Week one is in the books for the Colts, and it left us with a bittersweet taste. On the one hand, there was a lot to be encouraged about in the Colts’ first performance of the regular season. However, the Colts ultimately lost a game they could have won.
Let’s jump in and take a look at the winners and losers from Colts vs Bengals week one.
Frank Reich’s Play Calling
This game was a breath of fresh air after years or watching offenses run by Rob Chudzinski and Pep Hamilton. Seeing personnel set up to succeed and scheming players into positions to get open was a joy to watch. It was clear that there was a comfort level that was created by the play calling, which allowed the offense to run smoothly. That is a major source of encouragement to me, and will only get better with time, and the return of starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and starting running back Marlon Mack.
Kenny Moore II
In just his second year in the league, the undrafted free agent made a big impact for the Colts’ secondary. He had 3 tackles and defended a pass, but most importantly, he managed to pick off Andy Dalton early and give the Colts excellent field position. Sure, the offense squandered it by giving the Bengals the ball back not long after, but Moore can be pleased with his contribution. This roster desperately needs guys who can get takeaways, and any contribution will matter down the stretch.
Darius Leonard (and Matthias Farley)
If it seemed like Leonard was in on every defensive play to you, you were not crazy. Leonard was all over the field, making plays and notching a combined 9 tackles as well as recovering a fumble caused by Matthias Farley. Turnovers are huge for this young defense, and the Colts got them in this game. They’ll need to be able to do that consistently if they expect to win many games this season.
The Colts’ pass rush as a whole was not great. There wasn’t consistent pressure on Dalton, and they often go so zoned in on backfield penetration that they lost contain and let Joe Mixon gash them for big yards. However, Margus Hunt was able to make some things happen, collecting 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 QB hits. As a guy who many, myself included, questioned as a fit for this team, Hunt did a lot to state his case for why be belongs. Hopefully his success can continue.
Grant was a nonfactor during the preseason. He seemed to have no chemistry with Luck and just didn’t do anything of note. Not so in yesterday’s contest. Grant was 8 of 9 for 59 yards, consistently getting open on short throws and acting as Andrew Luck’s security blanket. He got good separation and made catches. His game wasn’t spectacular, but the Colts need reliable receivers who can be counted on, and whose name is not T.Y. Hilton. Grant showed that he can be that, and if he can do so going forward, it bodes well for the offense.
Nyheim Hines did not have a good preseason. Frank Reich did the right thing getting him out from under kick return duties, as they did not suit him well. In his role as a pass catching back and a change of pace player, Hines looked solid. In a game where the running backs didn’t do much, Luck passed 53 times, Hines looked comfortable, and made important plays with regularity. He showed how he might be used and that he has a significant part to play on this team.
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Wilkins, Eric Ebron, T.Y. Hilton
Look, Jack Doyle is a very good tight end. He isn’t a loser overall. But in this game, he was a loser. When you cough up a fumble on what could be a game-winning drive, and that fumble goes for a nail-in-the-coffin touchdown, you’re the loser. Do I think Jack played well before that point? Absolutely. He was 7 of 10 for 60 yards. He did the kinds of things you expect him to do. But that fumble was a killer. Doyle will get back to being Doyle, but this one hurt.
I haven’t seen the All-22 yet, so I can’t speak in entirety on how Wilson played. What I can say, is that the only two plays I saw of him were pretty bad. In the first, he was flagged for pass interference on A.J. Green, a 36-yard penalty that brought the Bengals to the Colts’ doorstep. The next was him getting beat in the end zone on a pass to John Ross for a touchdown. He never even attempted to contest the catch. The Colts need Wilson to be better than this. The 2nd round pick from last season was wearing a cast, so perhaps he will play better when he has the use of both hands. Let’s hope.
This was not a great game for Hooker. It may have been better or worse than I think, the All-22 will tell more, but he, along with Geathers, committed the cardinal sin of a safety. They got beat deep by A.J. Green for a score. You cannot get beat deep by the team’s best receiver, and Hooker did. The Colts need him to make an impact to succeed on defense, and while Green is a top-level receiver, they can’t have him getting beat deep and win games. Geathers only gets off the hook being listed here because he was able to force a fumble, but he shares equal blame on this play that led to a momentum shifting score.
That Screen Pass
You know the one. The one that had you throwing your hands up and trying to spot Chud on the sideline somewhere. Reich dialed it up with :19 left in the first half, and it was read and destroyed by linebacker Nick Vigil for a 5-yard loss.
If that didn’t leave a strong enough impression, when they ran that exact same play at 1:09 left in the game, they got the exact same result. Vigil reading it all the way and dropping Hines for another 5-yard loss and taking the Colts out of field goal range. I listed Reich’s play calling as a winner, and it was. However, this play needs to be stricken from the 2-minute offense.