interior defensive linemen.
- Robert Mathis – [Stat Line: 3 Tackles, 1.0 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble] – Aside from a fourth quarter sack/fumble, Mathis struggled to make much of an impact. He was moved around the defense like he should’ve but wasn’t able to get consistent pressure on Tom Brady.
- Jerrell Freeman – [Stat Line: 10 Tackles] – Jerrell Freeman is truly becoming an unsung superstar in the Colts defense. He posted a ten-tackle game on Saturday and put the kybosh on a few would-be big plays. If the Colts can get a consistent presence next to Freeman at inside linebacker this offseason, the Colts defense may be able to take the next step.
- LaRon Landry – [Stat Line: 7 Tackles] – Safety LaRon Landry may have had 7 tackles, but he may have also had just as many missed tackles. This game wasn’t an isolated incident, as Landry has consistently come up short while trying to make tackles. He could really improve his game if he would just wrap up on tackles.
- After stringing together several great performances, the Colts offensive line laid an egg against New England. They allowed 3 sacks, constant pressure on Luck and only paved the way for 3.3 yards per carry on the ground. The line shouldn’t be as big of an offseason priority as most think it should, though. Guard Donald Thomas will be back and Hugh Thornton has an entire season under his belt. Improvements at center desperately need to be made, however.
- The Colts constantly rely on Mathis to be their spark plug in providing a pass rush, but without him being a huge factor the Colts don’t generate much of a pass rush elsewhere. They were able to get two sacks, but Tom Brady had gobs of time to throw on multiple occasions. Not providing a pass rush makes things harder on the secondary, and that was a big factor last night.
- Overall, the Colts looked completely unprepared for this game. They forgot their fundamentals and looked completely overmatched. They consistently beat themselves, as evidenced by Luck’s four interceptions and the team’s four penalties. However, one of the most discouraging things I noticed was that it felt like some of the team and coaches just quit in the fourth quarter. When the decision was made to punt after the second full drive of the fourth, the game was over. With over ten minutes left to play and trailing by 21 points, it seemed like the team wasn’t going to go ahead and try to win – and that is after the team proved a game is never over after posting the second-largest playoff comeback in NFL history last week. After the punt, effort plummeted and play looked sloppy, uninspired and lazy.
This game was far from pretty and well-executed for the Colts, but it is not the end of the world. There are no moral victories, and your season ending before all of your goals are reached makes the early-exit a disappointment, but the Colts do have plenty to be encouraged about.
For starters, they have an extremely young team that has a ton of experience in the last two seasons. They have made the playoffs two years in a row and look bound for a deep playoff run next season.
They had an alarming amount of players on season-ending Injured Reserve – 17 to be exact. Next season, an offense with Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen, Reggie Wayne and Donald Thomas back in it certainly sounds encouraging.
Jake Arthur is a senior writer at the Indy Sports Report covering the Indianapolis Colts and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts and has full media access. You can follow Jake and ISR on Twitter.