The Indianapolis Colts were able this season to show there is going to be a lot of excitement in the city for many more years to come.
An improbable nine-win improvement into a playoff berth has provided plenty of fuel about the what the current coaching staff can do with any group of individuals it puts together, which was needed with more than half of last year's roster being removed during the offseason. However, on this day it was players maybe feeling the heat as their play wasn't up to what it needed to be to pull out a road win.
Three things in particular stood out in my immediate reaction to the loss.
1. Offensive line play.
The Colts didn't even make it out of the first quarter before two lineman were replaced. Left guard Jeff Linkenbach left with an injury and saw Seth Olsen take his place, while right tackle Winston Justice left for an undisclosed reason and had Bradley Sowell come in. None of the seven were really able to consistently give quarterback Andrew Luck time in the pocket, which gave Baltimore's front line lots of chances to harass Luck.
Luck was still as good as expected and the run game even found some holes because of the comfort play Vick Ballard has developed. The holes though in the offensive line have been known all season and should be a top priority heading into the draft. With a better performance, the Colts playcalling would have had a better chance for success, which overall wasn't that bad.
2. Dropped passes.
Starting with the first throw of the day to tight end Coby Fleener, it should have been seen as a sign of things to come. In particular, third down was a disaster with both wide receiver's Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery not corralling crucial passes near or in the red zone and the team only ended up with a total of three points in those possessions. Fittingly, the Colts' chances ended with Ballard letting a sure first down gaining pass go through his hands on fourth down with just over two minutes left. Without seeing official numbers, at least six or seven drops would be a good guess for the day, which can't happen.
3. Front seven needs backup help now.
The Colts' secondary could obviously use some more talent in there, but the front seven isn't far away. For the most part, the Colts defensive line couldn't eat up the Raven's guys up front to allow any linebacker into the backfield, and the linebackers themselves were hard pressed to play contain on runs to the outside. Pat Angerer was very quiet, outside of a fumble recovery 30 yards downfield and Jerrell Freeman was consistently seen being controlled by blockers. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis won't be around forever, and help needs to be coming to a defense that overall played a good game. The big play was the offense for the Ravens', which came from the time the Colts' defense couldn't take away from him.
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