In July 2019 if you would have told me we would lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers by two points with Bryan Hoyer at quarterback, Zach Pascal as their leading receiver and Quenton Nelson fell on starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, hurting him. I would have thought you were clearly insane. But that’s exactly what happened.
There will be a lot of overreactions to this game but just know that the Colts are on their third string QB, their 2nd string center and T.Y. Hilton was unable to play. The fact that they only lost by two points despite turning the ball over three times and having an uncharacteristically high number of penalties two weeks in a row, is kind of amazing.
Malik Hooker with the stop
Malik Hooker isn’t known for making big plays behind the line of scrimmage but he came up huge on the first drive of the game for the Steelers offense.
The Colts haven’t done a great job forcing turnovers so far this year and while this had a lot to do with Mason Rudolph and his poor accuracy, I’ll take any turnover I can get.
Points off the turnover
Vinny with his first of the day pic.twitter.com/ErlOrXOBnj— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Chris Blystone wrote about this earlier in the week. So far the Colts haven’t done a great job creating turnovers or getting points when they do. This isn’t going to move the needle much, but it can’t hurt.
No James Conner, no problem
Not what you want to see. The Steelers opened a big hole.
Down at the one
The officials could have called this anything but an interception on this play and it would have been tough to argue for or against anything.
A complete mess
This play was a mess for both teams pic.twitter.com/Ij52UdNsXA— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Justin Houston was confused. Mason Rudolph was confused. I was confused. Colts forced a field goal.
The Colts didn’t get this lucky all day
Zach Pascal somehow still the most important person on a kick he didn't return pic.twitter.com/Bt7s07XCkQ— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
At the end of a solid return Paris Campbell coughs up the ball and Zach Pascal was the first guy to fall on it. Not a great start for Campbell after missing several weeks.
It didn’t get immediately better
Paris Campbell looked pretty exciting with the ball in his hands. I would prefer he be slightly less exciting as I would like to be confident the Colts will have the ball once the play is over.
Hopefully this isn’t a big deal
Watch Quenton Nelson fall on Brissetts knee. Not great. pic.twitter.com/5YtClQVQVj— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
At first I marveled at how hard Jacoby Brissett threw this ball to a running back five yards away. Then I noticed him rolling on the ground. It was at this point Bryan Hoyer entered the game and never left.
Started pretty well
Bryan Hoyer did as well as any 3rd string QB ever could.
Stopped the shovel pass
Nice stop on 4th down. Having Sheard back has been huge for this defense pic.twitter.com/ct0TH506yx— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
The Colts were ready for this look. Clearly they read my work.
(That’s a joke)
We should all celebrate that he held on to the ball! pic.twitter.com/YsW82iKzhI— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Campbell really protected this ball and after fumbling twice, it’s good that he did.
One target. One catch.
And that’s the last we saw of Eric Ebron.
Without this play the Colts win
There were a lot of plays we can point to and say “without this play the Colts win”. That’s what makes a loss like this suck so much. They didn’t play their best game (given the circumstances, it’s tough to blame them in my opinion), there were multiple game changing plays and they still almost pulled it off. Feels bad man.
Maybe a weak call
Maybe he should have stopped running at the QB and trying to get away with taking a light but very late shot. Maybe.
Great ball here
Hoyer put this ball where only Zach Pascal could catch it. Pascal went up and met the ball at its highest point and brought it down. Great throw, great catch. Big day from Pascal. He’s earning himself a lot of money this season.
Still not sure what happened here
The ball came off his foot low. Adam Vinatieri hasn’t been good this season but the closer I watch his long snapper the more I realize Luke Rhodes needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Vinny would never admit it but I would like to hear him honestly talk about the impact Rhodes has had on his season. I would love someone with access to players to bluntly ask him about his snapper.
We weren’t playing Lamar Jackson
Keeping the QB running in the 2 minute drill is almost always a positive for the defense. pic.twitter.com/jxuzLxjcoX— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
We didn’t know it at the time but this was about to set up one of the most frustrating series of events on the day.
Here it is
The clock expired on this play. All the Colts had to do was tackle him in bounds and trot off the field. Instead Darius Leonard hit the tight end late. I believe that Leonard was trying to knock the ball loose and I appreciate the aggressiveness but he has to understand the situation and play smart.
That set up this kick
The Colts lost by 2.
Ryan Kelly was done
It's time to see what Frank Reich has. Both of his most important guys pre-snap are out. pic.twitter.com/DSD83Nb4RT— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Kelly missed part of the first half and all of the second. In this offense the center is responsible for adjusting the protection and getting everyone on the line squared away before the snap. I don’t care if you have a line made up of five hall of famers if they’re not making the correct adjustments before the snap, bad things are going to happen.
