Since Reggie Wayne suffered a season-ending injury against the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts offense has struggled. It's not that T.Y. Hilton or Coby Fleener aren't suitable replacements, but neither have the experience or the talent level to help give a young quarterback like Andrew Luck confidence in the pocket, who is gaining a reputation of holding onto the ball a bit longer than usual.
However, it's telling that the Colts averaged 26.7 points per game in the seven games prior to Wayne's injury. In the five games since his injury, Indianapolis has only averaged 19.6 points since Wayne was lost for the season.
That's not all.
They've surpassed the 400-yard milestone only once in the past five games and the last time that they recorded more than 300 yards of total offense was during a Nov. 14 win against the Tennessee Titans. Since then they've generated 239 and 264 yards against the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans respectively, scoring two total touchdowns (one pass, one run), while converting only eight of 27 on third down in that span.
The resulting issues facing Indianapolis' offense has thrown offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton into the hot seat, per SB Nation's Indianapolis Colts blog Stampede Blue.
First, his offense struggled to get touchdowns last week against the Titans, but more significantly a report came out from NFL Network's Mike Silver saying that Hamilton is "under pressure" from Colts management and that they think he needs to "step up his game." The Colts issued a statement calling the report just "speculation," but honestly, it's pretty true. Pep Hamilton is under pressure from people within the Colts' organization.
Stampede Blue argues a defense that Hamilton is somewhat inexperienced as an offensive coordinator, that Hamilton is the third coordinator in three years (arguing the lack of cohesion), injuries and a meddling head coach.
"We have our moments where we’re hot and we’re able to move the ball and we’re able to score touchdowns," Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. "We’ve got to make it a point of emphasis, as we always have, to find a way to get started a lot faster."
Darrius Heyward-Bey, hopeful to fill some of Wayne's absent production, continues to drop passes while only generating nine receptions for 96 yards receiving. T.Y. Hilton should set career numbers in most statistical categories. However, Andrew Luck has pointed the finger at himself for some of Indianapolis' production issues.
"Oh yeah, I make my fair share of mistakes," Luck said per Times Colonist. "It might not be as obvious to the common fan. Drops happen. Holdings happen. Pass interference happens. Not that it's ever excusable, but it's part of human error, part of playing any sport and doing anything I think."
One area of absence has been Indianapolis' running game. In the first five games this season, the Colts averaged 142 yards rushing per game. In the last seven, Indianapolis has only averaged 86.1 yards. Trent Richardson, traded from Cleveland to Indianapolis on Sept. 18, hasn't topped 60 yards rushing in a game yet and only an average of three yards per run. Resulting from lack of production is that Richardson was benched in favor of Donald Brown... and Richardson understands.
"I think it's only fair that Donald is the starter, especially the production he's been putting up and the numbers," Richardson said via ESPN. "He's been playing good ball. I tell people all the time that when I first got here, they thought it was a two-headed monster with me and Ahmad [Bradshaw]. I always said it was a three-headed monster."
In his first start this season last week against the Tennessee Titans, Brown rushed for 54 yards on 14 carries (3.9 yard/rush average) and has scored three touchdowns in the last three games.
Cincinnati will host the Colts this weekend with a defense on the rise. Though the total defense (average yards per game) remains outside of the top-five in the NFL, they're building momentum elsewhere.
In the last five games, the Bengals have generated 18 quarterback sacks. In the last three games, they've forced 10 turnovers -- it's the greatest amount of turnovers forced in a three-game span since November in 2006 when the Bengals forced 10 against the Saints, Browns and Ravens. Earlier that year, they also compiled a three-game stretch of 11 turnovers. Cincinnati's defense has also forced six interceptions in the last three games -- the best three-game stretch of picks since week 2-4 in 2010.
Despite allowing 300 yards or more in eight games this season, they've held opponents to under 30 points in all but one game this season (week three against Green Bay). And over the past four games, they've held opposing offenses to 16-61 (26.2 percent) on third down.
If one holds value in trends, the Bengals defense is shifting into a more opportunistic group while holding the opposing team out of the endzone -- they are a bend but don't break style, that takes advantage of other team's mistakes. As for the Colts offense, the story remains how Reggie Wayne's injury has impacted their overall offensive production.