The Colts lost to the Commanders 17 – 16, falling to 3 – 4 – 1 on the season. What did we learn?
Takeaway One: Complete Games Continue To Evade The Colts
Much has been written this season about the routinely anemic starts by the Colts on offense and the wins that have come only as a result of late-game heroics. Adding insult to injury, the inability of the defense to generate turnovers and the often heroic performance by the defense to keep the Colts within striking distance at the end of games is a major eyesore. Yet, throughout the varying highs and lows, one theme has remained constant in 2022: the Colts cannot put together a complete game, by all three units, through all four quarters.
That constant held in Week Eight. The offense started slowly, and the defense kept the game close, with the Colts trailing 7 – 3 at halftime. However, unlike previous games, the Colts took an early lead in the fourth quarter. The offense quickly parlayed into a two-score lead following a Shaquille Leonard interception deep in Commanders territory, capping off a 13 – 0 second-half Colts scoring run.
Unfortunately, the Colts once again found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The defense allowed the Commanders consecutive scoring drives of 82 and 89 yards, giving up a field goal and a touchdown, sandwiched by an offensive three-and-out, in the final 11 minutes of the game.
Ballgame#Colts#ForTheShoe#Commanders#HTTC#WASvsIND pic.twitter.com/XpqWv3toAR — Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 30, 2022
Takeaway Two: This Colts Team Is Mediocre At Best
It is perhaps hyperbole to say that the Colts have had no complete games in 2022. The two counter-examples are the improbable win at home against the Chiefs and the embarrassing shutout on the road against the Jaguars. Therein lies the problem: this team is wildly inconsistent, defaulting to mediocrity.
Through eight weeks, the 2022 Colts are simply not a good team.
The defense has played consistently and kept the team in games, but the inability to generate turnovers has kept the unit from reaching the next level. The special teams unit has directly cost the team at least one win and has indirectly contributed to other losses. Yet, the unit has perhaps dealt with the most adversity: losing both pro-bowl and starting kickers while fielding incredibly inexperienced kick return and coverage units. Finally, the offense has been nothing short of a glaring weakness – a Keystone Cops running gag of turnovers, penalties, unforced errors, and missed scoring opportunities.
The end result – the expected result – is precisely what the Colts’ win-loss record exhibits: a perfectly mediocre, 3 – 4 – 1 record.
Colts fall to 3-4-1 with a 17-16 gut-punch of a loss to the Commanders. — Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) October 30, 2022
Takeaway Three: Colts Quarterback Play Isn’t The Issue
Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from Week Eight is the confirmation that quarterback play is neither the savior nor the culprit for the Colts’ offense.
To the delight of many and to the chagrin of others, second-year Sam Ehlinger started in place of the injured Matt Ryan in Week Eight, and the team named Ehlinger the starter for the remainder of 2022, stating that the change was made regardless of Ryan’s injury. Against the Commanders, Ehlinger played satisfactory – neither outstanding nor atrocious. Instead, Ehlinger managed the offense and drove the team into a scoring position.
The net result was unchanged. The offense still found ways to turn the ball over in the red zone, including an Ehlinger strip-sack in the second quarter and a Jonathan Taylor fumble at the end of a six-yard run in the third quarter. Either of those drives resulting in even a field goal likely would have prevented the Commanders’ fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory.
Life is pain. #Colts#ForTheShoe#Commanders#HTTC#WASvsIND pic.twitter.com/UPAX1DMdS6 — Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 30, 2022
Until the Colts figure out how to fix what is truly broken, it likely won’t matter which player is taking the snaps. At best, the front office will have the opportunity to evaluate Ehlinger fully to determine his long-term viability. At worst, the Colts will remain mediocre and end the season with a sufficiently modest record both to eliminate them from the 2022 playoffs and push them far enough back in the 2023 draft to miss out on the several potential franchise quarterbacks available.
Takeaway Four: Colts Offensive Line Is A Liability
Colts fans may be forgiven for hearing “Yakety Sax” in their heads while watching highlights of the offensive line: missing blocks, getting pancaked, yielding sacks, and getting running backs pummeled. Finally, a reckoning must come for the disparity between the line simultaneously being the highest-paid and worst-performing in the league.
In addition to giving up a strip-sack in field goal range in the second quarter, the line lost a goal-line battle early in the fourth quarter, resulting in the Colts settling for a field goal after being first-and-goal from the three. (Head Coach Frank Reich doesn’t get a pass here, either, for dialing up a run from the shotgun on third and goal from the one-yard line that got stuffed for a loss of a yard.)
The Colts are leading this enthralling game.#Colts#ForTheShoe#Commanders#HTTC#WASvsIND pic.twitter.com/3N0dP9bZqO — Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 30, 2022
In the critical three-and-out possession that could have instead been a game-salting drive, the offensive line could not open running lanes for running back Jonathan Taylor. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger nearly converted with a three-yard scramble on third and four, but the fact remains: the Colts have the best running back in the league, and the ground game, especially in that situation, should be the team’s bread-and-butter.
Instead, it remains unreliable.
Second-string running back Nyheim Hines has had enough, requesting – and being granted – a trade before this week’s trade deadline. Perhaps the Buffalo Bills will find a way to use Hines’ explosive skillset more effectively.
Takeaway Five: Colts Injuries Remain A Mixed Bag
The return of All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard provided a spark for the defense, with Leonard generating a critical fourth-quarter interception. Meanwhile, running back Jonathan Taylor suffered a setback to his injured ankle. In addition, defensive tackle Tyquan Lewis, playing well in an increased role due to other injuries on the defensive line, including Defensive End Kwity Paye, suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the fourth quarter.
Colts DL Tyquan Lewis ruptured his patellar tendon, coach Frank Reich says. Had the same injury last year on the OTHER knee. That is BRUTAL. — Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) October 31, 2022