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Film Room: Colts Offensive Line dominates the Cowboys’ Defensive Front

The Colts’ Oline had a day against the talented Cowboys defense.

Dallas Cowboys v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts notched their 8th win of the season in a 23-0 route of the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys came into the week with one of the top defenses in all of football, lead by their dominant front seven that features some insanely athletic linebackers. The Colts’ offense was missing a few pieces as standout right guard Mark Glowinski was out due to injury and Pro-Bowl caliber center Ryan Kelly was making his first start in weeks.

Overall though, the Colts’ offensive line along with Ryan Hewitt and Mo Alie-Cox absolutely dominated the Cowboys’ front seven. The lineman looked motivated in all aspects of the game and came out with a fire that was even a new level for them. Every rep featured the Cowboys’ dominant front being knocked back on their heels. Anthony Castonzo and Quenton Nelson were borderline great in this game.

This is part one of a two part Film Room series I’ll be doing this week on the Colt- Cowboys game. Tomorrow I will look at the other side of the ball, as the Colts’ front seven on defense also dominated the Cowboys’ offensive line. For now though, let’s jump into the offensive line film of the Colts.

Film Review

The first clip here is a good one, as both Ryan Kelly and Anthony Castonzo are able to get to the second level to help spring Marlon Mack. The play starts with two excellent down blocks by both Mo Alie- Cox and Braden Smith. Quenton Nelson also shows off elite hip movement and body control by being able to establish inside position on his guy and shield off movement of the defender— he actually takes out two backside defenders here. Joe Haeg crushes a cornerback on his pull, while both Castonzo and Kelly get enough of the linebackers to get Mack more yards. Great blocking all around.

This next clip again features movement along the offensive line. First, Castonzo pulls outside which leads to the defensive end shooting upfield and losing contain. Then, Hewitt pulls across the line of scrimmage and performs an excellent block on the linebacker to create the lane up the gut. Nelson also handles his guy inside to create the initial lane. The block of the play though goes to Ryan Kelly as he gets to the second level and seals off Leighton Vander Esch. Nearly results in a touchdown.

I absolutely love this next clip. The Colts love this play and have run it quite a bit this season. They love bringing their tight end inside on these trap plays to block the free rushing defender. However, the Colts have lessened their usage of these types of plays ever since Jack Doyle went down with a season ending injury. Here, they use Alie-Cox in that role and he blocks it perfectly. He seals off the edge perfectly and gives Mack just enough room to squeeze in for the touchdown. Shout-out to Nelson on this play too as he buries his guy in the ground with a very mean spirited block.

Next clip again features Mack being sprung for a big gain— a common theme throughout the game. Alie- Cox again blocks the free rusher on the trap play which leads to the initial gain. Watch Nelson on the other side though and how effortlessly he is able to flip his hips while engaged with his defender. That is elite movement skills by a Pro- Bowl caliber player. Haeg also makes a huge block on Vander Esch— driving him out of the play— and Kelly gets enough of Jaylon Smith. If Zach Pascal held his block a bit longer, this could’ve been a much bigger run.

A staple of the Colts’ offense is this next sweep play here. This play has gone for big gains in the past— notably the 53-yard Jordan Wilkins run against the Jaguars— and here it again finds success. The inside blockers all do their job initially as nobody allows an interior defender to leak through. Pascal gets a very nice down block on the defensive end. Castonzo takes the cornerback completely out of the play— regardless of what the officials call, this is not a block in the back. Kelly leads the way on this play as Mack follows him the entire way for the big first down.

This next rep was mainly added because of one block in particular but overall its still a well blocked play. Kelly Castonzo and Alie-Cox all hold their blocks and Mack is able to run behind them for the solid gain. Look at Nelson though against Vander Esch. Nelson drives him completely out of the play and Vander Esch is left stumbling. LVE loses his footing and Nelson takes that opportunity to bury LVE in the ground. This is a rookie-on-rookie crime right here and Nelson shows just how great he has been this year.

This next rep is nothing special but I just wanted to add it in to highlight how good they were in pass blocking on Sunday. They had some rough moments for sure but overall the line did a great job of diagnosing stunts and blitzes all day. The Cowboys’ front is similar to the Colts where they stunt more than they blitz to create pressure. The Colts’ offensive line— which is tied for first in football in least amount of sacks— did a great job of communicating and diagnosing these plays all day. Luck was only pressured three times all game as a result.

Next rep here again features the offensive line pulling into space— noticing a trend? Here there are three excellent blocks that spring this play. First, Haeg gets great positioning on his defender inside and forces him out of the play with an excellent leg drive. Kelly is able to reach Smith at the second level and knocks him off balance with a powerful punch. The best block though is Castonzo pulling across the entire line to seal the inside off from Vander Esch. Great play call with excellent blocking up front.

I have yet to see this play in any other game this year from the Colts, but I love the design. The entire interior of the offensive line is double teaming the defensive tackles to prevent them from penetrating up the field. After the Oline is able to drive the entire defensive line off of the ball, Mack gets the hand-off. Alie-Cox makes the block of the play as he pulls across the line and crushes DeMarcus Lawrence on the backside. Mack stays skinny in the hole and Smith over runs his run fit, leading to the easy touchdown.

There a bunch of great highlights on this next rep by the entire line. Nelson takes yet another life as he buries his defender on the pull. Haeg does a great job getting to the second level and sealing off the linebacker. Even Le’Raven Clark gets a nice block inside. The key to this run though is the elite reach block by Castonzo on linebacker Damien Wilson. It is absolutely incredible. Castonzo is in no position to make this play yet he quickly gets to the linebacker and crushes him, opening up the hole for Mack to run through. What. A. Play. Block of the year candidate here from Castonzo.

Another rep here and another great run block by Castonzo and Nelson. There is originally no room on this run as Nelson and Castonzo are double teaming down inside. Nelson then slides off the double team to block the gap shooting Vander Esch and Castonzo continues driving his legs until his defender is in the ground, creating a running lane. Great blocks on the outside as well by both Clark and Alie- Cox to spring this run.

Last clip of the day— I know I know, I too wanted to see more of Nelson crushing Vander Esch— and the offensive line dominates the entire line of scrimmage. Just across the board excellent blocking here to spring the game ending run. Nelson again takes care of Vander Esch to finish off the trend of the day. Castonzo also drives his defender away from the ball creating the huge lane, finishing off an amazing day for him. Overall, such a dominant performance up front by these guys.

Final Thoughts

What a day for the offensive line who really stepped up against the Cowboys. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are two of the better young linebackers in football and they were simply bullied into submission by the Colts’ lineman. DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best pass rushers in football and he barely made a mark whatsoever in the game. Almost all of the Cowboys’ defensive play-makers were silent all game.

There are so many game balls to hand out for this one. Anthony Castonzo was simply dominant all day as he handled Lawrence in pass pro and was a force in run blocking. Most of the big holes were at his hands. Quenton Nelson was a wrecking ball all day as he was burying guys left and right. Finally though, Mo Alie-Cox was sensational. He looked like Jack Doyle at times with his run blocking.

Overall, the Colts dominated the trenches all day and it is what led to the victory on Sunday. The Colts lineman took the Cowboys’ soul and crushed them easily in the game. Hopefully the line can continue this play going forward as the Colts are in must-win mode for the rest of the season. In conclusion though, just have to marvel out how great a performance this was in such a big game.