INDIANAPOLIS – At the most crucial point of the 2016 season, the unit that had to be at its best for the Colts to have realistic playoff chances did not play to its potential.
In November, when the Colts were looking several games up at the Houston Texans, Jim Irsay knew what had to happen for that gap to shrink.
"Again, this team is going to be carried by the offense for the most part…It's a team that can score 30-to-35 points per game and we have to take advantage of that. Offensively we have to continue to help the defense early in games."
That help was not there on Sunday against the Texans.
With the defense keeping Houston out of the end zone on all but one of their 11 drives, the Indy offense could not keep pace.
It was a surprising performance considering what the unit had done coming into such an important divisional matchup.
The offense had scored 41 points six days prior.
Fast starts had been a staple of Andrew Luck winning his three previous starts.
Offensive balance was being achieved with the Colts getting a high level of play from several different skill guys.
That all came to a halt on Sunday against the Texans.
- The separation we saw the receivers create all night against the Jets wasn't there. With drops once again re-appearing for the unit, and Luck not having the same cohesion from the previous Monday, the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week had a rating of just 68.4, his second worst of the season.
- The Colts did not control the trenches. While Luck was sacked just once on Sunday (a rather big one though), he was hit 12 other times. Injuries did force the Colts to shuffle bodies in and out of the line during the second half. Jack Mewhort (knee) was in the locker room for the final quarter and a half. Even center Ryan Kelly missed a few snaps.
- Frank Gore had just 12 touches. Gore's workload was the second fewest of the season. Houston dominated time of possession, especially in the first half (19:17-10:43). Gore averaged 4.1 yards per carry, but the balance we saw against the Jets was absent on Sunday.
- The Colts continued to get consistency from T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle (14 catches in 19 targets). However, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen and Jacoby Brissett combined for 3 catches in 14 targets. Moncrief and Allen finished without a catch in six targets. Dorsett's afternoon saw him drop at least two passes.
What gave the Colts hope in their playoff push this season was the return of Luck.
More than three months into Rob Chudzinski's system, Luck was directing a healthy offense that had the ability to score the 30-ish points Jim Irsay thought was needed.
That wasn't the case on Sunday though.
"Those guys played well in the back end for Houston," Chuck Pagano said after reviewing the film from the 22-17 home divisional loss. "I think the combination of the front and coverage – they changed things up, they mixed things up, they did a nice job of disguising some things and moving from one look to another. Again, that helped them have the success that they had and (their) guys made plays and we didn't.
"We had opportunities and we didn't take advantage of those opportunities."