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INDIANAPOLIS – On a day in which the Colts recognized one of their all-time greats with several Hall of Famers inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, the 2019 team honored them with an embarrassing loss.
Inept quarterback play and continued kicking struggles led to the Colts (5-4) losing to the lowly Dolphins (2-7).
What was learned from the Colts losing as a double-digit favorite, 16-12, on Sunday evening?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
- Shocking Listless Performance: A reason why Frank Reich wasn’t overly worried about his team overlooking the Dolphins on Sunday came from the unfortunate, and self-inflicted, loss Indianapolis had suffered the week prior. Well, after being shutout in Sunday’s first half by one of the worst teams in the NFL, more than 60,000 people inside of Lucas Oil Stadium were beyond concerned. Sunday was a listless performance in so many ways. While the Dolphins have gobs and gobs of issues with depleted personnel and looking ahead to April’s Draft, it was the Colts playing like a team that has quickly fallen from any sort of discussion about the AFC’s elite teams. More than halfway through the season, the Colts continue to play to their competition on a weekly basis. You do that and your record is going to be hovering around .500, as the 5-4 Colts now sit outside of the playoff picture.
- Brian Hoyer Struggles Mightily: The Colts are paying Brian Hoyer way too much money ($12 million over 3 years to be exact) for the sort of performance we saw on Sunday. It was stunning to see Hoyer struggle so often with poor decisions and inaccurate balls. He was 18-of-39 (46 percent) for 204 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions and a passer rating of 38.8, which is beyond abysmal and the worst for the franchise since Scott Tolzien in the 2017 season opener. Now, while Hoyer’s individual play should have been better, the Colts could have aided him with more in-practice prep during the week. Jacoby Brissett took the vast majority of starting reps all week long. But Frank Reich thought Brissett looked around “80 percent” health wise after watching tape of Friday’s last practice of the week. So, before Saturday’s final walk-through, the Colts then decided to go with Hoyer as their starter, even though he took very little starting reps in practice. Having said that, it was still surprising to see Hoyer struggle so much, after he played pretty solid in relief of Brissett the previous week. Hoyer’s inability to protect the football the last two weeks has been really costly. Also, quarterbacks often get graded extra on red-zone performance. The Colts were just 1-of-5 in that area of the field on Sunday (scoring 12 out of a possible 35 points). I guess that’s why Hoyer has now lost 10 straight games as a starting quarterback.
- Kicking Problem Isn’t Going Away: The Colts have now lost 3 games this season where a large chunk of the blame could go on the right leg of Adam Vinatieri. On Sunday, Vinny pulled a 33-yard extra point attempt with 11:30 to go in the 4th quarter. That kept the score at 12-10, in the Colts’ favor. The Dolphins kicked two more field goals the rest of the way, getting the lead back and extending it to 16-12. With the Colts down 4 points late, thanks to the missed extra point, they had to play for a touchdown instead of needing just a field goal to force overtime. After the game, Frank Reich backed off his typical staunch support of Vinny, saying that everyone must be evaluated and held accountable. Again, the Colts have a decision to make on their kicker. If they are going to follow through on the accountability rhetoric they constantly make, then the worst kicking operation in the league must make changes.
- Need More From The Offensive Line: Just like Miami, the Colts had some notable personnel losses on Sunday. Down their top 3 wideouts and Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis desperately needed a dominant performance out of their offensive line. They definitely didn’t get that, particularly in the first half. Marlon Mack had just 20 rushing yards on 8 carries in the first half. And identification issues in pass protection started to appear, which comes off of recent pass blocking struggles from a 1-on-1 standpoint. This offensive line has too much invested into it to be inconsistent and teetering on average performances the past few weeks. The Colts should expect more out of that unit—in playing as a top-five position group. The health has been great up front all year long, but that hasn’t carried over to dominant play in the trenches as of late.
- Leonard Gets Back To His All-Pro Playmaking: The Colts had the best player on the field Sunday and his name was Darius Leonard. The Maniac was back to his All-Pro looking self with 13 tackles (2 tackles for loss), 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble. It was Leonard’s interception in the 4th quarter that set up the Colts’ lone touchdown of the day. He also created a forced fumble on the game’s first possession with his patented punch. This is the Leonard we saw so often in 2018, and probably took for granted. He played like a stud on Sunday and did so many things to keep the Colts within striking distance. It’s a shame that individual effort ended with a loss.
-Reich Quotable: On the 16-12 loss to the Dolphins: “Coming off a loss last week, I thought we would come out with a little more energy and play a little bit better than we did…we got outcoached and outplayed on all fronts.”
-Player Quotable: Tight end Eric Ebron on losing to the then 1-win Dolphins: “You can’t explain it. You have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat and you have to beat the teams that people say can beat. At least, that’s how you stay relevant in this league. We didn’t beat a team that we were supposed to beat today.”
-Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: DE-Tyquan Lewis, LB-E.J. Speed, QB-Jacoby Brissett (knee), CB-Quincy Wilson (shoulder), WR-Parris Campbell (hand), WR-T.Y. Hilton (calf), CB-Pierre Desir (hamstring). Running back Jordan Wilkins (ankle) left the game in the third quarter and was ruled out.
-Key Stat: Entering Sunday, the Dolphins were allowing an NFL-worst 32 points per game. The Colts scored just 12, and they are now 0-7 in games without T.Y. Hilton.
-What’s Next: A stretch of 4 home games in 5 weeks will conclude next Sunday, with the Colts (5-4) hosting the Jaguars (4-5), who are coming off a bye week, Sunday at 1:00 PM.