In a magical season that saw the Colts go from 2-14 to 11-5, the curtain finally closed last Sunday as the Colts fell to the Ravens 24-9. Despite the disappointment of a playoff defeat, there’s still plenty to be proud of. Quite frankly, no one saw this coming. Yes, Jim Mora, playoffs, we’re talking about playoffs.
For an an offense that was considerably aged a year prior, there’s suddenly a young nucleus of offensive talent featuring Andrew Luck as the lead actor with key suppporting actors like T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Vick Ballard, Coby Fleener, and LaVon Brazill. What would normally take a GM a few drafts to assemble, took first-year man on the job, Ryan Grigson, just one. It wasn’t just the young potential of the Colts’ young players either that raised eyebrows and made us feel warm and fuzzy. You could tell that this team genuinely liked each other’s company. In the wake of tragedy in Chuck Pagano’s illness, the team just didn’t play with one another, they played for each other. Out of all the magical seasons that featured AFC South winners and a Super Bowl Championship, this may have been one of the most magical. It was truly inspiring.
This may be just the start, as the future is definitely looking up again in Indianapolis. Going forward, this may be one of the franchise’s most crucial offseasons yet. The team has just lost Vice President of Football Operations, Tom Telesco, to the San Diego Chargers for their vacant GM position and may lose Offensive Coordinator, Bruce Arians, to a team looking to fill its head coaching vacancy. Soon to follow, may be the Colts’ future hall of famer, legendary sackmaster, and arguably the franchise’s greatest defensive player ever in Dwight Freeney. Not only this, but the team has approximately $40 million in cap space and still features quite a bit of holes as highlighted in Sunday’s loss. Most notably, the team must do a better job of protecting Andrew Luck on the offensive line. The success of the rookie phenom quarterback behind a patchwork offensive line was more of a testament to his athleticism and poise. However, it shouldn’t be the norm. If the Colts want Luck to play past the age of 30, this offensive line group is due for a major overhaul. It was a rare occasion to see Luck have a clean pocket, and when he did, he thrived.
Also, withstanding for an upgrade, is the defensive secondary. With Jerraud Powers’ injury history (and impending free agency) and Cassius Vaughn more suited for a nickelback role, the Colts need a talented cornerback to pair with Vontae Davis. This position was exploited in the Wildcard loss as the Ravens’ Anquan Boldin manhandled both Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler all afternoon. On the bright side, Vontae Davis was able to shake past a rough first half of the season and look progressively more comfortable as the season wore on, giving the Colts optimism that he can be the #1 Cornerback they hoped he’d become. However, the secondary could also stand for improvement at safety, where Tom Zibikowski looked a bit slow footed in coverage, and Antoine Bethea is getting a little longer in the tooth.
All things considered, it should be an interesting offsesason in Coltsland. For Colts’ fans, here’s hoping that the organization builds off the core group and bar of success that it masterfully laid in place this season. As Coach Pagano so eloquently put in his closing speech,“The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand,” Pagano said. “You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this. This disappointment and the feelings they all have right now, that’s what’s going to propel us to 2013 and motivate us to come back and work even harder.”