Which of the teams playing Monday night was a preseason Super Bowl favorite again? It sure did not look like the Colts, who even heard some boos from their home fans en route to their second straight defeat.
On the other hand, the Jets' bandwagon may be filling up. They improved to 2-0 under new head coach Todd Bowles with an impressive 20-7 victory.
Three thoughts on the Week 2 finale:
1. Where are the Colts going to find answers?
Teams have rebounded from 0-2 starts to reach the playoffs—the Colts did it last year, after falling to Denver and Philadelphia in the first two weeks—and Indianapolis has the benefit of playing in a division that still looks to be among the league's worst. Still, it's not difficult to see a scenario in which the Colts' struggles result in massive organizational changes. Consider head coach Chuck Pagano, GM Ryan Grigson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on notice.
“It's one game,” Pagano insisted after his team's Week 1 loss in Buffalo. “It will not define this football team. It will not define us.”
What about two games? OK, probably not—again, there is plenty of time to recover. Heck, a win at Tennessee next Sunday could vault the Colts into a first-place tie in the AFC South.
Right now, though, this is a mess.
Owner Jim Irsay already this season felt the need to address reports of a growing right between Pagano and Grigson. "That can't be farther [from] the truth," Irsay said on Sept. 13, via ESPN. "Ryan and Chuck work hard together. They have a great relationship."
That is up for debate. Following Monday night's loss, Pagano took what appeared to be a veiled shot at Grigson's roster construction (and what at least inadvertently was a criticism of Andrew Luck's play). When asked about Luck's play behind some shaky line play, Pagano said, “Been the case for three years now, has it not? [Luck] should be more than comfortable dealing with [it]."
And for one of the rare times in his four NFL seasons, Luck was among the major problems Monday night. His line did him no favors and his receivers—excluding Donte Moncrief—were unable to get open, but Luck flat out played a poor game. He fired three interceptions, plus fumbled a fourth turnover away. Luck's decisions were shaky, his accuracy worse.
Even the best quarterbacks have bad games. Unfortunately for the Colts, they did not get nearly enough of an effort elsewhere to cover up Luck's miscues.
For starters, the offensive line had no counter-punch to what it saw from the Jets. Leaving blitzers unblocked was one thing; allowing the pocket to collapse when New York simply pinned its ears back on a four-man rush another was another issue entirely. ESPN ran a graphic highlighting the constant turnover Luck and co. have had to deal with up front: nine different left guards, five different centers, six new faces at each right guard and right tackle during Luck's tenure.
The Jets' pass rushes also worked because the Colts' receivers failed to open up any space downfield. T.Y. Hilton (four catches for 45 yards) can be forgiven, since he played on an injured knee, and Moncrief (seven catches for 122 yards) tried to put the passing attack on his back.
But where was Andre Johnson? Phillip Dorsett? Coby Fleener? After just two weeks of action, questions have arisen concerning what the veteran Johnson has left in his tank—not much, if Monday's effort was any indication.
Then there's the defense, which actually kept Indianapolis in the ballgame for much longer than it deserved, holding the Jets to just 10 points until the 6:20 mark of the fourth quarter, when a Brandon Marshall touchdown made it 17-7. Headed into the contest, the Colts were without cornerbacks Greg Toler, Darius Butler and D'Joun Smith. Their No. 1 cover guy, Vontae Davis, then exited before halftime with a concussion.
At least a couple of those faces should rejoin the mix soon. In the meantime, there will be problems defending the pass, as on the Jets' game-clinching touchdown drive. Indianapolis could not blitz because it needed all hands on deck in coverage, and it could not maintain coverage because a four-man rush failed to fluster Ryan Fitzpatrick. A miserable Catch-22.
Indianapolis plays Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston in its next three games, so the opportunity is there to right the ship. If it doesn't happen, the whole franchise may have to go back to the drawing board.
2. The Revis impact is real
The Jets forced 13 turnovers last season. They've now produced five in each of their first two games this year, both wins. Darrelle Revis came up with three himself Monday night (two fumble recoveries and an interception), and his impact on the Jets' defense has been wide-ranging.
With Revis providing play-making, lock-down abilities, Jets coach Todd Bowles has the ability to put Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine into more favorable spots. Skrine, in particular, took advantage of his role vs. the Colts. He led New York with eight tackles.
Fumbles mostly boil down to good fortune. A player still has to be in position for the recovery, and Revis was twice. The first came on that Luck scramble, when Jets linebacker David Harris popped the ball loose. Revis had been tracking a wide receiver across the field and just so happened to find himself in the right spot when the ball hit the turf. Later, Revis stepped up on Frank Gore at the goal line, then came out of the pile after Gore lost the ball without being touched.
Bowles loves to vary his looks defensively, at the line and in the secondary. When he rolls the dice up front, he has to have faith that his defensive backs can handle the extra responsibility left to them. Revis had no trouble handling it. He's a star, and he continues to prove it.
3. New York needs more from its offense
The Jets' second touchdown drive, which came late in the fourth quarter, was a thing of beauty. Coming right after Indianapolis had scored to narrow its deficit to 10-7 with 10 minutes left in the game, New York stayed aggressive. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed three straight passes, highlighted by a 37-yard strike to Quincy Enunwa. He capped the possession with a TD toss to Brandon Marshall, who bullied his way into the end zone.
It was the passing game that allowed the Jets to get a leg up early, too. They spread the field with four- and five-wide looks, outnumbering the shorthanded Indianapolis secondary. Eric Decker was the main benefactor, catching eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. (Decker later left for the locker room and will undergo an MRI on Tuesday).
The game plan needs more of that wide-open approach, at least as far as coordinator Chan Gailey trusts the inconsistent Fitzpatrick. Chris Ivory and the run game are there, but there's no need to grind out wins if it's not required. The stout defense will be give the Jets a chance regardless.
The game was much closer than it needed to be early in the fourth quarter. Had the Jets kept their foot on the gas throughout Monday, they might have won by three or four touchdowns.