I received a few texts, tweets and various messages where I fielded the same question…
“How was the London game?”
If you only saw the score: 30-27 … it might seem that it was a fast-paced, high-flying offensive show. That couldn’t be more wrong. It was messy, and unfortunately not the spectacle we’ve been treated to with most games in the International Series.
Through three quarters on Sunday afternoon (or morning), the Colts’ offense was as embarrassing as Robin Thicke being chosen to perform at Wembley for the pre-game “entertainment.” There were penalties on seven of the first eight drives of the game, and the teams ended with a combined 18 flags for 223 yards. The Jags have the week off to “get right”, while the Colts look to rebound as 4.5-point home favorites against the Bears. The Jaguars were the better team and deserved to win, but both team’s flaws were on show and both the quarterbacks looked mediocre at best. I’m going to focus on them today.
19-of-33, 207 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- The fireworks (so we thought) started early when Bortles hit Allen Robinson for a 3-yard touchdown. Robinson juked Antonio Cromartie out of his cleats to get open and showed however bad the Jaguar’s season goes, he will always be a red zone threat.
- Robinson makes all types of catches – slants and outs, in space and in traffic. He also drew three penalties on one drive in the second quarter, but dropped a sure touchdown the play before Bortles walked in on a 1-yard keeper. A-Rob had five catches for 55 yards on the day.
- By the way, I simply can’t get my head around why Bortles punting the ball into the crowd is something that will be fined, yet it doesn’t get flagged. Surely, if it’s an infraction, it’s worthy of a flag? If it’s not worth a flag, then why will the player get fined? I understand cutting down on taunting (directing a celebration at an opposing player), but aiming to cut out players having fun is not wise.
- TJ Yeldon had a couple of good runs early and impressed on the day with 117 total yards on 14 carries and four catches.
- With a minute to go in the first half, the Jags moved the ball from their own 20 all the way to the Colts five yard line thanks to some short passes and another three flags for 32 yards on the defense. However, they settled for a field goal to make it 17-6.
- I have an issue with Blake Bortles’ accuracy, decision-making, and talent in general. However on this day, I was impressed with his overall ball placement. In his college days, Bortles had issues throwing behind receivers and not allowing them to make the most of the play, but he did well enough on Sunday.
- Up 23-13, the Jaguars started the fourth quarter with a quick designed play to get the ball in the hands of the explosive and athletic Arrelious Benn in space. No… Wait… Am I writing a summary from 2010? Nope. Benn is still alive and well (meaning he is “a body”). However, he dropped the pass, and a few plays later, the Jags were forced to punt.
- As soon as the Colts brought it to within three points, Jacksonville streaked down the field. Allen Hurns made the defense look bad (because they are) on his way to a 42-yard touchdown.
- Up by three points with 2:56 remaining, the Jags again went with their designed rollout to Benn, who this time caught it and ran out of bounds. This is wrong on many levels – the play call, the player, and the timing. When they decided to then throw on third down, they’d only taken 15 seconds off the clock and Indy only used one timeout.
It was Bortles’ mistake-free play that ultimately kept this game in the Jaguars’ hands. He managed to not throw the game away, while the Colts kept shooting themselves in the foot. And while Robinson and Hurns got their touchdowns on the day, I don’t think we can rely on that happening every week because this offense does not look like it’s clicking at all.
Quite honestly, I can’t see how Gus Bradley survives past this season. His career record with Jacksonville is 13-39, and the team hasn’t had more than five wins in a season since he arrived. Could they have more than six this year? Sure, but the way the team plays and the young talent develops may be just as important. On the plus side, the defense is currently giving up the sixth-fewest yards in the league while Dante Fowler, Myles Jack, and Jalen Ramsey look like future stars.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts don’t have the offense we have been excited about for the last few years. What has happened to Andrew Luck? Should their struggles be placed on him? The coaching? The talent level around him? Something has to change.
27-of-42, 234 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
- Will there ever be a time when the Colts start fast under Chuck Pagano or put a game away comfortably? It’s almost a joke at this point.
- We started the game with a drop by Josh Ferguson on third down, and similar little mistakes added up throughout the game. Dwayne Allen, who was visibly asking why Ferguson didn’t make the catch on the previous drive, followed it up with a drop of his own on the next. He was wide open. Right after that drop, Luck was pressured and had his pass tipped and intercepted.
- There were multiple occasions where Luck was setting up to throw deep, but checked it down to a back or tight end. Whether he was being hesitant and lacking confidence or the receivers simply weren’t getting open, the deep throws that have been Luck’s staple are not connecting right now (the Colts are 19th in the league in pass plays of 20+ yards).
- Again, with a chance at a first down inside the red zone, Phillip Dorsett dropped a catchable ball, and the Colts had to settle for a second field goal in the second quarter.