Pascal is amazing
It seems like he only makes big plays. Not a bad trait to have on an offense that doesn’t have a lot of guys that can make big plays.
People will blame the line
I love how aggressive Frank Reich is, I'm okay with going for it here. Obviously wish there had been a different outcome but I'm glad he made the call he did. pic.twitter.com/cbRMxSBnw3— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
This pass needed to be out of his had as soon as his back foot hit the third step. Instead Hoyer tried patting the ball until it fell asleep and the Steelers talented pass rushers didn’t seem to care about Hoyers plans.
Things got really weird with the officiating crew after this flag
Uh, what? This game has been officiated well so far, but this is bad. Even what happened after 53 was walking back, a Steeler grabbed his arm and he ripped it away, where's the foul? pic.twitter.com/9u40vvYlX1— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
No part of this call made much sense. No part of many of the calls would make much sense. It’s to the point now where I actually have to start questioning the integrity of the officials. The point spread of this game was close and if I were a man inclined to believe in conspiracies it seems as though this crew was aware of both the spread and the score.
I’m not sure who’s at fault
Had to have this stop. Didn't get it. pic.twitter.com/ldNcTe8wKg— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Was it a cover two that the CB should have released his receiver on and covered the flat? Should Leonard have done more to take away that throw? I just don’t know. I do know that it took Matt Eberflus 10 catches to Jalen Samuels before the defense adjusted.
I think very highly of Eberflus. A lot of Colts fans will disagree and that’s fine but the job he has done with the number of major injuries his unit has had, is impressive. This is what “bend, don’t break” should look like. If you limit your opponent to 4 field goals and one offensive touchdown, your offense needs to be able to score 20 points without giving up touchdowns of their own and that didn’t happen today. Also, the Colts defense scored two points of their own on the day so really the Colts offense only needed to score 18 points.
With all of that said, he did take too long to adjust to the Steelers constant throws to Samuels that churned out yards all day long.
Not 53’s best day
Leonard didn't play this well. pic.twitter.com/DsdWmmRpTq— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Leonard couldn’t feel where Vance McDonald was on this play. He took a bad angle, over ran the route and prevented Rock Ya-Sin from being able to possibly make a tackle.
I know it wouldn’t work
I know it wouldn’t work but I would love to see Frank Reich call this play 20 times a game. Quenton Nelson reminds me of CLARENCE BEEFTANK and I love it so much. Seriously if this loss has you bummed out, please click that link. It’s the best thing you’ll read all day.
Pepperidge Farm Remembers
Remember when everyone tried to convince me Deon Cain was going to be a superstar and I was an idiot for saying otherwise? pic.twitter.com/IJ7d69Z0fa— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
I had someone respond to this Tweet with “No we just said he wouldn’t get cut in the preseason” maybe there’s some truth to that but I absolutely said that even if he did make the roster he wouldn’t produce and I was absolutely called an idiot. Well look who be dumber now.
“Chris Ballard should spend in free agency to help the team now instead of just build for the future.”
Chris Ballard will sign free agents and he really likes to sign free agents when they’re as good as Justin Houston. I love that the Colts have fans passionate enough to criticize Chris Ballard, honestly it just shows how much everyone cares but seriously, there are better axes to grind.
I said that if the Colts wanted to win they couldn’t turn the ball over
So I might have talked a lot about turnovers leading up to this game. This is how you lose to the Steelers. pic.twitter.com/t5MNt5ZUzD— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
And yes, if you turn the ball over you’re going to lose games. The difference between this week and most other weeks is how good the Steelers are at causing turnovers. The Colts had to be on top of this and they weren’t.
Gave up three points with a short field
Good stop, offense has to put something together now. pic.twitter.com/fOvrQhI1XH— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
You really can’t ask for more from a defense who spent so much time backed up today.
This isn’t what I meant when I said “put something together”
I’ll have to see the all-22 to really be able to comment on the play design but given what I can see I’m not sure I love the call given the situation. Either way this ball was so far behind Nyheim Hines he never really had a chance. Hines had 28 yards on two touches and it would have been great to see him worked into the game plan a little more. As we monitor Brissett’s injury throughout the week having someone like Hines contribute in the ways he seems to be able to contribute could be big for this offense.
I don’t love Houston in coverage
Justin Houston in coverage(?) with the recovery! pic.twitter.com/J3vjLBcSHV— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
At the end of the season I will point to Justin Houston’s stat sheet and use it to defend Chris Ballard’s decisions in free agency and I will defend Matt Eberflus and his ability as a defensive coordinator so I guess I shouldn’t complain about Houston’s usage now, but I’m going to. Either way he was in the right place at the right time and fell on this ball to give the offense another chance.
