Zbikowski did not play well, but neither did a lot of Colts.
Yes, they did get waxed, 35-9, but blaming the peaks and valleys of emotion for the defeat would be inaccurate.
A second look at the game tape reveals a bad team that got beat because of inadequate personnel rather than a spent team unable to get back up after a historic and emotional home win.
The Real Story
While it seemed like a bad game on both sides of the ball, Indianapolis advanced effectively most of the game.
The offense was about as effective as it always has been. Andrew Luck missed a couple of key passes, notably a potential touchdown to Donnie Avery that could have changed the complexion of the game, but all in all, offense was not the problem.
The defense, however, was a mess.
The Jets ran the ball at will and embarrassed the Indy defense. This was a simple case of not having adequate personnel. The Colts have had a bad run defense all season, and the Jets committed wholly to exposing it.
This game probably should have been closer. It was always a bad matchup for Indianapolis, but the final score could have been something more like 28-20 than 35-9 quite easily.
Dwayne Allen continues to show flashes of skill. He blocked well and made a couple of plays in the passing game.
Jerry Hughes picked up a sack and a pressure to go with several tackles as the only competent defensive performance for the Colts.
Adam Vinatieri hit all three of his kicks.
Tom Zbikowski was a mess at safety. He was routinely out of position, over-pursued plays, missed tackles and gave up a touchdown reception. His play all season has been mediocre at best.
Vick Ballard was terrible in the run game. Part of the reason the Colts gave up on running was that Ballard routinely missed available holes to plow into the middle of the line for little gain. He had just 25 yards on eight carries.
Luck wasn't sharp, and both of his picks were bad. Still, there wasn't a big difference between how he played this week and other weeks. He left plays on the field, but for the most part, that is how he's been all season.
Any time a team takes away Reggie Wayne, the Indy offense will grind to a halt.
I expected to pick a potential Luck scramble for this spot, as it seemed like he was reticent to run all day. A closer look at the tape, however, reveals that Luck's missed opportunities to run mostly resulted in later first downs anyway.
Instead, check out this key run with Indianapolis trailing 14-6, driving into Jets territory in the third quarter.
It was 2nd-and-5 at the Jets' 45-yard line with 11:31 to play. Luck hands off to Ballard, who misses a mammoth hole to his left and plows ahead for a gain of two.
On the next play, Luck was pressured and flagged for a bogus intentional grounding call, ending the drive.
Had Ballard hit the hole, it would likely have resulted in a nice gain, and the Colts could have cut into the Jets' lead.
There are almost too many to count.
Bruce Arians elected to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Jets' 40-yard line on the opening drive. He said:
I was not going to let their offense have any short fields. I knew our defense would hold them down there and they did a good job turning it back. Third-and-long, when that thing is going it’s hard to get some spots sometimes and looking back, maybe we would have ran it more on the goal line than we had, but we had both guys wide open, so it was tough.
His logic failed him on the next drive, as he chose a field goal on 4th-and-1 from the 2-yard line. Instead of going for it and at worst leaving the Jets pinned on the goal line again, he chose a field goal.
The Jets promptly marched down the field to take a lead they never relinquished.
Later then in the fourth quarter, Arians chose a field goal while trailing 28-6. His explanation was curious:
I was trying to get it (the score to where we could score two touchdowns and) go-for-two’s and (kick) a field goal. Get something positive going and heck if we had gotten a better chance at a fourth-down play we probably would have went for it.
At the time, Indy needed three touchdowns with a two-point conversion to tie. After the field goal, the Colts needed two touchdowns and a field goal to tie.
His reasoning simply makes no sense.
Keep an Eye On
Obviously, with the Cleveland Browns coming to Indianapolis, the Colts will have to improve the run defense.
Until the Colts can force teams to pass, they'll be vulnerable to losses to the worst quarterbacks in the game. They've already dropped games to Blaine Gabbert and Mark Sanchez, so losing to Brandon Weeden is obviously possible.
A win, and the Colts will surpass their 2011 win total. Indianapolis still has a few winnable games, but if it doesn't beat Cleveland, there's no guarantee it'll be able to beat any other team it plays.
The team will feel the loss of Chuck Pagano in increasing measure in the coming weeks. Arians isn't a head coach for a reason, and the Colts need Pagano's expertise to fix an increasingly leaky defense.
Quotes courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts via press release.