Colts Offensive Struggles
Indy Did Just Enough vs. Chiefs, Ravens
The Indianapolis Colts advanced to the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots with a couple unconventional performances in the first two weeks of the playoffs. Defense kept both Kansas City and Baltimore at bay, while the offense struggled to do enough to seal the victories.
I looked at the Colts defense against the Chiefs and Ravens and noted that while Indy's defense played better than they had during the season, the opponents coached and played poorly.
So how was their offense?
Pretty shaky, overall. The Colts benefitted greatly in the Wild Card game from K.C.'s pathetic offense that couldn't convert a third down. That put Peyton Manning on the field for two-thirds of the game, and you're probably not going to beat Indy that way.
The Chiefs defense performed miracles in the first half, picking off Manning twice and limiting the Colts to three field goals. But they were on the field for 21 minutes and 5 seconds in the first two quarters -- more than the offense was on the field for the entire game.
Kansas City intercepted Manning again on the Colts opening drive, but the Chiefs offense went 3-and-out for the sixth time (in seven drives) and you can hold back the floodwaters only so long.
Chiefs Limited Colts Options
The Chiefs defense did an excellent job early in the game taking away several of Indy's strengths. In the Colts first 10 offensive plays, only the last -- a 3rd-and-16 -- went to Marvin Harrison, and that was incomplete. Manning's passes on that drive went to rookie running back Joseph Addai, tight end Ben Utecht, tight end Dallas Clark and wideout Bryan Fletcher. All short, dump-off type passes, the last for a loss of 4. That's not Indy's game.
The second drive was more of the same -- short passes, mostly over the middle. This time, two of the first three went to Harrison, and he broke one for 42 yards. Otherwise, the Colts weren't chewing up real estate by any means, but they were throwing more already, as if Manning had already lost his patience halfway through they first quarter. I don't quite get it, because they should have been able to run on the Chiefs much easier than passing.
That proved itself on the next drive. Addai ran twice for a first down, then it was back to the air -- twice to Addai for losses and then a lucky deep ball to Clark for a first down. One play after Addai got caught short, Ty Law got his first pick of the game.
The fourth drive was puzzling. The Colts brought in Dominic Rhodes, who reeled off runs of 25 and 11 yards. You'd think he was due for a breather for a play, but Indy went right back to him for a 3-yard gain. Then an incomplete pass and an illegal chop block left them harmless.
Manning Loses His Patience
The next drive was more of the same, but Rhodes was gone and Addai was back and Manning was dinking and dunking until he heaved one up for grabs (probably looking for a penalty) and Jarrad Page intercepted it.
The Colts put up three more points with less than a minute left starting at their own 35. Indy was most effective then in their hurry up offense and with the Chief defense already on the field for 20 minutes.
The Colts moved the ball well on the ground in spots (Addai had 60 first-half yards and Rhodes had 39; they averaged 5.5 yards per carry), but they never really tested K.C. Instead, they insisted on throwing against a pretty solid secondary and one of Mannings nemeses (Law).
The Chiefs did to Indy much of what New England did to St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI: nail the receivers off the line and disrupt their timing. (Of course, Colts president Bill Polian will have you believe they were being mauled all over the field, but that's Polian's usual strategy, too.)
Manning hit an uncharacteristic seven different receivers in the first half, showing that he can occasionally throw to more than Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Clark, although Clark was the leading receiver with six, followed by Addai with five.
If not for the total ineptness of Chiefs coach Herm Edwards and quarterback Trent Green (a mind-numbing 3:43 first half time of possession), it may not have been 9-0 at the end of the first half. With the Chiefs defense worn out, Indy coasted to the win.
Manning ended up 30 of 38 for 268 yards, 1 sack. Addai finished with 122 yards, and Rhodes with 68. Things were different, sort of, against Baltimore.
Ravens Stopped Indy Cold
The Ravens were 16 places better than K.C. in rushing defense during the season and 12 places better in pass defense, and it showed. Manning was just 8 of 17 for 77 yards (including a 21-yarder to Harrison, and a 19 to Wayne -- 37 yards otherwise) and an interception. He hit Wayne four times, Harrison three and Addai once. That's it: 3 receivers, 8 catches. Addai had 30 yards on 14 carries and Rhodes had 3 on 2 for a 2.1 average.
The Colts opened in the no huddle with three straight handoffs to Addai that the Ravens somehow allowed to gain a first down. Then it was the 19-yard pass to Wayne. Back to Addai on the ground for 2 and an incomplete pass and a 10-yard pass to Wayne again. The Addai on the ground three straight times, but the Ravens stopped him for a gain of two and twice for no gain while giving up a neutral-zone infraction in the process. I know Baltimore has picked off a lot of passes this season, but running Addai into the line didn't seem like a solid strategy.
Indy got the ball on Baltimore's 31 and would have gone three-and-out, except they were close enough for another field goal. Manning's passes were short, and Addai was going no where. Addai fumbled on the series, but Utecht, the only Colt in the area, was able to pounce on it.
On the next series, Manning went deep on first and third downs, but both were incomplete, due to great coverage (not according to Polian, but whatever). Addai went for 1 on second down. After that, a short pass to Clark, Addai for no gain and an interception.
Short Passing Game Works
The Colts went back to the short passing game, which worked so well against Kansas City, and went on a 13-play drive that gave them their second 9-0 halftime lead. They spend the entire first half -- indeed, the entire game until midway through the fourth quarter -- in the no huddle. Strange how they complain to the league when an opposing offense doesn't give them enough time to change their defensive packages.
With no running game to speak of, Manning was forced to throw. Unlike the Chiefs, the linebackers that make the Ravens run defense so impregnable can also rush the passer and drop into coverage. Baltimore did a little of everything, but mostly they covered the receivers, giving Manning few options.
Typical of Manning, he went to the safety blankets time and time again -- no Utecht or Fletcher or Aaron Moorehead this time. Also, typical, Manning's patience ran out, and he made some terrible passes. Baltimore should have had four or five interceptions, but they dropped a few.
Manning usually chews up the lesser teams and has trouble in the big games. He's had trouble early this time. What happens next?
What's up with the Colts offense?
This poll is closed
They're not "missing Edge" but Addai, Rhodes are not enough. Call it "Marino's Bane".
Poor game plans.
Defensive penalties not called enough.
Manning loses patience too easily.
Opposing defenses took away deep ball.