The last time the Colts won a season opener was in 2013 & the opposing quarterback was none other than current Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Yes, for the Colts fans who have been keeping track, this is the 4th year in a row that the Chuck Pagano-led Colts have started the season with a losing record. With two starting quarterbacks with 0 combined wins in the NFL (and at least 3 starts each), something was going to give. However, it was unforeseen that the Los Angeles Rams (or the San Francisco 49ers if you ask Chuck Pagano) would go on to put up 46 points on a pitifully coached defense that allowed 300 yards to Jared Goff. It was also unforeseen that an offensive line that owner Jim Irsay claimed had been declared “fixed” by legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd (which was later refuted by none other than Mudd himself) would go on to allow 4 sacks & 5 QB hits in only 21 passes. It was already rumored that Irsay had gone to bat for Pagano, urging Ballard to keep him on for at least one more year, but if his seat was not already scorching hot, it is undoubtedly on fire now. With the 6th loss of a 35+ point margin in the Pagano-era, Colts fans & local media are readying their pitchforks.
Let’s Talk About the QBs
Without a doubt, the most frustrating part of Sunday’s game was the outing of Scott Tolzien in place of franchise centerpiece Andrew Luck. Hand-picked over preseason standout & fan favorite Stephen Morris, Tolzien once again proved that he is severely limited in regards to his skillset. From the first time a ball left his hands, literally, he exhibited exactly what he is marginally capable of. Although Tolzien carries himself like a true professional (and even threw himself under the bus in the wake of this loss) it is no longer a secret that he is not the long-term backup that this regime believed he was. Posting a total QBR of 6.4, and completing 9 of his 18 attempts for 128 yards and a pair of pick-six’s, Tolzien was mercifully pulled from action before the fourth quarter. Despite trading for Jacoby Brissett not yet two weeks ago, it cannot help but be mentioned that there is a NFC title-winning QB who posted a 16 touchdown, 4 interception stat line in 2016 that is currently on the market. While I will not dive into that rabbit hole quite yet, it begs the question, how much worse off would the Indianapolis Colts be with Colin Kaepernick behind center in the absence of Luck? Would they have lost 46-9 yesterday had Kaepernick been signed earlier in the offseason when Colts brass knew that Luck was going to miss extended time?
Silver Lining: Weapons Flashed
All is not doom & gloom in Indianapolis after all. Once Colts’ fans realize that the Colts are in full rebuild mode now, they will begin to see the silver linings that, although hard to see right now, still firmly remain. For starters, Frank Gore is still proving that at age 34, he is able to contribute in some capacity, managing a 4.2 yards per carry average over 10 touches on the ground. Next up, rookie running back Marlon Mack flashed his big-play potential with two plays netting over 20 yards, a 21 yard swing pass up the right sideline from Tolzien (thrown behind him of course) and a 24 yard run up the right. Mack also scored the Colts’ only touchdown of the game on a 3 yard inside zone. Finally, although he did not provide an eye-popping stat line, tight end Jack Doyle showed the dependability and soft hands that helped him outlast both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Look for both Doyle and Mack to see their roles take a firmer shape as this season progresses.
A Look Ahead
The Colts will once again be without Luck in week 2, and will be squaring off against a Bruce Arians coached Arizona unit that will be unquestionably hungrier and tougher than the Colts next week, as they also come off a loss at the hands of the Detroit Lions. Although both teams have greatly changed over the last 4 years, the Colts should be reminded of their 40-11 blowout loss back in 2013, in which Arians firmly kept his foot on the gas against his former squad. Look for Carson Palmer to treat this game as a ‘pick-me-up’ after a rough outing in which he tossed three interceptions. Although nothing has been confirmed as of yet, we may be in for the first start of Brissett’s Indianapolis career.