Take a deep breath. Relax.
The Colts turned in a pitiful performance last night in San Diego, but I assure you that the sky isn’t falling. There are some concerns across the board for this team as they head into a huge showdown with Denver, but the Colts still find themselves in an advantageous spot at 4-2.
Take a look at the current state of the rest of the AFC South. Tennessee is 0-2 since Jake Locker’s hip injury, and probably won’t have him back until November (at the earliest). Houston is crumbling, with their coach and quarterback hanging by a thread. Jacksonville, the league’s worst team, doesn’t even warrant a mention. With a front-loaded schedule and a one-game lead, the Colts are still in the driver’s seat in the division.
Relax. The Colts are still in good shape.
This isn’t meant to sugarcoat their issues, though. Chuck Pagano has to be more aggressive. Choosing not go for it in any 4th & Short situation isn’t how you win games. The decisions to kick the long field goal (a miss) on the opening drive against Miami, and to punt on 4th & 2 from the San Diego 40 in last night’s game, had a huge impact on each of those outcomes. The Colts punted twice on 4th & Short in the second half and the two punts netted them a meager 31 and 34 yards. In both instances, San Diego methodically drove down the field and scored points on the ensuing possession. In a game where the Chargers thoroughly controlled the ball, giving up possession twice was a critical error.
Pep Hamilton’s “Power Run” philosophy works when the defense plays lights out (at San Francisco) and the passing offense makes big plays (Seattle), but it often comes at the expense of the Colts’ biggest weapon: their quarterback. Having a QB as good as Luck rank 25th in the NFL in passing yards per game (224 ypg) is like owning a Ferrari and driving 45 mph on the Interstate. The Colts need to be more committed to the pass, with the run being nothing more than a compliment to keep the opposition honest. Greg Manusky isn’t free from blame either as the Colts’ rush defense was gashed again (now rank 31st in the NFL), and their linebackers consistently failed in pass coverage.
It’s not surprising that a fanbase which is used to winning 10-12 games, and has seen starts of 7-0, 8-0, 9-0, 13-0, and 14-0 in the last decade, overreacts to losses like this. I'm not one that rides the knee-jerk reaction rollercoaster (after Seattle win: "Super Bowl baby!", after San Diego loss: "Fire everyone!") over the course of a 16-game season, and I suggest you do the same. While there are obvious issues that the Colts need to iron out, they’re still in an excellent spot. Being 3-1 through four games in their toughest six-game stretch of the season is ahead of where most of us had them. Considering the way this season has gone for Baltimore and Houston, a 4-2 record and a division lead is nothing to jump off a bridge over.
At the end of the day, some combination of TJ Yates, Matt Schaub, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick stand between the Colts and an AFC South title. That's a good position to be in.