INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The numbers are unsightly, from the bottom line to the lines that lead to the bottom line.
The bottom line: 3-11. That’s where the Indianapolis Colts stand with two games remaining before what most assuredly will be another offseason of massive change. They’ve endured their first three-year stretch of non-winning records in a quarter century and are closing in on a top-3 pick in the April NFL Draft. The list of contributing factors is long, disturbing and, in some cases, historic.
A by-the-numbers look at why the Colts are where they are:
- 0: Snaps taken by Andrew Luck this season. You know why. And his name will pop up from time to time as we move forward.
- 7: Losses after leading at halftime, which is one short of tying the NFL record. Forget the Xs and Os. This is a mess of the Colts’ making. As Chuck Pagano mentioned last month, they’re “finding some really unique ways to screw it up over and over and over again.’’
What prompted that response? Rookie Marlon Mack’s fumble near the Indy goal line late in the third quarter that kick-started a Tennessee Titans’ comeback from a 16-6 deficit to a 20-16 victory.
- 34-4: The Colts’ record when leading at halftime with Andrew Luck – we warned you we’d be sprinkling his name in – under center since 2012. A normal NFL game consists of 120-130 plays, give or take. The outcome almost always comes own to which team makes the right play at the right time. Convert a third down with time winding down to keep the chains moving, protect a second-half lead and keep a pedestrian/tiring defense on the sideline.
We’re not here to diss Jacoby Brissett, who has kept the Colts competitive in the face of enormous odds. But let’s not kid ourselves. If Luck plays this season, the Colts – warts and all, and there are plenty – probably avoid six of those second-half fades. They’re 8-6, maybe even 9-5, and in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.
That’s not hyperbole. That’s reality.
- 9-15: The record since 2012 when leading at halftime with someone other than Luck under center, including 2-7 this year.
- Minus-132: The Colts’ point differential after halftime (91 scored, 223 allowed). That’s the worst in the NFL, by far. The New York Giants check in at No. 2 a minus-86. With two games to play, it’s also the worst differential in team history. The only other triple-figure differential: 114 in 1991. That team, in case you’ve forgotten, finished 1-15 and remains one of the worst in franchise history.
- Minus-88: The fourth-quarter point differential (35-123). Again, the worst in the NFL. Again, the worst in team history.
- 35: Fourth-quarter points. That’s the fewest in the NFL – Cincinnati is next with 48 – and fewest in team history. But it won’t take that much to avoid setting a club record for futility. Just a couple of Adam Vinatieri field goals will do it. The ’91 Colts scored just 38 fourth-quarter points.
- Minus-30: The difference in sacks generated (23) and sacks allowed (53). Yes, worst in the league, and on pace to be the worst in team history. The current team standard: minus-29 in ’86.
Whatever you hear about the NFL, believe this: it’s all about protecting the quarterback and getting after the quarterback. The Colts have been woefully deficient in each area. Only 4-10 Tampa Bay (18) and the 2-12 New York Giants (22) have fewer than Indy’s 23.
- 19/505: Receptions and yards by wideout T.Y. Hilton in the Colts’ three victories.
- 29/347: Receptions and yards by Hilton in the nine losses. That’s not necessarily a slam on Hilton. No player has been impacted more by the absence of Luck than Hilton. The combination of shoddy pass protection and Brissett’s occasional indecisiveness with the football has contributed to Hilton’s dramatic drop-off.
Hilton still has a reasonable shot at joining Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as the only receivers in team history with five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He needs 148 yards against the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans, and he routinely torches the Texans.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.