Rams vs. Colts: Takeaways from Indianapolis' 38-8 Loss to St. Louis
It's the worst home loss since 1993.
Unfortunately, there's plenty of other things that can be discussed.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong on Sunday, as the Rams used a three-touchdown second quarter to get out to a 28-0 halftime lead. The Colts couldn't complete another miraculous comeback this time, as the offense never got on track, the defense allowed too many big plays and the special teams allowed a 98-yard punt return.
It was a true team effort. While some of those issues were aberrations and will be fixed by next week, others were examples of problems that this team has had throughout the season.
So what is fixable, and what is a true concern? Find out in this week's takeaways.
Andrew Luck's Low Turnover Streak Ends
On Sunday, however, Luck was a turnover machine, throwing three picks and fumbling a ball that was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. Luck was visibly shaken after the sack/fumble and was inaccurate for the majority of the rest of the game.
Luck sailed passes often for the second week in a row, and his internal clock was clearly off as he rushed reads for most of the day.
I don't expect Luck to have another day as bad as this, but it brings up serious concerns about the Colts' next few weeks as Indianapolis tries to adjust to life without Reggie Wayne.
Post-Reggie Wayne Life Isn't Very Fun
Speaking of Reggie Wayne, the Colts once again didn't have anybody but T.Y. Hilton step up to fill the void, as Hilton caught seven passes for 130 yards on Sunday.
The Colts' next two leading receivers were running backs: Donald Brown and Dan Herron.
Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to be a liability rather than an asset and has been a massive bust of a signing for the Colts, at least in the role in which the Colts have used him.
It's really to the point where there's no point to Darrius Heyward-Bey being on the field. That may as well be LaVon Brazill.— Collin McCollough (@cmccollo) November 10, 2013
If the Colts are going to have any sort of success on offense, it's going to be through the air.
Unfortunately, they simply aren't getting production from anybody other than Hilton. While that will be enough at times, it's not going to be a viable strategy every week.
Running the Ball...the Struggle Is Real
The Colts wanted to be a power-running team.
Well, in the words of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, you can't always get what you want.
The Colts' two rotational halfbacks rushed for just one total yard on eight carries. In this one, neither back could find room behind a horrific performance by the Colts offensive line, as Donald Brown and Trent Richardson were swallowed up behind the line consistently.
The Rams have been one of the worst run defenses in the league this year, and the Colts could have had some success had they been able to get their backs in space. Unfortunately, they were never able to, and they quit trying early.
The lack of success has led to an offensive crisis and will need to be addressed in the coming weeks.
Critical Situations End Poorly for Indianapolis
The Colts have been much more effective in the red zone this season, and the Colts' third-down performances have been extremely successful with Andrew Luck at quarterback.
On Sunday, however, the Colts were absolutely abysmal in these key situations.
The Colts offense reached the red zone five times against the Rams but scored just once, a touchdown pass to Donald Brown late in the third quarter. Luck threw two red-zone interceptions and failed to reach the end zone on a scramble, while Matt Hasselbeck added a late interception as well.
Third-down conversions killed Indianapolis, however, as the Colts went an abysmal 2-of-14 on third and fourth downs against the Rams.
Whether it was drops, poor blocking or poor play-calling (a fullback draw shouldn't even be in the playbook, much less be an option on 3rd-and-10), everything went wrong for Indianapolis on Sunday, and it led to offensive ineptitude.
Robert Mathis' Success Continues
In the Colts' first eight games, Robert Mathis was an absolute terror, racking up 11.5 sacks and leading the league.
He's off to a good start in the second half of the season, finishing with two sacks on Sunday, both coming in the first quarter. While Mathis wouldn't get another in the game, he did get a few pressures on Clemens and wasn't the reason why the Colts defense allowed 24 points.
Mathis now has 13.5 sacks on the season, which ties for the second most in a single season in Colts history. He needs just two-and-a-half more to tie Dwight Freeney's franchise record of 16. Mathis has 105 now in his career, also two-and-a-half less than Freeney's franchise record of 107.5.
Big Plays Plague Pass Defense
Tavon Austin caught the ball twice on Sunday.
That was all he needed.
Austin finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns on those two catches (and we haven't even touched his 98-yard punt return), and the Colts gave up several other long passes as well.
As a whole, the defense wasn't getting dominated. Zac Stacy ran for just 62 yards on 26 carries, and Kellen Clemens only completed nine passes. But the Colts gave up big plays and allowed some very inopportune third-down conversions.
Combine that with offensive and special teams struggles, and you get a blowout loss.
The Colts Need to Eliminate Kick Returners from Their Roster
See this picture on the left?
Notice that David Reed is getting contacted at the 7-yard line?
This seems problematic. When it happens four times, you may as well quit lining up a kick returner.
The Colts kick returners failed to reach the 10-yard line twice on Sunday and were held inside the 15 four times. David Reed was the main offender, taking the ball out of deep in the end zone three times and never getting past the 13. Dan Herron also returned a punt to the Colts' 7-yard line.
How do the Indianapolis returners keep bringing out kicks from nine yards deep in the end zone? It's never beneficial for Indianapolis. When the Colts return a kick, on average, they don't get back to the 20.
At this point, it's just embarrassing.
Colts Struggle at Start Once Again, Coach Takes Responsibility
The Colts clearly weren't ready for Sunday's game against the Rams. They were completely outcoached.
Beyond that it's because there are still too many weeks when they look utterly unprepared for mediocre teams.— Nate Dunlevy (@NateDunlevy) November 10, 2013
The Colts have come out flat for the vast majority of this season, and when games like this happen, it's a glaring issue that nobody can ignore. The coaches have many good qualities about them, but this issue is a critical one going forward.
Fortunately, Chuck Pagano took responsibility this time, per Mike Wells of ESPN:
"They beat us in every single phase," Pagano said. "We just didn't do anything. And I take full responsibility as the head football coach, did not have this team ready."
Perhaps this game will be a wake-up call for a team that has the nasty habit of playing down to its opponent, or in this case, simply not showing up.