We’ll keep this brief since I know everyone is still comatose after their Thanksgiving feast (which I hope was wonderful for you all). Scott Tolzien made his first start since the dawn of time and broke his tie with Pat McAfee and no longer has only one regular season pass over the last two years.
The questions going into the game:
-What’s the game plan going to look like for Tolzien? Still aggressive and looking downfield? Or trying to get the ball out of his hands fast and relying on the Yards After Catch speed of the WRs?
-Can the defense hold the Steelers to less than 50?
The game turned out to be a game of what could have been. Not only about what could have been had Andrew Luck and Clayton Geathers played, but simply what could have been had the Colts not beaten themselves.
Sure, the defense got them in a hole early as the Steelers came out hot by scoring three TDs on their first three drives. But, then they didn’t score again until the 4th quarter. If you had told anyone a week ago (pre-Luck injury) that the Colts held the Steelers to 21 through three quarters and 28 for the game, the assumption would probably be a Colts win or at least a close game.
And really, even with Luck out, it should have been a close game. Adam Vinatieri, for the second straight week, missed a Field Goal. This from 52-yards out. Which was the beginning of the awful (pardon the pun) luck for the Colts.
Dropped passes: 1-TY Hilton down the sideline for what could have been a touchdown or at least a huge gain. 2-Moncrief has a deep ball roll down his stomach. 3-Dorsett drops a sure touchdown on 4th and goal. 4-Chester Rogers drops a ball that was in his hands for what should have been a touchdown on a separate 4th and goal (though, that was jarred loose by a great hit).
If you’re keeping track—and I even did it in order for you—that’s the Colts’ top four WRs dropping huge, game changing passes.
Add to that Ryan Kelly, Denzelle Good, TY Hilton, Vontae Davis, and Robert Mathis all joined Luck and Clayton Geathers on the bench during this game, and the fact that the final score was as close as it was is a bit of a miracle.
The reality of the defense is that they’re not very good. We know that. But they aren’t helped by a coaching staff who asked a hobbled Vontae Davis to cover Antonio Brown 1-on-1. Vontae was torched multiple times by Brown before leaving the game with a groin injury. After that the Colts gave the CB charged with guarding Brown safety help over the top. It worked.
Well, it worked because the Steelers pretty much stopped trying to score. They coasted in the second half. Happy to let LeVeon Bell take handoffs to gash the Colts while occasionally taking shots deep.
The Colts got some stops against the Steelers offense more because they were looking for big plays and occasionally missing rather than trying to move the chains and not because they played particularly well.
The sick feeling at the end of this game is from the two bewildering 1st and goal opportunities that ended with zero points going on the board. The offensive line (though banged up) couldn’t get any push and the play calls seemed to forget who the offensive line was. Eight attempts from goal to go situations and the Colts couldn’t find the end zone. Converting one of both of those drives probably changes the complexion of the game.
Then again, maybe not. The Steelers were on auto pilot for the entirety of the second half. Every time they chucked it deep rather than trying to simply pick up the first on a third down, it was clear that they were just toying with the Colts.
It’s a rough loss, but an expected one.
It’s important to see the positives here: Tolzien was good. The two INTs late will look bad on the stat sheet, but that game was lost before he threw either.
So to answer question #1 from before the game: The game plan was great on offense and pretty poor on defense. They were aggressive on offense and the fake punt (and perfect pass by one Pat McAfee) were necessary and it’s great to see Chuck Pagano going for it there and on 4th and goal (twice). But the defense didn’t look prepared to stop Antonio Brown or LeVeon Bell. Which is weird since those are the only two players of significance.
Next Week: Dec 5 @ Jets (3-7)
A bit of a break to hopefully get healthy (again) since the Colts don’t play again until a week from Monday. The path to the playoffs is tough, but oddly enough, it’s still a path. But a win against the Jets becomes imperative.
Player of the Game: Scott Tolzien. No one else really comes close. It didn’t look like they had to adjust the game plan for him. If anything, it looked more aggressive than usual.
22/36 205 yds 1-TD 2-INT
Not a great stat line, but better play from those around him would have changed a lot.
Play of the Game: The Pat McAfee fake punt. Simply because we got this:
Tweets from the Game:
The Colts were not pulling punches with Tolzien. He let it rip. Clearly going boom or bust (sorry for the cliche) to try to win this thing.
And finally, two of the best Colts of all time got their Hall of Fame rings. It’s a bit disappointing that the two earlier games made everyone sit through concerts at halftime, but NBC couldn’t be bothered to show these two great men accept their rings.
Until next time, Colts fans. Have a great Thanksgiving.