- I have loved watching Frank Gore as a pro. He’s consistent and reliable. But he doesn’t excite me in any way at this point. Josh Ferguson provided a much-needed spark on a number of occasions for an offense that needs it.
- At the end of the first half, Luck’s stats looked like this: 8-of-16, 47 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, with a 30.2 passer rating, three sacks, and five dropped passes.
- Why did Indy make it look so easy in the fourth quarter? They started in typical Colts fashion by reducing the deficit – starting with a 1-yard plunge from Gore to make it 13-23. It didn’t take long to move the ball 78 yards down the field on the next drive and finish with a 2-yard touchdown to TY Hilton.
- Just after going back behind by ten, Luck hit Phillip Dorsett for a 64-yard TD. Finally they were able to hit on a deep strike, but it was thanks to Jacksonville busting a coverage, as opposed to a well-designed or well-executed play.
- The game rested on a 4th-and-1 with the Colts down 27-30. After dropping back, Luck shuffled forward in the pocket, and all I could think was “just run it”. He had momentum on his side and was just a yard behind the line of scrimmage, but instead decided to throw to Dwayne Allen. The pass fell incomplete. The play featured a great recovery by defensive back Josh Johnson, but so many things could and should have gone differently here – Luck should have ran, or he could have thrown it a few centimetres ahead where Allen should have caught it. Ultimately, the Colts put themselves in a position where the game rested on one single play yet again.
I don’t know how long you’re supposed to give a head coach before it’s time to move on. Every case is different. It’s all very well surrounding your star quarterback with “weapons” in Hilton, Dorsett, and the injured Donte Moncrief, but none of it matters if the passer can’t keep his feet. Luck had no time to get set in the pocket, shifting uncomfortably until he would either check down or get hit. I don’t know how this will get fixed for Luck any time soon. Make sure you read his comments from after the game on being “tired of almost”. It sure seems like a dig at someone, either teammates or coaches. He’s not a happy man.
The Colts have given up the third-most points in the league (125), but have scored 39 more than division leaders Houston and are never out of contention with Luck at the helm. The next three weeks will be huge for this division as the Texans face the Vikings, Colts, and Broncos, which could drastically alter the standings. Whatever happens, it doesn’t look like a true contender will come out of this division.
Other Week 4 Quarterback Performances of Note:
Ryan Tannehill sucks. Move on, Miami. Fantasy owners shouldn’t panic though – the Dolphins won’t move on, and garbage time points are gold. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan is putting on a show, and it’s really impressive. All the more pressure for him to finally get something done in the playoffs, right?
Of all the young quarterbacks being shown love, Derek Carr is not getting enough. He’s led the Raiders to a 3-1 record with a 9-1 touchdown to interception ratio. He looks comfortable, confident, and capable, and if that defense can improve, Oakland could be a formidable team to face. They’ll need to ride this wave and pile up some wins, as the second half of the schedule is tough, but this win was huge against a fellow potential wild card team in Baltimore.
What happened to Matthew Stafford and the hot Lions offense? I am not too surprised by a bad game from him – and I’m never surprised with division games, as every team brings their best – but is Stafford progressing at all? Under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Stafford has 27 TDs to 8 INTs, but he threw two of those picks this weekend as they fell to a disappointing 1-3. For fantasy purposes, Stafford is still going to start all year and have volume, but he’s another in a group of mediocre quarterbacks in this league. On the other side of the match-up, Brian Hoyer showed again that “servicable” is often enough.
I’ve been Marcus Mariota’s biggest fan for many years, but he doesn’t look comfortable or plain good enough right now. The Titans’ offense doesn’t create big plays, he isn’t using his legs, and “Exotic Smashmouth” is not working out. I’m out on Mariota for fantasy purposes until he shows anything different. Also in the AFC South, Brock Osweiler has matched his 2015 interception total (6) but Houston continues to ride their defense at 3-1. Can you win it all with an average quarterback? Sure. But you need that quarterback to step up when it counts. Osweiler has shown nothing so far, but time will tell.
Tyrod Taylor played well. Russell Wilson played very well. Kirk Cousins hasn’t looked like the hot quarterback he was last year, but he was clinical on Sunday against the hapless Browns, who fumbled away the game in the second half. Cousins threw three short touchdown passes to make up for a meager 183 yards on the day. In Denver, Trevor Siemian should continue to be the starter after seeing Paxton Lynch enter the game for the Broncos – the rookie does not look ready.
Was anyone surprised the Chargers-Saints game nearly topped 70 total points? Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in catch-up mode for the rest of the year? Plug and play. Dak Prescott is legit (still), and so is the Steelers offense, as Big Ben is tied for the league lead in touchdowns.
Finally, Sam Bradford is the greatest, and the Eagles can expect to recoup a second round pick when the Vikings win it all (no jinx intended).
Quarterbacks covered so far:
- Week 1 – Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz
- Week 2 – Philip Rivers and Sam Bradford
- Week 3 – Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer