COMMENTARY | The wheels have come off the wagon for the Indianapolis Colts since Reggie Wayne was lost to a season-ending injury in Week 7, and Trent Richardson's 2.8-yards-per-carry average since arriving in Indy has been underwhelming. But it's not Richardson's struggles or the loss of Wayne that has the team in a tailspin -- it's the horrible offensive line and defensive backfield.
The Colts got off to a 5-2 start to the season, beating such Goliaths as the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. They had acquired Richardson from the Cleveland Browns in a surprising and exciting trade, they had gotten through the difficult portion of their schedule, and the remainder of the slate was filled with creampuffs.
The NFL was their oyster, and Indy fans were daring to wonder if this could be a Super Bowl season.
Since Wayne's injury, however, the Colts have gone 2-2, including two humiliating blowout losses and two three-point squeakers over weak division opponents led by backup quarterbacks. In those four games combined, the Colts have been outscored 42-3 in the first quarter and 93-12 in the first half. They haven't scored a first-half touchdown since the Broncos game, and Colts fans are calling for Richardson's head on a pike.
Fans who blame Richardson or the loss of Wayne for the rotten month of November, however, need to look deeper.
The Offensive Line is Offensive
Andrew Luck isn't getting much time in the pocket, and he's already been sacked 24 times in 11 games. That's not Ryan Tannehill bad (44 sacks), but it's not Matthew Stafford good (14), either. When he's not getting sacked, Luck is getting hurried, he's getting hit and plays are getting blown up.
The Colts fancy themselves as a run-first team, but the line can't create any openings for Richardson -- or any other member of the running back committee. He has been a complete flop since arriving in Indianapolis, but the o-line isn't doing him any favors, just as the Browns' offensive line left him on his own to find yards when he was in Cleveland.
Donald Brown has occasionally looked like Eric Dickerson compared to Richardson, but even he could only muster a single yard on two carries against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. That's two yards further than he got against the St. Louis Rams in the Week 10 humiliation at home.
The Colts are terrible on third down, converting just 39.3 percent of them. In their two recent blowout losses, that conversion rate has dropped to 28 percent.
Maybe it's the season-ending injury to guard Donald Thomas. Maybe it's the sucker punch from Broncos thug Kevin Vickerson to the knee of center Samson Satele that has the big Hawaiian playing at less than 100 percent. Maybe these offensive linemen just aren't very good.
Whatever the case, this line is a mess.
The Defensive Backfield is AWOL
The defensive backfield has been just as frustrating to watch as the offensive line. Again, injuries are partly to blame, but it's still nauseating to see opponents rack up big play after big play.
It took the Houston Texans all of 60 seconds to score on a 62-yard pass from third-string quarterback Case Keenum to Andre Johnson. Johnson scored again from 41 yards out. DeAndre Hopkins caught a 32-yard pass.
At home against the St. Louis Rams, the Colts allowed backup quarterback Kellen Clemens to hook up with rookie Tavon Austin for touchdowns from 57 and 81 yards out. Chris Givens also caught a 35-yard pass.
The Colts finally faced a starting quarterback against the Arizona Cardinals, and Carson Palmer made them pay by completing 26 of 37 passes for 314 yards, two touchdowns, a passer rating of 114.0, a 32-yard strike to Andre Roberts, a 29-yard pass to Michael Floyd and a 26-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald.
The Colts defensive backfield should be nicknamed the Rented Mules for how badly they're getting beaten.
With these problems in the defensive backfield and on the offensive line, it's no surprise that the Colts rank in the bottom quarter of the league in time of possession. It's no surprise that they're consistently behind the eight-ball so quickly in games.
When the defensive backfield falls apart and the Colts have to abandon any semblance of balance in the offense in an attempt at a heroic comeback week after week, it's no surprise that opposing defenses know what's coming and can exploit the weak offensive line.
Richardson can't be expected to succeed under these conditions, and while the loss of Wayne hurts, he didn't play on the offensive line or on defense.
Until the Colts can remedy these two problems, those dreams of a Super Bowl season will never become a reality.
The author is a resident of central Indiana and a longtime follower of the Indianapolis Colts.
- American Football
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- Indianapolis Colts
- Trent Richardson
- Reggie Wayne
- offensive line