(7-4) Colts 11 – Cardinals 40 (7-4)
Against teams with losing records, like the now the 2-9 Texans and 5-6 Titans, the Colts were able to find ways to win after falling behind in the first half. The early deficits, no matter how large, were of no cause of concern — 17-6, 21-3 — because it was just assumed that Andrew Luck would lead another fourth-quarter comeback drive. It was not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.”
However, this “Cardiac Colts” style of play was risky business. Against a contender, such deficits would not be so easy to overcome. The Colts found that out Sunday when they played the red hot Arizona Cardinals.
I’ll admit, I saw the score at halftime — 27-3 — and wasn’t really worried. I’d become used to the comebacks, and maybe I took for granted how special and difficult to achieve they really were. It was unrealistic to think that way. The Cardinals’ simply had the Colts’ number Sunday, and, similarly to the St. Louis Rams in Week 10, Arizona exposed of all Indy’s weaknesses, leaving everyone scratching their heads.
Who are these Colts? Is this the same team as the one that beat powerhouses Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver earlier in the season? Or is this a team that is simply run down, depleted by injuries, and just salvaging what they can out of sheer grit? We’ll find out in the next month, when the Colts travel to Cincinnati and Kansas City to take on the AFC North-leading Bengals and the 9-2 Chiefs. As ESPN’s Mike Wells suggested, the team will need to “do some soul searching.”
So what exactly went wrong for the Colts Sunday in the desert? Well, little went right, if that is any indication. Luck threw for just 163 yards, the second-worst output of his career, and had one very bad pick under duress. Dan Herron (who?) led the team in rushing, while Trent Richardson and Donald Brown combined for a measly 16 yards on 9 carries. No receiver recorded more than 55 yards. The Colts could only convert on 38% of their third down attempts (the Reggie Wayne effect), and were 0/2 on fourth down. Meanwhile, the Colts defense allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He completed over 70% of his passes. It didn’t help that the Cardinals’ head coach is Bruce Arians, the Colts’ former offensive coordinator and interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was receiving treatment for cancer. Arians knows the Colts well, and he used that intel to his advantage.
There is a silver lining, and it’s a good one. If the Colts can beat Tennessee next week, they will clinch the AFC South title. The team’s early success is mightily helping them now. However, if this team wants to make any kind of run in the playoffs, they are going to need to make some changes — and make them quickly.