I really thought this was going to turn into the Marlon Mack show
After this run I just got the vibe that Mack was about to take the game over. As it turns out the Colts don’t seem to want to use anyone else to run the ball when Mack’s lungs get tired of carrying the offense and he needs a breather. While I would rather Mack pull himself out when he feels like he can’t give 100%, it is frustrating to see drives stall when he comes off the field.
At the end of the day It’s difficult to fault a guy who carried the ball 21 times for 89 yards at 210-ish pounds. Mack is a solid running back but the Colts may need to find someone they’re comfortable handing the ball to when Mack needs a break.
Bryan Hoyer did a lot right
I’m not sure if anyone was open on this play. I’m not even sure it would have mattered. Hoyer did a great job escaping pressure and setting up 4th and short in clear four down territory.
4th and 2
This was a well designed play, the defense bit up on the guy they probably perceived to be the red zone threat and Chester Rogers (who had a rough day over all) was open in the back of the end zone for six. Good throw, good catch, touchdown.
Being up by one doesn’t mean much with 8 minutes to play
The right call was to go for two. The play didn’t work, the defender made a great play and while I would have liked to have seen some sort of a pick or a rub or just some pass catching options crossing, had this play worked I wouldn’t have said a word about it.
This is pass interference
It’s not, but the Colts were gifted with one not long after this, so it’s fine I guess.
Again the defense comes up big
Big stop here. It's too bad this drive was created by two bad plays but the Colts defense is excellent inside their own 20. pic.twitter.com/05QwBUWBDu— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
Coming into this game Matt Eberflus’s unit had given up the 14th fewest points, I would love to see what the defense rank is when considering starting field position.
It's tough when your QB runs into the sack on his own. pic.twitter.com/7wlkI7MhIe— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
This wasn’t a great block by Mack but I still feel like Bryan Hoyer maybe shouldn’t have gone directly to the defender, no he didn’t have much room, but still, there had to be another option.
This is the one I was talking about
This was completely uncatchable and the officials bailed us out on third down.
I'll take one Zach Pascal jersey, please. pic.twitter.com/AAYkxKLkr1— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
This guy went undrafted and he wasn’t this good a season ago. This is the guy you point out to your kids when you talk about hard work. Zach Pascal got an opportunity to make the roster for a team with a bad receiving corps. He took the opportunity and he’s run with it, clearly outworking and developing more than the vast majority of his peers. Zach Pascal is proof that hard work pays off.
I was pretty close on this Tweet
Best possible position. Run the ball, again, get to 3rd and 1. Steelers use their TO. Convert the 1st down. Control the clock. Win the game. pic.twitter.com/jXD1mh3Oq5— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 3, 2019
The Colts ran the ball again and set up third and one.
Then this happened
With the clock rolling and the Steelers down to one timeout the Colts could have gotten the ball as close as they wanted to give Adam Vinatieri a better chance to make a game winning kick. Instead they were stuffed.
Then this happened
A lot of people have come out and declared that this miss was on Vinny and frankly that’s crap.
We simply don’t know if he would have shanked this kick had the snap been better.
“But Chris, this snap came right to Rigoberto Sanchez, the snapped looked good”
If Pat McAfee has taught me anything it’s that the long snapper Luke Rhodes is the one responsible for where the laces end up. He controls the number of times the ball rotates before it gets to the holder and if that sounds like a crazy amount of control to have on a snap just know that Luke Rhodes will make more than $1.5 million this year to snap footballs. He better be able to control the number of times that ball rotates before it gets to the holder.
The second thing I’m hearing:
“Vinny kicked the ground behind the ball, he was missing it anyway!”
Adam Vinatieri has seen millions (probably) of balls snapped to the holder. If the number of rotations are off, he probably knows it. Further if he sees the laces, that’s probably not a great feeling. So to say that either of those things had no impact on his approach to the ball, is crazy.
I don’t know if Vinny shanks this kick if the laces are out. I do know that Adam has had a bad year and for large stretches he’s been bad. I also know that this single kick and all of the misses that came before it don’t have anything to do with each other.
There was clearly a failure by the long snapper on this play, we simply cannot know what impact it had on the rest of the down ultimately Vinny gets marked with the miss but there’s a lot more that goes into this missed kick than what most people initially thought.
No matter who you blame the outcome is the same. The Colts lose a tough game on the road with Bryan Hoyer at quarterback.