The Indianapolis Colts sit at first place in the AFC South nearly halfway through the 2019 NFL season with a record of 4-2. Not bad for a team that saw their superstar quarterback retire prior to the season. Behind the play calling of Frank Reich, a dominant offensive line, and the arm of Jacoby Brissett, the Colts have shown the entire league how good they are the past two games.
Against the Texans, Brissett showed many of the traits and aspects of his game that his biggest doubters wanted to see. He passed for 326 yards and 4 touchdowns and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort. In today’s film room article, we are going to be looking at three of those traits and how well he did in those areas in the big win.
Going through Progressions
Brissett’s biggest doubters, including myself, have noted Brissett’s struggles to go through his reads throughout this young season. It’s not that he wasn’t getting through his reads and to his check down, it’s that he struggled to keep his eyes down field long enough to find open players. In this past game however, he made many plays where he hung in the pocket and went through his reads for big plays.
In this first clip, he delivers a strike for a huge gain to Zach Pascal. Off the play fake, Brissett looks to his number one receiver on the left side in T.Y Hilton. Once he sees Hilton covered, he quickly adjusts his feet and finds Pascal on the crossing route. Rather than going from one read to his checkdown, he didn’t panic in the pocket and calmly went to his second read for a huge gain early in the game.
On the first touchdown of the game, you can see Brissett’s process from the pocket as he goes through his reads. He initially looks to the left where Hilton is isolated one on one on the outside. When he doesn’t like that route he then looks to the running back on the wheel route. Once he sees that route is also covered, he then looks back to Pascal (who is going to be mentioned a lot in this article) and is able to find him for the score. Again, it is nothing special but going through his reads rather than going from one read to check down is a huge reason why Brissett was able to find success in this game.
This last clip for this section is textbook from Brissett and perhaps his best play of the game. With the Colts facing 3rd and long, the Texans elected to sit back in coverage. This led to many of Brissett’s reads being covered up on the play. He sits and sits in the pocket while going from read to read, unable to find an open man. He steps up in the pocket with the intention to run but he keeps his head up and eyes downfield. This awareness to keep his head up and continue scanning leads to him finding Eric Ebron for the huge gain over the middle. Brissett was excellent on this play in keeping his eyes up, going through his progressions, and finding his target for the critical first down.
Deep Ball Aggressiveness/Accuracy
While anyone can dispute how well Brissett was going through his progressions early in the season, it is hard to argue that the team wasn’t attacking downfield early in the year. The Colts rank near the bottom of the NFL in explosive plays and Brissett just wasn’t taking any shots down the football field. He was even struggling at times to push the ball into the intermediate game as his yards per attempt have been very low on the year. On Sunday however, he and the Colts’ offense decided it was time to open up the playbook.
First clip is perhaps Brissett’s best throw of the entire game. Facing quick pressure from the interior, he has to make a quick decision on where to throw this football. He decides to throw it to his number one receiver on the outside who has a one on one matchup with a backup corner. As he takes a big hit, he delivers a perfect throw to the outside that helps Hilton create necessary separation to catch the ball and get his feet down. Unfortunately, Hilton can’t hang on for the completion but this is a perfect throw from Brissett.
While these next two clips aren’t anything special in terms of arm talent from Brissett, the willingness to attack downfield and deliver passes accurately are exactly what we needed to see from him. One of my biggest criticisms of him personally has been his lack of aggression in the intermediate and deeper areas of the field. While he can still improve a bit, the willingness to attack and get the ball out for big chunk gains may have been the best development of the entire game. Now, rather than hoping that Brissett can win by attacking a defense, we have now seen it against a top team in the AFC.
Standing Tall Against the Blitz
While nobody should ever question Brissett’s toughness or strength, one area of concern coming into this week was how composed he can be facing a blitz or immediate pressure in his face. The Chiefs found a lot of success in week five when pressuring Brissett and his passes dropped off considerably when he had a defender in his face. This week however, he was able to make multiple big plays while getting hit as he stood tall in the pocket all game and delivered strikes for scores.
This first clip is a long developing play action pass where Brissett has to buy time in the pocket. He slides to the right of the pocket before Hilton is able to break away from his defender. Just as he releases the pass, he takes a big hit from JJ Watt that sends him on his back. Still though, he hung in the pocket and stepped into the throw despite Watt’s presence in his face. While the pass wasn’t perfect, he was able to deliver a ball that was catchable for his star receiver despite getting crushed as he released it.
While this clip doesn’t show him facing a blitz or immediate pressure, it does showcase Brissett delivering a near perfect pass as he takes a head on hit. Here the initial play is covered up so he is forced to scramble out of the pocket and buy time. He keeps his head up while directing traffic down field as he gets to the outside. As a defensive back is closing in, he fires a pass to the corner where Ebron is waiting. This pass has very little room to work and he is able to squeeze it in perfectly while taking a big hit. Even though Ebron is unable to bring the pass in, the entire process from Brissett was perfect here.
The final clip of this piece showcases Brissett’s toughness and willingness to hang in the pocket in this game very well. Watt is able to effortlessly beat the block of Mark Glowinski for the quick pressure on Brissett. He is unfazed by this as he doesn’t get happy feet or react to the pressure. He stands in the pocket, finds his running back out of the backfield, and gets the first down. He gets crushed on the play yet again but this play really showed how well he hung in the pocket all game while delivering positive plays.
Jacoby Brissett put together the most impressive game of his career in one of the bigger games in his career up to this point. Personally, I have been a fairly harsh critic of his first five games as he really wasn’t playing great football in spite of the Colts winning games. I wanted to see if he had the capability to air it out and lead this team to victory rather than relying on his run game and check downs.
This game showed me, and many of his doubters, exactly what we needed to see. He doesn’t need to perfect but he needs to be able to consistently pressure opposing defenses by pushing the ball down field and find open players more consistently. This game was overall excellent by him and he did it on the biggest stage against a division rival. Overall, I loved his development in this past game and hopefully we can see more of it as the Colts enter a very favorable stretch of games coming up.