The Indianapolis Colts (1-3) declined to stay long in London on Sunday, opting to plow through customs and set up residence in nearby Panic City. Their 30-27 loss to the Jaguars in the International Series opener drops them into a tie for last place in the division as they attempt to answer a heaping bundle of questions about their offense and defense.
Here's what we learned...
1. What to make of the Colts? We can question the team's decision to pass on fourth-and-1 with the game on the line, though it would be unfair to boil a game down to just one decision. It would also be unfair to criticize Andrew Luck for not scrambling, which is what we've been asking him to do for the last three years. Something in Indianapolis' offense is fundamentally, irreversibly broken. The offensive line -- the source of so many disagreements between management who feel the talent is there but not coached, and the coaches who feel like the talent is coached but not talent(ed) -- is not allowing for any sort of rhythm. Luck was sacked six times on Sunday and when he wasn't uncomfortably rolling away from pressure, his receivers did not seem to break into empty space. Fourteen of Luck's 27 completions were to running backs, which cannot be what the team envisioned heading into the morning.
2. The Jaguars survive.Learning how to win was a conversational staple in Jacksonville a year ago with a young team. Fans roll their eyes at the patience displayed by ownership, but reports from NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Sunday morning seem to be coinciding with an atmosphere of change. Gus Bradley's staff made some mistakes against the Colts on Sunday, allowing them second and third chances to climb back into the game -- a recurring problem since 2013. However, the attitude and effort seems to be on a different level from a year ago around this time. The 2015 Jaguars would have almost certainly lost Sunday's game to the Colts, but an improved defensive line and ground game make a world of difference. Bradley is apparently not on the hot seat, according to Rapoport, in part because he is well-liked in the locker room. That showed against the Colts. The talent gap is continuing to close, and the next few weeks will provide a clearer picture of the team's future.
3. Reason for hope? The worst of Jacksonville's schedule is behind them in many ways. Winnable games against the Bears, Raiders and Titans are up next with the Lions, Titans and a season-ending date with the Colts on the distant horizon. Also, the AFC South is fixing to turn into a logjam, assuming the Texans' defense struggles to adjust completely to the loss of J.J. Watt. Houston has a marked advantage in talent, but some of their most difficult games remaining, including next week's date with the Vikings in Minnesota and a Monday night matchup against the Broncos in Denver to close out the month.
4. Room for improvement?The Colts are more than a month away from their early November bye week, and might not be in a position to make a season-altering change with a short turnaround next week back in the states. That means aggressive self-scouting moving forward. Some coaches have made their careers on the ability to get under the hood and gut the team's issues. Indianapolis has a nearly Herculean version of this task ahead.* *