Colts look to rebound from dismal offensive performance
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck accepted the blame for Sunday’s shutout.
By Monday, he and the Indianapolis Colts were already talking about Houston.
It’s the same routine coach Frank Reich follows each week — make quick corrections, carefully game plan for the next opponent and don’t overthink what went wrong.
Naturally, one subpar game won’t get Reich to change his strategy even with playoff aspirations at stake.
“Offensively, we just didn’t execute at the level and that ultimately falls on me,” Reich said during his weekly conference call. “It’s my job to put the players in the best position and we didn’t get that done yesterday. It hurts but hey we are shifting, we are moving gears to Houston.”
There were plenty of mistakes to correct Monday.
After throwing at least three touchdown passes in eight straight games, Luck couldn’t get the Colts (6-6) into the end zone even once at Jacksonville. His timing and improved accuracy were off, leading to the first shutout of Luck’s pro career.
Indy’s ground game wasn’t effective either and what had been an effective offensive line during the previous six games allowed three sacks and many more pressures Sunday without its starting center. Ryan Kelly missed his second straight game with an injured left knee.
Reich did some self-critiquing, too.
Three times with Indy in position to kick field goals, he went for it on fourth down. All three plays came up short.
“They outcoached me on that. They played a coverage they had not played in that situation. It was the answer in case they did that and we were just a little off in our execution,” Reich said, referring to the play on fourth-and-goal.
“The second (fourth-down) call, the reverse to (Eric) Ebron, it was a high risk-reward. I had envisioned that play into breaking out — not just a first down but possibly a 20 or 30-yard gain. We had a half yard to go. That would be the one that I would question myself the most on. Just run it up the middle. We had half a yard, run a quarterback sneak or just run a dive play up the middle and get the half yard. I took the risk for the big play and I was wrong.”
Those failures were compounded by a lack of potent plays, something that became a staple during the Colts’ five-game winning streak.
But for everyone inside the locker room, it was a stark reminder of just how quickly results change in the NFL.
Over those previous five games, which included two against top-six scoring defenses, Indy averaged 34.6 points. Luck played at a high level and running back Marlon Mack’s return from a hamstring injury helped keep the offense balanced.
That wasn’t the case Sunday.
“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain,” Luck said following the loss. “(We’ve) got to improve. It’s disappointing. I am disappointed at myself, but we’ll get back to it and we’ll improve.”
Defensively, the Colts pressured quarterbacks, slowed down runners and held fast — as they also did against the Jags (4-8).
This week, they face a similar scenario against the league’s hottest team. The Texans have won nine straight since starting 0-3.
Houston’s defense is every bit as stingy and resourceful as what the Colts dealt with in Jacksonville. And yet Indy needs Luck & Co. to trade punches against a more proficient offense by fixing its flaws.
But Reich refuses to let his team make the mistake of spending too much time breaking down Sunday’s miscues at the expense of trying to rebound this week and reassert themselves in the AFC’s tight chase for the sixth and final playoff berth.
“What matters tomorrow is get better tomorrow,” Reich said. “Get better every day and then get ready to play the Houston Texans on Sunday.”
Notes: Reich only noted two injuries from the game — safety Mike Mitchell (calf) and center Evan Boehm (neck). Boehm returned from his injury and Reich expects him to be available against the Texans. He did not give a prognosis on Mitchell.