Sports Xchange - Tuesday 14th November, 2017
Once again, the Colts played well enough to win but didn't. Once again, Indianapolis wasted several strong performances, but found a way to let a potential victory slip away in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Chuck Pagano's team dropped to 3-7 and the Colts keep digging themselves into a deeper hole in the AFC South standings.
If there is a silver lining, Indianapolis still has games against all three of the other division teams remaining on the schedule. The Colts also face a pair of struggling teams in Buffalo and Denver.
Heading into a bye week, Pagano can take some time to reevaluate what's happened so far in the season and try to get things turned around. It won't be an easy job.
"Until we figure out a way to stop with the penalties and turnovers, we're gonna have a hard time winning. Talking the same thing week in and week out," the Colts coach said Monday.
"Didn't finish again, but I see progress. Especially defensively."
Among the bright spots that Pagano can point to has been the improvement by several of the team's younger players.
"Think a lot of young guys are growing up, (cornerback Rashaan) Melvin, (cornerback Pierre) Desir, (safety Matthias) Farley, (inside linebacker Jon) Bostic, (inside linebacker Antonio) Morrison," the coach pointed out.
"The whole defensive front, (wide receiver Chester) Rogers. (outside linebacker Jabaal) Sheard is a vet but improving. (Quarterback Jacoby) Brissett is getting better every week. So is (rookie running back) Marlon Mack."
Pagano had special praise for his starting quarterback.
"For Brissett, it's all about work ethic and intelligence. He spends a lot of time at the facility," the coach said.
--The Colts have now lost three games by three points or less this season (Arizona, 16-13 OT; Cincinnati, 24-23; and Pittsburgh, 20-17).
--Indianapolis has had the lead five times in the second half of games this season and have lost all five.
--Inside linebacker Jon Bostic hope the Colts can put the upcoming bye week to good use.
"It gives us a week to get healthy. Obviously, we need some guys back," Bostic said. "It gives us an extra week to prepare for our next opponent (Tennessee). We'll look at the tape, make our corrections. We've got to get better."
NOTES: QB Jacoby Brissett (concussion) began experiencing symptoms after the Steelers game and was placed in the league's concussion protocol. Brissett, who was checked for a concussion earlier in the game, hopes to be cleared in time for the Colts' Nov. 26 game with Tennessee. ... CB Kenny Moore (concussion) is also in the league's concussion protocol. Moore's availability for the Titans game in two weeks will be decided later. ... TE Darrell Daniels (hamstring) left the Pittsburgh game in the second half and did not return. He will have the bye week to rehab and try to get back for the Nov. 26 game with Tennessee. ... ILB Darnell Sankey (hamstring) was hurt in the second half of the Steelers game and did not return. Sankey remains hopeful of returning for the Titans game in two weeks. ... OLB John Simon (neck/stinger) has been sidelined for the last three games. If his rehab remains on schedule, there is a chance that Simon might be cleared to play against Tennessee on Nov. 26. ... TE Erik Swoope (knee) has been practicing with the team since last week. Swoope was hurt early in training camp. He has a chance to be cleared to play against the Titans in two weeks. ... S Clayton Geathers (neck) missed all of the OTAs, spring minicamps, training camp and the preseason after undergoing a medical procedure during the offseason. He was cleared to return to practice earlier this month. Geathers' rehab has gone well and he might be given the opportunity to play in the Tennessee game on Nov. 26.
RECORD CARD VS STEELERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Jacoby Brissett took a beating, as he was sacked three times and was hit on nine other occasions. Brissett, though, wound up completing 14 of 24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. He had one pass intercepted, which led to Pittsburgh being able to get a touchdown and the subsequent tying 2-point conversion. Brissett ended up the day with a 99.7 passer rating. WR Chester Rogers, who missed most of the preseason with a hamstring issue and wasn't able to return to the rotation until late last month, had a career day. Rogers hauled in six passes for 104 yards and a TD. WR T.Y. Hilton was limited to just two receptions for 23 yards. TE Jack Doyle had two catches for 9 yards.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- RB Frank Gore had a strong start, and ended the game with 54 yards rushing in 17 carries. He also caught one pass for 7 yards. But most of Gore's yardage was picked up with minimal help from his offensive line. Rookie RB Marlon Mack showed flashes of his game-altering skills once again. Mack wound up with just 7 yards rushing on seven carries and added two receptions for 19 yards. The Colts had 71 yards rushing for the game.
--PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- CB Pierre Desir picked off a Ben Roethlisberger pass on the Steelers' first offensive possession. Desir -- taking over as a starter from veteran Vontae Davis, who was released Tuesday -- also had eight tackles. The Steelers quarterback completed 19 of 31 passes for 236 yards and two TDs. WR Antonio Brown, a big thorn in the Colts' side in recent years, was limited to five catches for 32 yards. It was rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster who hurt Indianapolis with five receptions for 97 yards and a TD. CB Rashaan Melvin had missed the last couple of games with a concussion. But he returned against the Steelers and played relatively well, ending up with five tackles. S Matthias Farley added five tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass deflected. S T.J. Green, though, hurt Indianapolis with a pair of costly penalties, one coming on special teams.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Indianapolis limited Pittsburgh RB Le'Veon Bell to 80 yards in 26 carries. The loss of DT Johnathan Hankins to injury in the third quarter hurt. He had played a strong game before heading to the sideline. Hankins returned later to the game, but wasn't quite as effective. He had three tackles and added a tipped pass. NT Al Woods had four tackles in the game. DT Hassan Ridgeway added two tackles, including a sack of Roethlisberger.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- K Adam Vinatieri made his only field-goal attempt, hitting from 48 yards out. Rookie P Rigoberto Sanchez averaged 45.9 yards net on seven kicks and had two punts downed inside the Steelers' 20-yard line. He also had two touchbacks on kickoffs. Rogers took over the punt-return duties with Quan Bray out for the season with a toe injury. DE Margus Hunt blocked an extra-point attempt, but Farley was unable to get two points after recovering the block and being tackled at the Steelers' 2-yard line.
--COACHING: C -- The Colts just keep making the same mental and physical errors in the second half. Indianapolis' offensive and defensive game plans worked to perfection for most of the day. But the Colts' offense wasn't as aggressive in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis had success throwing the ball deep, but the Steelers' ability to pressure the quarterback with numerous blitzes proved difficult to overcome. The defense played well enough, just not when the Colts needed it the most.
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