by Kent Sterling
Last week, everyone with a brain looked at the Indianapolis Colts three game lead over the Tennessee Titans and a favorable remaining schedule, and declared the race for the AFC South Division crown over.
This week, it’s not even close to over.
The Colts looked like a lot of things in yesterday’s loss to Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals, but a division champion was not among them. After being dominated in every phase of the game, the Colts need to find a way to produce first half points as they return home to face the Titans in a game that will either salt away the division for the Colts, or throw the season into total doubt and chaos.
The first hurdle for the Colts is to play a first half that isn’t an embarrassment to the meeting of the original NFL ownership at that Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio, who decided the NFL was worth its effort.
The past four first halves have resulted in halftime scores of 21-3, 28-0, 17-6, and 27-3. That the Colts have managed two three point wins in those four games is nothing short of miraculous. The aggregate of 93-12 is evidence of miserable football not entirely explained by the injuries that have landed five offensive starters on injured reserve.
The Colts need to find were the weak links are, address them, and keep themselves in games long enough to allow the splendid Andrew Luck a chance to rally his team back from the dead.
Great games are not without a price in the NFL. It was obvious during the game against the Denver Broncos that the Colts laid it all on the line. They put themselves in harm’s way again and again, and looked exhausted following the win. They haven’t caught their wind again yet.
There are problems on the offensive line, in the defensive backfield, and among the remaining parts of the receiving corps. One of those weaknesses will be difficult to address in the 2014 NFL Draft because of the first rounder that now belongs to the Cleveland Browns, in return for the services of Trent Richardson.
The defensive backfield might be improved this Sunday with the return of cornerback Greg Toler, whose presence instead of the much picked upon Cassius Vaughn will make throwing the ball a little more difficult for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
At receiver, the Colts will have to be who they are, and without a legitimate pair of hands behind T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener, they are easy for defenses to scheme against.
With mediocrity in the middle of the Colts offensive line, pressure is added to the chaos Luck has been forced to deal with.
And there is some responsibility to bear for the coaching staff. Yes, they have done a good job of making halftime adjustments, but the inexperience of offensive coordinator might be exposed a little more each week. He’s a smart guy, but his initial game plans have resulted in an average of a field goal being scored during each of the last four first halves.
The questions are many, and the answers are few, but GM Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano need to find some during the next six days.
The Bible says God created heaven and earth and the plants and animals in six days. Let’s see if the Colts staff can create more than first half field goals for Adam Vinatieri.