Hits And Misses: Fundamentals Lacking In Colts Loss To The Patriots
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INDIANAPOLIS – A new series on 1070TheFan.com this year will be defining ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ from the previous game.
The Colts did have some positives despite an injury-riddled night, with fundamentals also lacking, in the 38-24 loss to the Patriots.
What was the good and bad from Week Five of the regular season?
-Zero Shoulder Questions: Physically, we need to shut off the questions about Andrew Luck’s shoulder. He tossed it 59 times on Thursday night, the second most of his career. That came on the heels of him throwing it a career-high 62 times in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Luck was outstanding, too, with a such a depleted skill group around him. There was noticeable zip, precise ball placement and a 365-yard night to show for it. Luck hardly received any help from his skill group with around 7 drops. But he trudged along without any practices during the week and had his best game in 6 career outings against the Patriots.
-Braden Smith Holds His Own: The tragic news surrounding the death of Denzelle Good’s brother earlier this week meant the Colts had to shuffle things at right tackle once again. It was time to try Braden Smith, who came into Thursday night with just 10 offensive snaps in his rookie season. Smith held his own though playing at right tackle, even though his more natural position is right guard. The Colts allowed just 1 sack in 59 drop backs for Andrew Luck and that came on the first pass attempt of the game. New England’s defensive front isn’t as menacing as Houston, but kudos to Smith for playing well (on the road, in a short week, and out of position a bit) in his first serious NFL action.
-Colts Receive Playmaking From Erik Swoope: Earlier in the season, I wasn’t sure if Erik Swoope would be getting many more chances with this new regime. I was wrong. Swoope got called back up to the active roster this week and showed up with 3 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. With Jack Doyle’s return in Week 6 definitely not a guarantee, the Colts are going to need more from Swoope. Remember, Frank Reich is very open to multiple tight end personnel groupings and Swoope showed last night he should receive some more playing time.
-New No. 1 running back? If the last two weeks are any indication, Nyheim Hines could be this team’s top running back, from a play count standpoint, moving forward. Hines outsnapped Jordan Wilkins 56-to-18 on Thursday night. Now, the Colts have gotten behind early in the last two weeks, but they aren’t really using Wilkins much early in the first quarter anyways. And credit to Hines for stepping up after a preseason of mistakes on special teams. He had 15 carries for 45 yards and 7 catches for 45 yards on Thursday night. In the last two weeks, Hines has 16 catches for 108 yards on 20 targets.
-Drops Dominate Fundamental Miscues: So much for the Colts being one of the more sure-handed teams in the league. The early-season success in that area of the game is gone after consecutive performances filled with drops. The Colts had around 7 drops on Thursday night, with some key ones occurring with the team still within striking distance during the first half. Guys like Chester Rogers (8 catches for 66 yards) and Eric Ebron (9 catches for 105 yards, 2 touchdowns) had stretches of really good football on Thursday, but they also had key drops. The trusty Ryan Grant had two bad drops. Even one of Andrew Luck’s interceptions should fall squarely on the shoulders of Zach Pascal for mishandling an on-target throw. On the road, against the Patriots, you cannot overcome the amount of drops the Colts had in Week Five.
-Absent Pass Rush: Through the first four weeks, the Colts were one of the best teams in the league in getting after the quarterback. That pressure was nowhere to be found on Thursday night. Tom Brady attempted 44 passes on Thursday. The Colts didn’t sack him once and only hit the future Hall of Famer three times all night. For a defense that had offered up key playmaking throughout the start of the 2018 season, it wasn’t there to the same level on Thursday night. Hence the reason for the 24-3 halftime score.
-Defense Not Ready For Tempo: Yes, credit to Bill Belichick for taking full advantage of how banged-up/tired the Colts were coming into Thursday. After a 70-minute overtime loss on Sunday, the Colts were also traveling on a short week so Belichick ramped up the offensive tempo to start Thursday’s contest. The Colts weren’t equipped to handle the tempo and Brady was a perfect 14-of-14 to start the game. Game plan/schematic wise you would have liked to see the Colts counter the tempo with more blitzing or some mixing of man coverage. That’s a little out of the norm for coordinator Matt Eberflus, but desperate measure are needed when Tom Brady is in such a rhythm.
-Health Of The Roster: For chunks of Thursday night’s game the Colts were missing 11 or 12 starters. Frank Reich doesn’t want to hear any injury excuses. But it is rather alarming that his team is this banged up already in Week Five. Why did the Texans have zero guys ruled out because of injury back on Sunday and the same thing for the Patriots on Thursday? Is this an organizational issue? Does blame go to the strength and conditioning program? The nutritional aspect of things? The training room? Is it a fluke? It’s so hard to point where the root of the constant injuries issues is for the Colts.
Some snap counts for the #Colts on Thursday.
The wideouts without T.Y. Hilton:
-Ryan Grant (68-of-83; 6 catches for 58 yards)
-Chester Rogers (64-of-83; 8 catches for 66 yards)
-Zach Pascal (64-of-83; 1 catch for 12 yards)
-Marcus Johnson (35-of-83; 2 catches for 26 yards)
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) October 5, 2018