The Colts and their fans are entering into uncharted territory after Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Colts are now 0-6, and seemingly destined for a losing season, something no fan has seen in the last decade. While the Colts season is far from over, their playoff hopes are virtually zero, making the rest of this season seem to not matter.
On Sunday, the Colts saw many things to keep their spirits up, including the development of some players into taking on larger roles on the team. While the Bengals have statistically the number one defense in the NFL, the Colts managed to have a relatively decent game statistically posting 273 yards of total offense, most of which coming through the air.
What Sunday's game solidified was the fact that the Colts have an issue with depth, something that they will need to address in the off season through their health and wellness staff and the draft. The Detroit Lions have been a fantastic image this season of how building depth can impact a game, sending 7 defensive lineman and rotating them while all of them stay productive.
Looking ahead, the Colts schedule doesn't get too much prettier than it was the past two weeks, however here are a few winners and losers from Sunday's game going forward.
Before this weeks game, I felt that this was Donald Brown's week to show the Colts organization that he is in position to get out of the dog house and show that he is the best running back on the roster. While only getting a limited number of touches he had 35 yards on five carries with a touchdown.
Comparatively to Brown, Delone Carter only gained 45 yards on twelve carries, none of which went for more than ten yards. The rookie out of Syracuse was given the nod with the injury to Joseph Addai, however he did nothing to stand out or impress.
Donald Brown took advantage of his carries that he got, bursting for an eighteen yard score in the first half to tie the game. While he didn't get many carries on the day, Brown was in the game in passing situations late for his pass block abilities, which seemed a little rusty.
On a whole though, this game was a large impression that Donald Brown is the best running back the Colts can put out on the field any given week.
Looking ahead, the Colts travel to New Orleans next week, a game which will probably give the Colts a lot of trouble with a weak offensive line. Look for Donald Brown to get a lot more playing time next week, hopefully getting a few more touches.
The strongest unit of the Colts so far this season was almost non-existent on Sunday. The dynamic duo of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney combined for zero tackles and one pass deflection. This is one of the first times in recent memory that a team has contained these two from having no statistical impact on a game.
While the two of them weren't the only ones who seemingly didn't show up on paper, the entire Colts defensive unit failed to get a sack against the Bengals. While the Colts defense normally has a good push against the pass, it wasn't there, allowing rookie Andy Dalton to complete 78% of his passes for 264 yards.
While the defensive front is the strength of the defense, they can use some help from some better depth in the secondary to give them more time to pressure the quarterback. If the corners are letting coverage break down, any quarterback will take the throw, making the Colts front four seemingly invisible.
For the third week in a row, Curtis Painter has played a very acceptable game for the Colts. While his yards weren't as high as recent weeks, Painter completed a higher percentage of passes and was able to sustain his play throughout the game. He led the Colts down an impressive drive and they had an opportunity at a field goal to tie the game with five minutes left in the game.
While the Colts may not be winning and continue to inch closer towards landing Andrew Luck, it may push Painter out of the Colts long term picture. With that being said, Painter is showing in these games that he is a viable back-up and has not done anything to lose games filling in for a starter.
The Colts schedule is not going to get any easier in the coming weeks, if Painter continues to sustain consistent play, he will easily have a job as a back-up in the NFL for the rest of his career, potentially getting a shot as a starter if the situation is right. One way or another, the Colts will most likely look to replace him with Manning's future successor in the next draft, whether it is Luck or someone else.
Jim Caldwell is not a bad coach in any sense, however, come the end of the season there will need to be changes made after the way this team has performed. The loss of Peyton Manning should not be accounted for a 10 win swing for the Colts. As the head coach of the Colts, Caldwell should have a better grasp on this team and putting them in the position to win without their franchise player.
In his first couple seasons as head coach, he had success because the play of Manning was consistent. This season Caldwell has seemingly no control on the offense that has not been producing touchdowns, which raises the question if Manning is the true coach of this team.
Manning has been seen on the sidelines calling time outs during offensive drives, and it is well known that he controls the offense when he is in the game. If this is the case, Caldwell is accounting for the defense which seems to disappoint every season, especially against the run.
The Colts need someone from outside the organization to come in and bring a new philosophy to the defense, mainly one which will not run a Tampa 2 with small linebackers. In the time after Manning, the Colts will need to rely on their defense even more, and not being able to stop the run isn't going to cut it.
Just a thought.