INDIANAPOLIS — Football is a funny game in the sense that some mistakes are crystal clear, while others require in-depth explanations.
The most casual of fans probably can’t explain exactly why a linebacker was able to get free on a blitz to get a sack, but they can see a ball bounce off an open receiver’s hands and know, quite simply, what the issue was on that particular play.
The Indianapolis Colts’ receivers have struggled at times in recent games to haul in every catchable pass thrown their way. And, because it’s so obvious when it happens during the course of a game — especially when the drops come at crucial junctures of crucial drives — the problem seems to have been magnified the last two or three weeks, especially.
Had it been an issue for one game, or maybe two, head coach Frank Reich could justify just shaking it off. But he told reporters today the drops now are “past the point of, ‘OK, that was a fluke.’”
But are the Colts hitting the panic button at this point? Absolutely not.
“Even though three games is way too much, it’s not at the point where it’s like, ‘OK, let’s throw in the towel. We got to find a bunch of new guys,’” Reich said. “I don’t feel like that at all. There are plenty of examples of guys who have struggled for a couple games and then snapped out of it and played well.”
According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts had a solid start to the season in this area, as they had just two dropped passes Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and they were not credited with any drops in Week 2 or Week 3.
It’s been a different story since, however. PFF gave the Colts five dropped passes each in Week 4 (Houston Texans), Week 5 (New England Patriots) and in Sunday’s Week 6 loss to the New York Jets.
Is there a bigger issue at play? Are the pass catchers feeling some pressure? Is the issue contagious?
Reich doesn’t really buy into any of those notions.
“When you are in the heat of the moment you are just thinking about making that play,” Reich said. “So I don’t really worry about it from that standpoint that, ‘Hey, there is too much pressure,’ or anything like that. I think it comes down to as we were saying fundamentals and technique and then I do think as we said earlier, a second ago, there is some mental confidence to it. When you are playing with a lot of confidence, I think that factors in well also.”
Another key factor: the Colts have been without their two top targets for multiple weeks now. Tight end Jack Doyle — one of the more sure-handed players in the league — has missed four straight games with a hip injury, while wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed the last two games with chest and hamstring injuries.
Like any other team, however, Indy has been forced to move on when injuries strike. The next men up are counted on to deliver when their numbers are called.
The Colts will just keep on working at it.
“We just have to keep working, catching balls,” Reich said. “I mean, we feel like we got good depth and we rotate guys around and we spread the ball around. So we will continue to do that ... We will just keep working through it trying to get better.”
The Colts on Sunday saw three players exit the game with injuries, but Reich didn’t have much in the way of updates on those guys on Monday.
Those who left the Jets game were running back Robert Turbin (shoulder) and wide receivers Ryan Grant and Marcus Johnson, both of whom had ankle injuries. Johnson had to be carted off the field after suffering his injury along the New York sideline on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
The Colts begin practice for this Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday, so keep it tuned to Colts.com for all the latest on the team’s evolving injury situation.