Indianapolis Colts Recap: Week 5, at Cleveland Browns

A photo taken in 2014, when Andrew Luck was the Colts' quarterback. Remember that? That was nice.

Erik Drost, Flickr

This fall, the magazine will recap each week of the Colts’ strange, pandemic-hobbled season. This week: digital editor Derek Robertson, sports-talking-guy Derek Schultz, and Dadball Era columnist par excellence Nate Miller dissect an excruciating loss to the improbably-formidable Cleveland Browns.

Derek Robertson: The Colts’ three-game winning streak came to an end today, as the Reich-Rivers offense crashed and burned against Myles Garrett and the Browns. Rivers’ more mobile, aggressive, but equally turnover-happy Looper, Baker Mayfield, more than got the job done offensively in the first half, where the Colts were held to running just 19 plays total. He returned to his usual inconsistent form in the second half, but that still wasn’t enough to give the Colts a real chance to get back into this game (not least when Reich was doing things like calling a play-action pass from his own end zone with a QB as statuesque as Rivers, leading to a soul-crushing intentional grounding safety).

It wasn’t all bad, as the Colts defense (including Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker Jr, shout out) was able to coax two interceptions out of an overconfident Mayfield, and Isaiah Rodgers ran a beautiful kick return TD. Forgive me for banging the same drum I have been all season, but I think there’s reason for concern after this game that they may not be up to the task against the league’s toughest defenses and most aggressive offenses. The Colts won’t face a truly tough opponent for another few weeks when they kick off against Baltimore in November, but what should we think about this team’s ability to win when it counts?

Nate Miller: Oh you got to watch the game on a hi-def television, did you? From the comforts of your home? WELL LA TEE DAH, YOUR HIGHNESSES! I had to listen to the game on southern Indiana terrestrial radio like some kind of greasy 1940s Bible salesman. Why, you ask? Good question! Because the American youth sports complex has broken this country’s mind and wallet, and I had to drive my 12-year-old daughter to her soccer game in EVANSVILLE. For ONE game. That’s SIX hours of driving. For a TWELVE-YEAR-OLD and 70 minutes of bad soccer. “Beautiful game” my ass.

Why are we doing this? Why are we driving 9,000 impossible miles to tucked-away riverboat towns in Middle Earth when there are legitimately 8,341 different U-12 soccer teams in the greater Indianapolis metropolitan area??? I don’t get it. And I don’t get why NONE of the other parents also don’t get it; everyone was all “there is nothing at all weird or overwrought about this” and “let’s take the girls to Culver’s after the game” and not a single person was “WTF ARE WE DOING HERE THIS IS BEYOND ABSURD?”

I am LIVID. I want to punch the sun in its ear. Philip Rivers too. What was the question? 

Derek Schultz: I could do without the drive to Evansville, The Bunion of Indiana™️, but I would’ve happily traded four hours of whatever that slop was in Cleveland for seventy minutes of mediocre soccer. Look, I think we all completely overreact week-to-week in the NFL. Sane Colts fans knew that this Cleveland offense was going to be their biggest challenge to date and the injury situation with Darius Leonard and Anthony Castonzo was going to make things even more dicey. That said, the Colts offense, led by the 400-year old statue that Derek mentioned, continues to stink. Rivers was bad today, but what happened to “Run The Damn Ball”? Remember that? While everyone is losing their mind over an aging quarterback looking, um… aging, the biggest flop on the 2020 Colts to this point has been their anemic, punchless rush offense.

DR: Yeah, Taylor’s scoring on a sneaky little misdirect early in the game was the most dynamic moment in what was otherwise a pretty dull showing. It’s not easy to gain a lot of traction with someone like Garrett anchoring that Browns D-line, but the Colts’ O-line should be the closest thing in the league to an immovable object for that unstoppable force. That in mind, it’s hard to really place a ton of blame on anyone for “not stopping Myles Garrett,” but there was a stunning lack of creativity in the blocking assignments, which led to Rivers getting overwhelmed on play after play. At least T.Y. Hilton had a nice performance for once, catching six passes for 69 yards. I’m curious, Nate: before the season, you fairly dinged Jacoby Brissett for not being as daring throwing the ball downfield as he should have been last year. Not to get all talk-radio-QB-controversy about it, but now that you’ve seen five weeks of Rivers, how do you think the two compare?

DS: Wait, Nate gets the talk-radio-QB-controversy question???? Derek, this is right in my wheelhouse. Haven’t you seen my LinkedIn profile? The Colts were so impressed with Jacoby Brissett last year that they decided it was worth dumping $25 million into the lap of a 38-year old in the twilight of his career. Think about that. It’s going to take more than two bad weeks for them to bench Rivers, but it’s pretty clear that there’s not a ton left in the tank there. The Colts avoided Quarterback Purgatory for two decades – now, they are knee-deep in it. Regardless of who you throw out there, I’m convinced that the Colts don’t have a good option on this roster.

DR: Point taken. I’ll also remind everybody that Cam Newtonand Jameis Winston, at thatwere free agents for months, or in pandemic time, eleventy-zillion years.

NM:  I also have a reminder to make: driving to Evansville is never a good decision, under any circumstances. Driving to Evansville nowvia I-69is like driving through a Stephen King novel. Somewhere south of Bloomington you enter The Mist, and there’s not another person nor an exit for the next million miles. It is bleak. It is unnerving. Almost as unnerving as the Colts needing a critical stop on 3rd-and-8(?) in the 4th quarter and giving up a 28-yard RUN. We were somewhere outside of Center Grove when that happened, when my unbridled rage took hold. Am I allowed to cuss here now, like Wren’s famous doctor-friend?

DR: Yes, you are, we already proved last week that we can hang with Phil Rivers in the no-swears department. Unfortunately, our chat about this protracted letdown of a game must come to an end now, as the NBA Finals and the sweet, blissful, consciousness-free embrace of sleep both beckon. And while we’re throwing out non-sequiturs about things we really hate, I’ll end on this note: I hate the Lakers, with a pure, unrefined, Silky Johnson-like passion, and I will be engaging in none of the self-satisfied, performatively-magnanimous praise for LeBron that I’m sure will follow this fourth Finals win. The day I praise the Lakers will be the day I voluntarily choose to spend my Sunday afternoon watching some noodle-armed, over-the-hill QB struggle against a mediocre defense like, oh, say, the Bengals’… oh, god damn it.