INDIANAPOLIS – It will be over soon, because they only play 17 games.
At approximately 4 p.m. Jan. 8, one of the most disappointing and tumultuous seasons in recent memory will end for the Indianapolis Colts.
They’ll either close 2022 with a win over the Houston Texans, who’ll bring a league-worst 2-13-1 record to town, and wobble off into the offseason with a who-cares? 5-11-1 record, or they’ll find a way to lose to those woeful Texans and close with a seven-game losing streak and a 4-12-1 record.
Either way, at this point it only matters to the coaches and players, who are trying to prove they’re better than what the tape has shown during the team’s death spiral.
In the grand scheme of things, Sunday’s abysmal 38-10 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. mattered only to the Giants. Their undressing of the Colts clinched their first playoff berth since 2016 and represented the widest margin by either team in the series.
All Indy did was continue to follow a script that has led them to losses in nine of their last 10 games, including six straight for the first time since 2017. Primarily that would be impotency on offense: one touchdown or less for the 10th time and 20 points or fewer in 13 of 16 games.
“From a season-long perspective, just haven’t made nearly enough plays,’’ interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. “There’s been enough mistakes that you’re just not going to generate offense in the NFL that way.’’
Saturday insisted “there’s still fight’’ in his team, and that everyone’s frustrated.
But one moment should have been beyond frustrating. How about infuriating?
Nick Foles started his second game at quarterback and lasted until late in the second quarter. That’s when Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux had a clean shot of Foles from his blindside – left tackle Bernhard Raimann slid inside to deal with blitzing safety Landon Collins – and drove him to the ground.
While Foles was writhing in pain with an injury to his ribs, Thibodeaux was near him, also on the turf, doing celebratory snow angels. Thibodeaux was so close to the injured Foles his right hand repeatedly grazed Foles with his antics.
Thibodeaux’s celebration continued on the sideline when he made “a go to sleep’’ gesture.
Foles was taken to the locker room on a cart and did not return.
No one with a horseshoe on his helmet came to Foles’ defense by confronting Thibodeaux while Foles was being treated by trainers. That was in stark contrast to the Giants’ reacting to linebacker Bobby Okereke being penalized for unnecessary roughness after making contact with a sliding Daniel Jones early in the fourth quarter.
Even though Okereke’s contact to Daniels’ helmet appeared light, he was immediately confronted by a slew of Giants, led by offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Ben Bredeson.
According to Colts.com’s JJ Stankevitz, center Ryan Kelly said after the game: “. . . maybe one day he’ll learn that injuries happen in this league. You never want that to happen to the guy that you’re going against.
“That’s just (expletive).’’
Some type of in-the-moment statement might have been more appropriate by one of Foles’ teammates.
He was replaced by Sam Ehlinger, whose third game of the season included his first NFL touchdown pass, a 6-yarder in mop-up time to Michael Pittman Jr.
Saturday was noncommittal regarding his QB of choice for the season finale against Houston. It likely will be Ehlinger, what with Foles dealing with the rib injury and Matt Ryan already having been benched twice.
But again, does it really matter?
As the blowout loss to the Giants – and so many other pratfalls before it – reinforced, the Colts are a franchise in need of a serious overhaul. They’ve won just four of their last 18 games.
What needs to change?
“Oh, man, that’s a question I’m not going to get into,’’ said Saturday, who hopes to have his interim tag be replaced by a full-time title. “We can get into that (in the) postseason.’’
Since replacing Frank Reich, Saturday’s Colts are 1-6 and the freefall has picked up steam. They’ve been outscored 212-126 in his seven games. It’s 192-101 during the six-game skid.
“Listen, when I came in I told you guys . . . I had expectations it was going to be a tough road, right?’’ he said. “And all of the things that have happened since I’ve been here . . . again, there’s no surprise.
“You don’t change coaches in the middle of the year when you’re successful. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. I knew it was going to be tough days.’’
Tough days? How about a tough season. The 4-11-1 record is an indictment on everyone, from owner Jim Irsay to general manager Chris Ballard to Reich to Saturday to the players.
Consider the Colts have:
- a league-worst minus-137 point differential.
- been outscored 97-16 since holding a 33-0 halftime lead at Minnesota.
- been whipped by at least 20 points four times in a season for the first time since 2017. During Reich’s first four seasons, they suffered one, a 34-7 loss at New Orleans in ‘19.
- failed to score an offensive touchdown four times and been limited to one in 10 games. Their only TD against the Giants came when they trailed 31-3. Ehlinger’s first career TD was a 6-yard hookup with Michael Pittman Jr. Ehlinger’s individual highlight, by the way, snapped a streak of 30 possessions without a touchdown.
- allowed 58 sacks, four shy of matching the franchise record, and suffered 31 turnovers and 18 interceptions, both league highs. The only turnover against the Giants was significant: Collins returning a Foles interception 52 yards for a touchdown.
- seen their injury-depleted defense wear down. The Giants piled up 394 total yards, including 217 on the ground, and with 26 first downs. It’s the third time this season the defense has yielded at least 200 rushing yards. It had no answers for Jones who completed 19-of-24 passes for 177 yards, two TDs and a 125.3 rating, and led the Giants with 91 rushing yards and two more TDs on 11 attempts.
As unsightly as the numbers are, all that matters is getting to the offseason so the extensive reboot can occur.
Who’s the head coach? Who’s the quarterback? It’s unlikely either Ryan or Foles returns, but the April draft offers hope. The Colts currently hold the 5th overall pick.
This isn’t what anyone anticipated.
“Obviously this is not how we had it scripted,’’ said Ehlinger.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.