INDIANAPOLIS – As the first half of the season turns to the second-or second to third quarter if you prefer-the Colts find themselves in an advantageous position.
Before Sunday only two of their final eight opponents have an over .500 record or better, meaning that the path a berth in the NFL playoffs and home field advantage is not as treacherous as some of their opponents.
Sunday’s opponent was one of those struggling teams-the St. Louis Rams. With quarterback Sam Bradford lost for the season, the 3-6 St. Louis squad has been competitive but has lacked the finishing kick that has made the Colts one of the best teams in the NFL.
Would trends continue under the closed roof at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday in the meeting of these two squads headed in opposite directions?
No one bit.
In a stunning role reversal, it was the Rams who took control at the start and held it to the finish in a 38-8 win over the Colts Sunday afternoon. The loss drops the Colts to 6-3 on the season as they now have a short week to get ready for a Thursday night game against the Titans in Nashville.
“Credit the Rams and their coaching staff and their players, they came to play,” said head coach Chuck Pagano. “They beat us in every single phase, from the first strip-sack, punt return, minus-four turnover margin, one-of-five red area, gave up big plays, we just didn’t do anything. And I take full responsibility as the head football coach, did not have this team ready to play.”
Many aspects of the team’s performance showed that. They turned the ball over five times-including three interceptions by quarterback Andrew Luck-and held the Colts’ rushing game to just 18 yards. Meanwhile Rams rookie Tavon Austin found every which way to beat his opponent on Sunday, scoring three touchdowns and accounting for three St. Louis scores.
It was the worst loss for the Colts at home since a 31-0 shutout by the San Diego Chargers at the RCA Dome in 1993.
“We did not want to go out there and perform like this,” said safety Antoine Bethea, who had five tackles. “Give all the credit to St Louis. They came in and played hard. We got a short week so we have to put this behind us.”
The Colts didn’t really do that when it comes to starting the game against the Rams. Like things did in Houston, the Colts endured a terrible start right from the first offensive series. Robert Quinn sacked Luck and forced a fumble, which was picked up by Chris Long and returned 45-yard for a touchdown to make it 7-0.
“Yeah, that stunk,” said Luck of the fumble and score. “Terrible way to start the game with the strip sack and then returning it. Then when you get down, I think I forced a couple balls.”
Austin was the one that really forced the Colts to change their plans as he had a huge first half. Austin had an 18-yard punt return late in the first quarter that set up a short offensive drive that was capped by a Zac Stacy one-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0. Austin then took a punt the whole way 98 yard later in the quarter for a touchdown to make it 28-0.
Austin then put a cap on an impressive quarter with a 57-yard touchdown reception from Kellen Clemons to make it 28-0. Meanwhile the Colts’ offense had no answer 74 total yards in 30 minutes.
“Close to the top now,” said Rams head coach Jeff Fisher of where he would rank Austin’s performance among those he has seen. “Just a variety of things, in the return game and then the catch and run for a touchdown. We still had some stuff in there too.
Once again Austin made his impact early in the second half, racing through the Colts defense on a short reception 81 yards for the touchdown. Greg Zuerlein added a field goal to put the lead up to 38-0 as the fans filed for the exits.
Luck finally got the Colts in the endzone in the third quarter with a touchdown pass to Donald Brown, which was followed by a two-point conversion strike to Coby Fleener to cut the lead to 30. But it was way to late in a forgettable afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.