So much for the common perception that the Indianapolis Colts’ defense is built to play with a lead.
The Colts’ stop unit surrendered 21 unanswered points after the team’s offense established a 17-point lead, and Indy suffered a crushing 28-24 home loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now 0-5 for the first time since 1997 after blowing what might have been their best chance to date at their first win of 2011, the Colts go forward with many questions — one of them being when that first victory will come.
- What happened to the “play with a lead” idea? The Colts certainly had a lead for their defense to play with. Indy built an early 17-0 lead on touchdown connections between Curtis Painter and Pierre Garcon — one of which was a 67-yard bomb on which Garcon blew up Kansas City’s coverage. Painter, who finished 15-of-27 for 277 yards and those two touchdowns, also made nice connections with Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, whose catch near the goal line set up running back Delone Carter’s first career touchdown run. After that, though, it was all Chiefs, who marched down the field trailing 24-7 right before halftime to score on a Matt Cassel-to-Steve Breaston connection that cut the halftime deficit to 10. The Chiefs then took advantage of an epic mismatch that was receiver Dwayne Bowe on Colts cornerback Jacob Lacey (Bowe caught seven passes for 128 yards and two scores) and ran all over the Indy defense the rest of the game, scoring 21 unanswered points en route to a late come-from-behind victory. Cassel finished with four touchdown passes.
- What was with the defense? The Colts’ woes defending the run have been well documented for the better part of this past decade. Sunday’s collapse of the defensive side of the ball was all too familiar. The Chiefs, who entered the game without star running back Jamaal Charles for the remainder of the season, still got their yards behind a stout offensive line and against a Colts front seven that was missing the explosiveness of defensive tackles Drake Nevis and Eric Foster. Reserve back Jackie Battle led the Kansas City ground attack with 119 yards, and veteran Thomas Jones added 55. The Colts, who defended the run so well against Pittsburgh, had no answer for the Chiefs’ backs.
- What adjustments, if any, did the Colts’ coaching staff make? It seems as though there was no response on the Colts’ sideline to the team’s struggles on defense no matter what mismatches Cassel or the Chiefs running backs continued to exploit. Perhaps most baffling is why defensive coordinator Larry Coyer didn’t shift No. 1 corner Jerraud Powers over to cover Bowe. Lacey had no chance on him. Questionable decision-making also plagued the offense. Head coach Jim Caldwell decided to punt in Chiefs territory with 2:37 to play — this was when the Colts trailed — after the defense had been gassed all day. An offsides penalty on Kansas City nullified the punt — the Colts then went for it and failed to convert — but you have to wonder what originally was going through Caldwell’s mind in making that call.
- When will this team win? This matchup appeared to be the Colts’ best chance to date to win in 2011. Since they lost, that elusive first win might not come for a while. Indy conceivably could notch a victory next week at Cincinnati, but the Bengals are making that look like an extremely difficult proposition with the way they are playing defense and how effective rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie wideout A.J. Green have been. The Colts then visit the Saints in New Orleans and then travel to Nashville for a division contest with the Titans, who are beginning to look like a potential team to beat in the AFC South with the Texans’ losing Mario Williams for the season. The following week, Indy hosts Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Tough slate that might not result in a win until Week 10 when the Jaguars come to Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts fans need to brace themselves.
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