In the Peyton Manning era, the Indianapolis Colts weren’t very well-known for their defense. Yes, they had big name players like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Bob Sanders in the past, but their 4-3 defense wasn’t considered the best at all, nor aggressive.
With a new era in under Andrew Luck, the defense has changed quite a bit under new head coach Chuck Pagano, with the Colts switching to a 3-4 defense. Mathis and Freeney are both outside linebackers now. The defense is much more aggressive, getting more into the blitz-style of things.
However, even with that, the team is still new and young and has to adjust. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday in Week 3, they showed that they still have a lot of improvements to make. In a game they were supposed to win, Indianapolis let their fans down at home in Lucas Oil Stadium in a 22-17 loss, dropping their record to 1-2.
The Jaguars are an AFC South rival, but even with that, this was a game that the Colts were favored to win. Blaine Gabbert isn’t necessarily great by any means, but he has shown improvement this season. However, the receiving game is still weak and the offensive is mainly run through All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Stop MJD and you most likely get a victory.
It didn’t happen Sunday. Not at all. Though Indianapolis got off to a hot start at 14-3 early in the game, the offense sputtered a bit and the heat died down. Things got out of hand in the third quarter when the Jags got right back into the game thanks to a big, 59-yard touchdown by Jones-Drew and two field goals by kicker Josh Scobee to give the Jags a 16-14 lead.
It didn’t look good for a defense that was supposed to excel in run-stopping to allow a 59-yard touchdown go on them. The given was that their secondary was the weak link for this season. The running game? Not so much. But still, the Jaguars found a way as the running-based team that they are.
And with the Colts offense struggling for most of the second half, they finally picked things together with 56 seconds remaining in the game when Adam Vinatieri kicked a 37-yarder to give the Colts a 17-16 lead. It seemed like deja-vu all over again, just like last week when Vinatieri hit the game-winner to give Indianapolis a 23-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
However, on the next drive, all hell broke loose when Gabbert found wide receiver Cecil Shorts III for an 80-yard touchdown pass. The coverage was blown, but the big thing was that there was at least four guys within reach of getting Shorts. Shorts just took off and he was too fast for even safety Antoine Bethea to catch.
And just like that, the Jaguars took a 22-17 lead with 45 seconds remaining in the game. Luck had another chance to show off his fourth-quarter heroics, but it wasn’t enough. With two seconds left and with about 25-yard pass to throw, it didn’t happen.
It just goes to show that Luck can’t do everything, especially in these situations. Relying on the offense can’t happen this year, especially when Manning isn’t even around anymore. It’s still a rebuilding process and it’s only Week 3. But the defense let a lot of people down, especially in a game that was supposed to be won.
Had there been coverage there on Shorts, who knows what would have happened? Jacksonville could have failed on the drive. But what’s happened is over it. It’s on to the next one.
And for the defense, there is still work to be done.