With under two minutes to play in last Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, the Colts had the ball back down one score with a chance to win it.
Unfortunately for Indianapolis, that drive lasted all of one play, as Von Miller blew right by Joe Reitz to force a strip-sack of Andrew Luck that the Broncos took back for a score, clinching the game. In the immediate aftermath of the game - one that saw Miller rack up three sacks on Luck - many fans and media members alike openly questioned why the Colts didn’t give Reitz help against Miller, especially on that fateful strip-sack play.
It turns out they wanted to, but something got messed up. That’s basically what offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said today, as though he didn’t get into specifics, he did confirm that the Colts had a design to help Reitz on that final play but that it didn’t happen.
“I’m not going to get into too much detail because it gives away some of our schematical things,” Chud said, “but we always have a protection plan for any game, and players that we need to pay significant attention to. We had a couple things on that particular play where we were going to get help, we were supposed to get help. It didn’t work out. He’s a great player, he’s going to make some plays during the course of the game, but we always have a protection plan for those kind of guys and they’re tough to keep down the entire game. But obviously we need to do a better job and what we had for that particular play wasn’t enough.”
We don’t really have any details as to what went wrong on that play, but it should at least be noted that Chud knew what everyone else did: that Von Miller was going to be a problem. At least the Colts were supposed to give Reitz help, which should be at least encouraging in the sense that the Colts’ coaches knew of the issue and of how good Miller is. But something went wrong. It could have been a communication thing, or it could have simply been the case of a player making a mistake. Chud wouldn’t specify, and that’s probably the wise thing to do as a coach. He doesn’t need to throw the player(s) that screwed up under the bus, but he can at the same time acknowledge that there was supposed to be help.
Again, we don’t want to criticize anyone unnecessarily, so it’s crucial to understand that it’s just speculation as to what went wrong. But watching the play again with Chud’s comments in mind gives at least an idea of what might have been screwed up. Josh Ferguson was in the game at running back and we’ve seen him have issues in pass protection before, and on this play he stayed back to help protect on the left side if needed before breaking out on a route - basically a delayed route for Ferguson. Perhaps he was the one who should have helped Reitz, but it’s more plausible that it was left guard Jonotthan Harrison. On the play, Ryan Kelly and Jonotthan Harrison - who entered the game midway through due to an injury to Denzelle Good - were double-teaming an interior defender while Joe Reitz was left one-on-one with Von Miller. Perhaps Harrison was supposed to pass his defender off to Kelly to help on Miller. Or perhaps it was Dwayne Allen who was supposed to help. Allen was lined up as a wideout but close to the line and certainly within reasonable distance of being able to block Miller - maybe Allen was supposed to help for a second or two before then running his route. Again, this is all speculation, and without knowing specifics of the actual call or protection scheme, we can’t say anything for sure (so, in other words, don’t go blaming a certain player when we don’t know who’s fault it was). All we know is that there was supposed to be help for Joe Reitz on that crucial play, so at least the coaches knew that it might be needed. Unfortunately, something went wrong on the play in which it didn’t happen - and, as Chud said, Miller’s a good player, meaning he may still have made a play anyway.