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Film Room: Quenton Nelson Pass Blocking vs. New England Patriots

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

After another disappointing loss to the Patriots, the Colts are left licking their wounds. This team faces an uphill battle with injuries and that only got worse when starting right guard Matt Slauson was placed on the injured reserve after fracturing two vertebrae during the third quarter of Thursday night’s game. This will put even more pressure on young offensive linemen, as it all but certainly pushes Braden Smith into a permanent starting role.

Stampede Blue’s Zach Hicks put together a nice film breakdown on Smith’s performance at right tackle earlier this week. Today we will look at Quenton Nelson’s performance, primarily as a pass blocker. We also get some bonus clips of Nelson throwing players to the turf — if you’re into that sort of thing.

One of the most difficult pass rush concepts to defend is the inside stunt from an edge defender. When the timing is right, it is difficult for offensive linemen to get in good position. On this play, neither Nelson or Kelly were able to react quickly enough to get a body on Adrian Clayborn (#94), which led to pressure and ultimately a hit on Luck.

Rather than look at his target before releasing a throw, Luck tossed the ball where he guessed Nyheim Hines would be and missed wide right. This was an easy interception and an embarrassing play for the Colts.

While Matt Slauson ultimately bails Nelson out on this play, this is another example where he is beat by a lateral move. Trey Flowers (#98) initiates contact on Nelson’s outside shoulder and gets him off balance. He uses Nelson’s momentum to make a move to the inside.

By the time Flowers gets around Ryan Kelly in the middle of the field, Slauson is there to pick him up. If Slauson wasn’t there, Luck takes a hit.

There have been a number of questionable calls or no-calls throughout the season. Some of these calls have gone against the Colts and some have been to the team’s benefit. This is a prime example of defensive holding. If not for the holding, Clayborn doesn’t get a free shot at Luck. Due to the holding, Luck takes a hit.

This will go down as a bad snap for Nelson but it should have been an obvious penalty.

Nelson does a really nice job blocking on this play. Deatrich Wise (#91) attempts to rush to Nelson’s outside shoulder. Nelson’s initial instinct is to pass Wise off to Le’Raven Clark, in order to be in position for Kyle Van Noy (#53) who is lurking at the second level. Clark fails to engage and in past games we have seen this turn into pressure or a hit on Luck.

On this play, Nelson sticks with the block and gets a strong kick slide to recover and keep the pocket clean.

This play is an example of Nelson’s anchor and brute strength. Adam Butler (#70) attempts to gain inside leverage on Nelson and gets shoved out of the pocket and across the field. He has no chance to impact Luck on this play.

Here, Nelson is tasked with negating an outside move from Kyle Van Noy and has to react to the stunt inside by Adrian Clayborn. Unlike the earlier clip, Nelson handles both defenders with ease and keeps Luck clean. The ball is long gone by the time Clayborn is in position to pressure the quarterback.

This play is a bit of a win and loss. Trey Flowers is able to get inside leverage on Nelson and get into Luck’s face but he is unable to get around him. Nelson’s second-effort and ability to maintain position gives Luck time to escape and get rid of the ball.

Flowers is a legitimate NFL pass rusher and he won’t often come up empty handed if he gets an opponent in this situation. He came up empty against Nelson.

This is another fantastic combination block from Nelson where he and his teammates shut down Flowers and Clayborn on the left side of the line. Flowers gets passed to Clark and Clayborn hits a wall with Kelly only to have Nelson finish him off and drive him well wide of the play.

This is a pretty looking piece of film if you’re an offensive line coach reviewing the game.

This may very well be Nelson’s best pass blocking rep of the night. Here he dismisses Wise to the outside, allowing Clark to take over, and engages Clayborn one-on-one coming across his face on the stunt. Notice that it takes a hard kick slide to stay in front of Clayborn and make up for the fact that he is at a sprint. It also takes an incredible amount of agility for a man his size to commit so hard to his inside and still plant his outside foot and get his body into position before Clayborn can turn the corner.

This is another example of a play that very few NFL guards make. This is an example of the type of ability that separates Nelson from many of his peers.

Bonus time. If you like watching Nelson finish blocks, steamroll opponents, or drive them into the turf — this is your portion of the film review.

On this play the defender trips over the 25-yard line after Eric Ebron does his best matador impression. The edge defender is looking for a helping hand to stay upright. Nelson is pleased to greet him and run over him like a rolling pin.

Kyle Van Noy attempts to gain outside leverage to pressure the quarterback. He fails, miserably. Nelson controls him throughout the entire play and slams him into the ground as punishment.

I know, I know, this is a running play. It is also a running play that asks Quenton Nelson to pull. I like these plays.

Here, Nelson gets to the second level and meets Adrian Clayborn. He pivots his body and anchors to keep Clayborn from making a play on the ball carrier. At the end you will see that a mass of bodies hits the turf and Nelson has completely planted his body to drive Clayboard into the turf.

We have kids who visit our website so we try to keep things appropriate. We’ll let you imagine how the rest of this play went.


In all, this was a dominant blocking performance by Nelson. This is the first defensive line he has faced this year that is somewhat pedestrian. Outside of a couple of issues on stunts and a couple of challenging snaps against Trey Flowers, Nelson played an important role in keeping the left side of the pocket clean. It will be worth monitoring how the left side of the line looks when Anthony Castonzo returns to the field, and it looks like that could be as early as Sunday’s match-up against the New York Jets.