by Kent Sterling
Indianapolis Colts fans have seen it all this season. Signature wins against the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, bad losses to the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, and wins against bad teams that very easily could have been losses.
NFL teams are best judged by their records, but this 8-4 Colts team inspires more questions than answers with each week.
The Colts won today’s game against the Titans because they forced four turnovers, and the Titans gave them a field goal at the end of the first half with a foolish unnecessary roughness penalty on former Colt Moise Fokou – the kind of penalty that costs teams games and championships, and goes a long way in explaining why Fokou is not a current Colt.
Until a 6:12 drive that covered 92 yards resulted in the Colts only touchdown, the totality of the offense production was a paltry 172 yards in 51 plays. Donald Brown, the leading rusher for the Colts netted only 54 yards (46 of which came during that last drive when the offensive line finally started moving Titans around a little bit), while the leading receiver only caught three balls for 50 yards.
Prior to that final drive, the Colts leading rusher was Trent Richardson with 19 yards – and they led 15-14!
That kind of output generates virtually no games in the NFL, but the Colts continue to find ways to pile up wins without the kind of showmanship and execution that fans associate with success.
The quality of NFL teams is assessed week-to-week, but the Colts who have gone 3-2 over the past five games with a win at Houston and two against the Titans has looked bad – and not just a little bad. They have been downright putrid for extended periods while being outscored 143-98.
The problems for the Colts over the past five games would be catastrophic for most – an inability to protect its franchise quarterback, trouble consistently covering even mediocre receivers, difficulty running the ball, and a litany of injuries to offensive playmakers that has thankfully reached a plateau.
The Colts surrendered five sacks today, and caused only one, but the sack fumble from Robert Mathis changed the game, as did two interceptions by much maligned quarterback Cassius Vaughn, who blows coverages with regularity but holds onto the ball when it’s thrown to him.
So the Colts are four games away from the end of the regular season with an 8-4 record, scoring 285 points and allowing 274. Going into week 13, when the 7-4 Colts had scored 263 and allowed 260, they ranked 16th in points scored and 15th in points allowed. Thoroughly mediocre, and yet they will almost undoubtedly win the less than mediocre AFC South.
By beating the Titans, the Colts are now three games ahead of the second place Titans and hold the head-to-head tie breaker. To lose the South, the Colts would have to lose all four of their remaining games, while the Titans would have to win theirs. That should be rendered moot next weekend as the Titans travel to Denver.
Whether the Colts are able to continue winning two for every loss with an offensive line that can’t open a hole or form a pocket until the fourth quarter and a defense that is marginal at best minus Mathis will be the question whose answer will endure and define the 2013 season.
Minus Reggie Wayne, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, and Dwayne Allen, the odds are against them, but beating the odds is one gift this Colts team and coach Chuck Pagano seem to have a lock on.
Betting on them appears to be foolish, but betting against them ignores who they have become.