Thursday Night Football is weird. The games are weird, neither team has really recovered from their last game, neither team has had a real chance to prepare for their opponent and yet in a money grab the NFL schedules 17 Thursday games. I have heard plenty of people talk about enjoying these games but I just don’t understand how.
Last night our Colts played in one of those weird games and while plenty went right, more went very wrong. In week seven Jacoby Brissett posted career highs for both passing yards and touchdowns in a game, in week twelve Brissett was slow to make reads and hesitant to throw the ball down the field. Frank Reich stuck with the ground game and the Colts were able to find success in that aspect but when the time came to put the ball in Brissett’s hands to drive the team down the field, he and the Colts offense came up short.
This wasn’t a great game but there are plenty of clips to look at that show the highs- and lows- of last nights game.
The Defense Played Well
#Colts How about that coverage?! pic.twitter.com/fRVVwf06XG— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Indianapolis Colts defense has played lights out in the back half of the season. The way this defense has been turned around since Chris Ballard and Matt Eberflus came on board is nothing short of amazing. On this play the Colts rush three while the secondary keeps tabs on the Texans receivers and forces Deshaun Watson to throw the ball away.
Sometimes There’s Just Nothing You Can Do
Well this is insane pic.twitter.com/7IAIIwdTag— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
If you can figure out how to stop this, let me know in the comments.
Darius Leonard On The Blitz
#Colts I think Watson was a little scared of the Maniac pic.twitter.com/GSsnBKMUft— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
The way the Colts have used spies against these Texans means that when a linebacker (usually Darius Leonard) is keeping Watson in check the Colts are usually in man coverage, when the Colts want to use a zone, they have usually rushed three and used a defensive tackle to keep him contained.
What makes that interesting is the fact that it’s impossible to know if Darius Leonard is going to blitz or if he’s just spying. Here he runs untouched into the backfield and forces the incomplete pass.
T.Y. Hilton’s First Catch
I'll take all the 1st downs I can get #Colts pic.twitter.com/Gu1KY1SzhT— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Ultimately it’s just a hitch but it went for a first down and given the way the rest of the game went through the air, again, I’m glad this pass was completed.
#Colts the back escaping to the flat pulls the CB far enough for Doyle to sit in the zone for the 1st down pic.twitter.com/OmcNM05pTb— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
The back on this play keeps the corner just far enough outside to give Brissett a window to fit this throw in.
Joe Buck was obsessed with the tip at the line
#Colts KENNY MOORE! pic.twitter.com/Roskg3ZxRn— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
The tip at the line didn’t do much. Kenny Moore’s long arms and great instincts on the other hand created this turnover. It was a great play for our Colts.
The run game got going
#Colts 5 straight pic.twitter.com/EfbIgHRqNi— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
The Colts ran the ball for 175 yards on the Texans top 10 rushing defense. Nyhiem Hines picked up 51 on 9 carries. It was an impressive day for the Colts ground game.
Jacoby Brissett’s only TD on the day
7 straight run plays in a row lead to the first #Colts touchdown of the day pic.twitter.com/j5J4aBXEdx— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
This was a read option run. Brissett had the option to hand the ball to Jonathan Williams or keep it around the corner. His read was defensive end Brennen Scarlett (#57). When Scarlett crashed inside Brissett kept the ball and followed Jack Doyle around the corner into the end zone.
Kenny Moore does it all
I love Kenny Moore #Colts pic.twitter.com/8lqgQJLyPI— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Deshaun Watson, historically, hasn’t done a great job identifying blitzers coming from his right side. Here the Colts take advantage of that by sending Kenny Moore on the corner blitz. He’s able to hit Watson and cause an incomplete pass.
This really isn’t holding
So this isn't holding, but that call against Ryan Kelly was? #Colts pic.twitter.com/p5C0SZsNlb— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
But the officials were amazingly inconsistent with their holding calls. Before this play there were flags thrown on the Colts offensive line that looked more tame than this, yet this is the play the officials didn’t flag. Frustrating for Colts fans.
I'll take it #Colts pic.twitter.com/1AgDcbXpT7— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
When a defender falls down, someone is going to be open, Brissett is able to find the open man as he’s getting hit. Ebron is still able to get his hands underneath the pass and makes a nice grab for the first down.
Adam Vinatieri is a story until he’s not
#INDvsHOU is tied at 10 heading to halftime. #Colts Adam Vinatieri hits his first kick of the day pic.twitter.com/yytMBsv4In— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Three points is three points.
Will Fuller was a problem
ugh #Colts pic.twitter.com/a2Jm7YVUtG— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Will Fuller had a monster day to the tune of 7 catches for 140 yards. His return from injury was huge for the Texans.
Mixing up the blitz
Right side of the Texans line isn't dealing well with these twists #Colts pic.twitter.com/fqY5Z41P3P— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
The Colts did a good job working on the right side of the line most of the day. Here the line failed to account for the blitzing linebacker and the Colts were able to get pressure off of it. The resulting quick pass ended up coming up short of the sticks.
