Colts dropping ball as losses mount, games slip away
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Colts coach Frank Reich doesn't need to spend much time dissecting game tapes to figure out what's going wrong.
He sees it with his own eyes at full speed.
Dropped passes, turnovers and inexplicable penalties have fueled the Colts' four-game losing streak, leaving them in a big midseason hole.
"It's been an issue and it's past the point of 'OK, that was a fluke,'" Reich said Monday when pressed specifically on the issue of drops. "We just have to keep working, catching balls."
Sportradar lists only six teams with drop percentages worse than Indianapolis' 8.7, and the Colts are tied with Cleveland for most drops in the NFL with 17. Indy tight end Eric Ebron and Baltimore receiver Michael Crabtree are tied for the league lead with six drops each, according to Sportradar.
Colts backup receiver Zach Pascal is tied for 11th with three.
Because the definition of a drop varies widely, numbers and percentages can be skewed.
But former Colts offensive coordinator and interim coach Bruce Arians said during Sunday's telecast he counted 10 drops by the Colts in a loss at New England in Week 5 and 16 over the previous two games.
The trend continued when Chester Rogers dropped Andrew Luck's pass on the first play from scrimmage.
He was far from alone.
Rookie running back Nyheim Hines dropped a touchdown pass later in the game and second-year running back Marlon Mack joined the club when he failed to snag a screen pass on the game's second play. Instead, Mack, who had missed three straight games and four of the first five with an injured hamstring, batted the ball up in the air and Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne returned an interception 17 yards for the game's first score.
"It's mental," Mack said after the 42-34 loss. "We just have to lock in and focus. Everyone here can catch, we just have to lock in and squeeze the ball."
Another explanation is injuries.
While Luck has played reasonably well behind an offensive line that has used five different starting lineups, he has been without Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) the last two games and Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle (hip) for four straight games. Receivers Ryan Grant and Marcus Johnson also left with injuries and couldn't finish Sunday's game.
Following the loss in New England, Luck said the Colts (1-5) needed to get out of their own way before they could start winning games — and he started by pointing to his own turnover woes.
Penalties have been equally problematic.
The result: In addition to sharing the league lead in drops, Indy also ranks in the top five in interceptions (eight), fumbles lost (five) and penalties (46).
Reich, who played on four Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and won a Super Bowl ring with Philadelphia, knows it's a combination ripe for disaster though he believes the Colts can fix these problems. He has seen it before.
"I won't go into specific names but I've seen players go into a little bit of a funk for a few games, I've definitely seen that happen and I've seen guys get out of the funk and go on to have great years or great careers," he said.
They just have to start holding onto the ball.
"It's a bit frustrating. I feel a bit like a broken record, but talking about it, that's the easy part. It's doing it, living it, but I'm not discouraged," Luck said. "There are a bunch of competitive people in there, but I think we're going in the right direction and the results will come."
NOTES: Indy has re-signed linebacker Skai Moore to the practice squad. The rookie made the active roster out of training camp but has bounced around from the active roster to the practice squad throughout the season. He has recorded two tackles.
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