After an incredible comeback against Houston in Week 9, the Indianapolis Colts came home for a matchup against the 3-6 St. Louis Rams. Once again, a slow start put the Colts in a hole, but this time they'd be unable to complete the comeback, as the offense struggled to string any sort of success together.
Fortunately for Indianapolis, their competitors in the AFC South also lost Sunday, with the Tennessee Titans dropping a game to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans falling to the Arizona Cardinals. The Colts also got some help elsewhere in the conference, as the Cincinnati Bengals lost in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens.
Now, the Colts go back on the road in a quick turnaround game: They'll visit Tennessee on Thursday night to take on the 4-5 Titans.
The game takes on even more importance for the two teams with the Indianapolis loss. The Colts could have put the clamps on the division with a win, but have shown themselves to be very vulnerable over the last two weeks. Although Tennessee did lose Jake Locker for the season, their strong pass defense and a volatile Chris Johnson makes them a bit of a wild card.
The Colts lucked out with Tennessee's loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, as the the Titans failed to take advantage of the Colts' loss and stayed two games behind Indianapolis for the division title.
Meanwhile, the Texans continue to lose and have now lost seven games in a row. Jacksonville got a win but is no threat at the bottom of the division.
The Colts have looked incredibly vulnerable over the last few weeks but are lucky to be in a division rife with ineptitude. Unless the Colts completely bottom out, they should be able to win the AFC South with relative ease.
Colts.com and George Bremer
The biggest injury, once again, is Greg Toler, who George Bremer of the Herald Tribune doesn't expect to play. Toler has been out for two weeks now, and Cassius Vaughn has underwhelmed as his replacement.
Mike McGlynn will likely be replaced by Jeff Linkenbach again, who wasn't noticeably worse during Sunday's game against St. Louis. The difference between the two is marginal at best.
Of course, the most important injury continues to be Reggie Wayne's. The team has yet to come up with a viable contingency plan, and the offense struggled mightily in last week's loss because of it. The Colts signed Da'Rick Rogers to the active roster in an attempt to find anybody who could help.
What Needs To Improve
After a 30-point home loss, there is plenty that could be talked about here.
The most important thing is the offense. As I discussed yesterday, the Colts have to either find a way to run the ball successfully or fundamentally change the offensive system. Neither option seems likely to happen, and the topic has been discussed ad nauseam over the last few weeks.
Instead, we'll discuss the defense in this space, looking at one issue that plagued them during their loss to St. Louis.
The Colts play primarily man-to-man coverage in their defensive scheme, and the Rams did a very good job of using crossing patterns and "rub" plays to get their receivers open. In order to avoid this being an issue in the future, the Colts have to improve their defensive communication, which had several key breakdowns on Sunday.
It all started with this play, as Chris Givens (bottom) and Brian Quick (top) run shallow crossing routes as the rest of the routes go deep down the field and clear the Colts defenders out.
You can see as the routes begin to converge, Jerrell Freeman makes a poorly timed lunge in the middle of the routes. The two defensive backs (Darius Butler and Vontae Davis) and Freeman have to communicate better, as Freeman and Butler are on a collision course.
Now you can see Givens has all kinds of room in front of him, while Freeman and Butler are left stranded behind.
This would come up later as well, as Vontae Davis would get trapped behind a pick play and allow Austin to get wide open on the 81-yard touchdown pass.
The communication issues on crossing patterns wasn't limited to rubs either. Look at this play, where Tavon Austin runs a shallow crossing route while Jared Cook runs a corner-post.
Unfortunately, Freeman and Davis both look to stay on Austin and Cook is wide open for another chunk play for Tennessee.
This communication issue has to improve for Thursday's game. The Colts secondary is strong enough that they should be able to shut down the Titans' attack as long as they don't allow big, stupid plays.