INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 1-5 on the season Sunday with a 42-34 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
This one was rocky from the start for the Colts, who saw Andrew Luck's second pass attempt of the day returned 17 yards for a touchdown by the New York defense. That theme would continue throughout the afternoon, although Indy, for a third straight week, was able to battle back and get to within one score, six points, into the second half.
But the fact his team is once again looking at an error-filled contest was what was on head coach Frank Reich's mind after this one.
"Unfortunately it's kind of a similar formula — just too many mistakes early," Reich told reporters after the game. "I can just say this at the outset: I'm believing in what we're doing. I believe in our guys. But we've just gotta play better football."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's game against the Jets:
• PILING UP: Dropped passes. Penalties. Missed assignments. Poor execution. For the past three weeks, this has been the formula for the Indianapolis Colts in the first half of their ballgames, and it's led to them facing the daunting task of trying to come back from double digits over the final two quarters. Because the team isn't going to quit, it has been able to, at the very least, get back to within one score in all three of those games, but the end result, a loss, has been the same. On Sunday, the game started with the aforementioned pick six of Luck (on a pass that was mishandled by running back Marlon Mack), and things somewhat snowballed from there. As Andrew Luck said after the game: the Colts want to learn how to win those close ballgames; but before they can do that, they need to learn how to not lose them in the first place.
• OFFENSIVE LINE STEPS UP: The Colts have already had numerous lineups up front along the offensive line this season, thanks mostly to injuries and other issues. But the unit, with yet another brand new group, really seemed to have perhaps its best-overall performance on Sunday. With left tackle Anthony Castonzo making his 2018 debut, the rest of the line — left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith — not only allowed zero sacks on the afternoon, but the team had its best rushing performance of the season. With Marlon Mack, also returning from injury, getting 89 yards on just 12 carries, the Colts would, in all, run the ball 23 times for 127 yards — for a healthy 5.5 yards per carry average. The key is obviously to keep it going now, but with Castonzo and Mack back, there could be some stability in this area for the first time in a while.
• TOUGH TO STOP: The Colts' defense mostly did a terrific job in the first half, forcing two Jets turnovers on back-to-back possessions and putting the Indy offense in prime field position on both occasions (the Colts would only get field goals out of those drives, however). The second half, for the most part, was an entirely different story. The Jets would score at least a field goal on eight straight possessions, and were able to keep Indy at bay. It seemed like every time the Colts were starting to sneak their way back in, the Jets would somehow find a way to dial up the right play at the right time to get them into within field goal range — or better. One or two stops in those situations, and we might be talking about a different result. Nevertheless, that's not what happened, and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus today will start digging into the reasons why.
• WELCOME BACK: The Colts on Sunday saw the return of several players from injury, some of whom had been out considerably longer than others. The offense had Castonzo and Mack back, while on defense, the team saw the return of starters at linebacker (Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker) and cornerback (Nate Hairston and Kenny Moore II). Other key contributors who also made their returns: Hassan Ridgeway and Quincy Wilson. While a few more guys went down with injuries on Sunday (Ryan Grant, ankle; Marcus Johnson, ankle; Robert Turbin, shoulder), the injury report, compared to last week, continues to shrink in size, and perhaps the Colts will get more reinforcements next Sunday, when they play host to the Buffalo Bills.
• NOTES OF INTEREST:
— With 23 completions on the day, Andrew Luck now has the most completions through the first six weeks of a season in NFL history at 186. He also has the most pass attempts (288) through the first six weeks surpassing Drew Bledsoe's 284 in 1994.
— Eric Ebron became the ninth tight end in league history to have at least 300 yards and six touchdowns through the first six weeks of a season.
— Darius Leonard was tied for the team lead in tackles with nine (five solo) and he added a forced fumble. Since 1994 only three players (Pat Angerer 72, D'Qwell Jackson 71, David Thornton 68) in Colts history have had more tackles in the team's first six games than Leonard (63).
— With 10 points scored on Monday, Adam Vinatieri is now 10 points away from breaking Morten Andersen's record for the most points scored in NFL history.