#Colts with a huge stop on 4th and 3 pic.twitter.com/2kRNZBCjtc— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
I’m not quite sure what Deshaun Watson was thinking here. This might be his version of the Mahomes no look pass. He looks left at the twist release his receivers struggle to gain seperation on and then quickly back underneath as he’s releasing the ball. The result was nearly an interception for fifth round rookie, Marvell Tell III.
The ground game is a lifestyle. #Colts pic.twitter.com/W6mSFYsOoM— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Frank Reich doesn’t care if you think he should pass more. Jonathan Williams looked really good on this run, pin-balling off of defenders on his way for a third quarter score.
I liked Will Fuller a lot more when he didn't play#INDvsHOU #Colts pic.twitter.com/iHfD8qzK9L— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
This is a max protect deep crossing look. I wrote about this concept leading up to this game:
The Texans got man free coverage for a lot of the game and here they draw up a play designed to beat it deep. By sending both receivers on a deep crossing route it means that theoretically (as long as the protection holds up) one of these deep receivers is probably going to be open.
Crossing routes are very difficult to defend in man coverage and the safety eventually has to make a choice. In this case, Malik Hooker played this as well as he could have, not declaring until Watson started his throwing motion. Had he gone to one side or the other, Watson simply would have thrown it the other direction, because he stayed on the hash and both receivers had a step on their cornerback, he threw to the wider side of the field.
This is almost exactly what happened on this play. I’m not sure where Malik Hooker was playing as this isn’t all-22, that said the Texans dialed up this same deep crossing concept against a man free defense and this time a long gain to Will Fuller was the result.
Hey, @jimcampbell81— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
I think you'll like this one#INDvsHOU #Colts pic.twitter.com/gZ2thYcMBM
Banogu wins this rep and gets the sack using nothing bit effort. His first attempt at a rip move underneath was thwarted but when Watson decided to cut up field the rookie pass rusher was in position to chase him down from behind, gaining his second full sack on the season.
I get that it was tipped but trapping the ball isn't ideal. Use those hands #Colts pic.twitter.com/khR068wlO6— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
T.Y. Hilton didn’t have a great day. I saw a lot of people try to make excuses for him and while this wasn’t an easy catch to make, this is absolutely a drop.
Never a good thing
Watson saw something, let Hyde know and then this happened#Colts #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/2KeRmB2k84— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Watson turned around and looked at his back, pointed to the backside linebacker (making his back aware of something) and then Carlos Hyde scampers for a big gain on first down. You hate to see it.
I’m really starting to dislike DeAndre Hopkins
From my scouting report on the #Texans offense:— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
"DeAndre Hopkins is going to get his catches and yards. Make peace with that now and move on."
It's not a difficult prediction to make, and I should have known this was coming, I wrote it. I'm still surprised. #Colts #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/Hfmw8lAjYP
Seriously man, I never did anything to you. Why are you doing this?
T.Y. with another drop
T.Y. dropped this. It was bobbled before the DB got a hand in.#Colts #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/QJXBTZE46R— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
T.Y.’s first game back did not go as anyone expected it to go.
Bobby Okereke hates this play
Okereke!#Colts #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/MRZUNFUlBh— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
I can’t believe he dropped it. He can’t believe he dropped it. He did a great job to step inside the route but he has to be able to bring in that pick.
Colts get pressure with four
Big stop on 3rd down for the #Colts #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/y3CGBuhc36— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Jabaal Sheard and Tyquon Lewis were able to get pressure on the edges which forced Watson to get rid of this ball before he really wanted to.
Quenton Nelson is something else
Watch this block by Nelson#Colts #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/T9Wk4IsxoS— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
There aren’t a lot of 340 pounders than can move like this guy.
Brissett has to get this ball out
#Colts come up short on 4th down. #INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/YlNhoCJwFR— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
Instead he decides to run for it at record low speeds. The Colts come up short on what would be their last real chance.
No explanation will ever make sense
THIS IS A FUMBLE#Colts#INDvsHOU pic.twitter.com/vlqivbavz8— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 22, 2019
This play didn’t receive an official review and it should have. I’m not saying the Colts go down the field and score to win the game but I am saying they earned the right to have this play officially examined rather than just have the fans be left wondering what could have been.
Jacoby Brissett played poorly.
The Colts went into a tough division rival’s home stadium and lost by 3 points.
Now imagine if Brissett had just been as average as he normally is.
Losing is never good and we can argue all day about whether or not Jacoby Brissett is “the guy” moving forward. It’s not a fruitful argument as we have no idea what Frank Reich and Chris Ballard are thinking about in the off season. The bottom line is, this was a coin-flip game and we lost by three with terrible play from a usually average player. It still sucks but it could be way worse.
Next week we host the Titans at home and let’s hope they figure out a way to play like the same old Titans they’ve always been.