Entering the Indianapolis Colts Week 1 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals we knew there were some real questions that needed answered on both sides of the ball. With so many new aspects to the team, we essentially had no clue what to expect from this young roster.
While a single game isn’t much to go on in terms of getting a full picture on how this team will perform throughout the season, we did however, get some insights into a few of the more basic of expectations.
Colts defense is what the staff hoped for
Early on in today’s game it was the Colts defense that impressed and made plays. Al Woods pressured Andy Dalton on the Bengals first possession (hit his right arm) which forced an interception for Kenny Moore, and Matthias Farley forced a fumble to give Andrew Luck the ball back for a second time.
Clayton Geathers even forced a fumble late in the game, but the Colts didn’t recover that one. The Colts were flying around, hitting hard and were even able to get some pressure on Dalton.
The Colts were able to get 7 points off of those two turnovers — without Luck’s interception it would have been at least 10 points — and that’s supposed to be enough for a young defense with minimal expectations. Unfortunately, the bend-but-don’t-break approach allowed a ton of rushing yards, and Andy Dalton was able to settle down in the second half and eventually gave the Bengals the lead well into the fourth quarter.
Ultimately though, the Colts allowed way too many big plays which made everyone’s day harder in the end. But, you have to love the energy they bring. Let’s just hope that’s enough going forward. Without the Colts two turnovers, this game is a 10-point win for the Colts.
There may be some big-yardage games on the horizon from opposing offense’s, but I think we are seeing a scrappy unit that can assist Andrew Luck in changing the result in a few games this year.
Andrew Luck was excellent in his first game back
We knew Luck was going to give us some of his YOLO throws this year. That’s just what we’re getting with him as the quarterback. You love it most of the time, but you might just break your own nose by slapping yourself in the face after some of his other aimless tosses. It comes with the territory.
Luck gave us a couple of those today as well. He threw into double coverage inside the red zone which resulted in an interception, and he nearly threw a couple more in the second half.
On the other hand, Luck was phenomenal on third downs overall, he was able to get through several reads and pick apart the Cincinnati secondary and he showed no negative signs of his shoulder issues of the past. Luck was 39-of-53 for 319 yards, threw 2 touchdowns and an interception.
We also saw his ability to work in high-pressure situations as he took the offense down the feild (down 4) for a potential game-winning drive scenario. He did his part, aside from that red zone interception, and uncorked a couple deep balls as well throughout the game.
That’s quite a workload, and performance and further understanding that there’s nothing to worry about with Luck as a passer.
Margus Hunt came through in a big way in Week 1
Hunt, a guy that most of us felt the Colts defense could do without this year, was quite productive in his first action of the year. Hunt came away with the team’s only 2 sacks on the day, tallied 3 tackles for loss and forced the ball carrier inside per his positional requirements.
Hunt is clearly not the speed option for the Colts at defensive end, but he earned his stripes in terms of physicality. He smashed the guy across from him multiple times and was consistently chasing the quarterback out of the pocket. A nice start for Hunt’s 2018 season.
Darius Leonard is necessary for the Colts’ defense in 2018
Leonard has come out and played really well through the preseason, but there’s always questions as to how a rookie will perform when the lights come on. Leonard answered that call with 9 total tackles in his NFL debut.
He was constantly in the mix in pursuit, often having to sift through the trash crossing the field, and made Dalton’s day miserable with his ability to get into passing lanes, especially in the first half. He didn’t officially defend a pass, but he altered the vision of Dalton several times and was often ripping the ball soon after the catch as well.
His speed and instincts are shining through just as Frank Reich and Chris Ballard had hoped. Any encouragement his effort gives to some of the younger pieces of this defense the better. I told you that this defense would offer some excitement.
Frank Reich’s debut as a play-caller was very solid
The battle between calling plays, and reacting to the results will go on forever. But, for Reich, his first game acting as the head coach and play-caller was pretty impressive overall. We saw the offense called to get Andrew Luck in a rhythm, and it worked. We saw the route combinations offer deep-ball ability, plus the option to get it safely underneath which kept the Bengals’ defense on their toes.
The offense was 11-of-17 on third downs, Luck threw for over 300 yards in spite of only a 6-yard average per attempt. The running game was up and down, but overall Reich showed that he’s going to be pretty even across the board in terms of his approach to each play.
22 carries is about what you want for a young running back group in their first outing, and allowing Luck to drive this team down the field is the way the Colts will win this year. That much is pretty obvious.
Reich is definitely going to be using his tight ends pretty liberally, and that’s another aspect to how important it is for Luck to have three levels of play makers to keep drives alive. Additionally, on 6 of the Colts 10 meaningful drives they were able to churn out 8 plays or more, and that’s a winning approach with Luck under center any way you slice it.