INDIANAPOLIS – The situation is this: The Indianapolis Colts’ offense is broken.
One of the overriding reasons: Situational inefficiency.
Whether it’s been Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger or Nick Foles under center, the offense has been an abject failure when it’s come to converting third downs or capitalizing on red-zone opportunities.
Read ‘em and shake your head. The Colts are:
Converting 33.5% of their third downs. That’s 29th in the NFL and would be their worst conversion rate since – drum roll, please – 1993 (29.2).
The Foles-led offense went 0-for-10 in Monday night’s 20-3 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, marking just the third time in franchise history it’s failed to convert at least once on third down. The Ehlinger-led offense posted an 0-for-14 in the 26-3 loss at New England, setting a franchise record and tying the second-worst mark in league history.
Teams have failed to convert a third down only four times this season. And as you’ll note, the Colts have accounted for two.
Scoring touchdowns on 43.9% of their red-zone trips (18-of-41). Only New England (38.5%) is worse. During the current five-game winning streak, the TD rate has dipped a tad to 42.3% (6-of-14).
While there’s no denying the impact of failing to finish drives with TDs, the inefficiency on third down has game-long impact. It’s imperative to move the chains, sustain drives and not only keep the pressure on defenses, but give the Colts’ defense a chance to catch its collective breath on the sideline.
The consequences of ineptness on third down is clear.
“Yeah, you score three points,’’ interim head coach Jeff Saturday said on Tuesday. “That’s how you operate. Listen, there’s no excuse. We made way too many errors on third down. There are plays to be made and we didn’t make them.
“That’s the down where it’s critical . . . sustaining drives. We obviously have to be much better on third down. Extremely disappointed in that performance.’’
It’s been a season-long issue and hasn’t mattered who has been the quarterback.
In his 12 starts, Ryan ranks 21st on third-down efficiency: 82-of-117 (70.1%) with four TDs, three interceptions and an 80.6 rating.
Foles and Ehlinger have been downright dreadful.
Against the Chargers, Foles completed 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards and two of his three interceptions on third down. That’s a 9.38 rating. Two of his career-high seven sacks came on third down.
In his two starts, Ehlinger’s third-down work has only been marginally better: 5-of-12, 40 yards, one interception, six sacks, a 15.97 rating. Against the Patriots, he was 2-of-6 for 16 yards with six sacks and a hard-to-believe 2.8 rating.
“The biggest thing is execution,’’ playcaller Parks Frazier said. “I know we keep saying that, but it’s one guy here or there, whether it be a protection issue, route discipline, a timing issue, a read.
“Obviously there are some plays where as a playcaller I have to put them in better position. I think it’s a little bit of everything.’’
As Saturday noted, inefficiency on third down is major impediment to scoring.
And scoring has been a major problem all season. The Colts have lost five straight, eight of their last nine and take a 4-10-1 record on the road for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Giants.
The offense has failed to score a touchdown four times, the first time that’s happened since 1993. It has produced a league-low 21 TDs and is averaging 16.5 points per game. Only Denver (15.5) is worse.
While the second benching of Ryan made sense – he had 13 interceptions and a league-high 18 total turnovers – the offense actually has bottomed out with Ehlinger and Foles.
The Colts are responsible for two of the NFL’s six lowest yardage outputs this season: 121 yards with Ehlinger against the Patriots (No. 2) and 173 yards with Foles against the Chargers (No. 6).
Sticking with Foles
Despite the offense managing just Chase McLaughlin’s 46-yard field goal and 173 yards, Foles remains the quarterback.
“Yeah, Nick is the quarterback and we’re moving forward with that,’’ Saturday said.
What’s been his impression of Ehlinger?
“I like Sam,’’ he said. “He works hard in practice. I think he’s a true competitor. I like his leadership.
“I like Sam, man. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do.’’
James deserved ejection
Chargers coach Brandon Staley didn’t agree with the official’s decision to eject safety Derwin James Jr. in the second quarter for his helmet-leading hit on Colts’ wideout Ashton Dulin. Dulin suffered a concussion on the play and is in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
After the game, Staley argued the collision actually was the Colts’ fault.
“I thought he tried to lead with the shoulder,’’ he said. “It’s a play where they obviously laid the guy out in a tough position, which is their fault, not ours.
“And Derwin made an aggressive play.’’
“It was right in front of me,’’ he said. “It definitely deserved an ejection. You can’t launch into a guy’s head, especially a guy who is turning the other way and unprotected.
“If you look at all the rule changes over the last 10 years or however long it’s been since we’ve tried to take that stuff out of the game, that will be one that they show week after week when they go to teams and say what you can’t do.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.