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A look at the Colts 3 touchdown drives in Tennessee

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts did just enough to edge out the Titans in what turned out to be a nail-biter. The run game struggled to set the tone like it had the previous week, and Brissett seemed incapable of throwing the ball farther than 10 yards. For the most part, the offense sputtered, struggling to string together drives.

However, it was not all bad. Brissett did pass for 3 TDs, one which was a beautifully thrown ball to Campbell; furthermore, the Colts’ starting quarterback displayed great poise in the pocket and shed multiple rushers, turning a couple would-be-sacks into positive yardage.

Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of every play, I wanted to take a look at the 3 touchdown drives. As I watched the game, I realized that, yes, the Colts were effective in the end zone, scoring all the times they entered the opponents 20. Still, they actually struggled getting past the Titans 40 yards line, only accomplishing the feat 4 times.

Why do the Colts struggle to maintain drives? And how can they fix it moving forward?


The First Drive

The Colts team came out swinging. After holding the Titans to a quick 3-and-out, the offense took the field with a sense of duty. Jacoby connected with Jack Doyle for a quick 8 and Mack followed it up with a 5-yard run that converted the first down. However, soon thereafter, Brissett was sacked for -7 yards. A quick 5 yard pickup set up 3 and 12, and this is where I begin to see slivers of hope from Brissett.

Any coach will tell you that games are won by converting 3rd downs. If it’s 3rd and 12, there are only so many plays you can run. It’s most certainly going to be a pass play against zone coverage where the DBs are crowding around the first down.

What does Brissett do? Converts on a 13-yard pass to Ebron.

However, after this fantastic play, the Colts gain a large chuck of yardage (46 yards) thanks to a blatant PI by Jackson where he covers Cain’s face on a deep bomb. This placed the Colts at the Titans 8-yard line and set up the Ebron shovel-pass TD.


The Second Drive

In my eyes, the second Touchdown drive is the only “pure” Brissett scoring drive, as it was the only drive powered by the sheer talent of the Colts quarterback. The Colts drive was stagnant at first, a 3rd and 2 turned into a 3rd & 7 due to a false start penalty by Brissett (he really struggled with the clock). However, an incompletion was flagged for PI (a bogus call in my eyes) and the Colts drive continued.

The first and second downs, composed of short 2-3 yards runs, didn’t inspire much hope into the team, especially when you consider that, at times, it looked like the Colts were moving in the wrong direction because of penalties.

However, Brissett made arguably his second biggest throw of the game to convert 3rd and 15 by connecting with Hilton for a 19-yard gain. Following this play, the DBs started to play a little farther back, which allowed Mack and Wilkins to rip off runs of 10 and 15 yards, respectively. And as the corners begin to tighten up coverage in the red zone, Parris burns Butler on a crossing corner route. Brissett makes a nice throw to hit Campbell is stride, but I’m more impressed with the play design/call by Reich.

I think we can attribute Brissett’s early success in the red zone to Frank.


The Third Drive

As an honorary member of the Jordan Wilkins fan club, I have to say I love this drive. The Colts have been stagnant for all of the 3rd quarter and most of the 4th. With 5 minutes left in the game, it seemed as if Ballard and Co. were going to fly back to Indy with a broken streak.

Not if Wilkins had a say.

Displaying his tremendous vision, Wilkins shoots it up the gut mostly untouched thanks to the big boys on the inside. He gets just enough to beat a bad angle by the safety, and its open field after that. You can kind of note that Wilkins isn’t fast enough to outrun the FS, but he does a good job of moving towards the right sideline and gaining more yards.

After Wilkins terrific 55 yard run, the Colts find themselves at the Titans’ 4 yard line. Down by 4 with under 5 minutes to go, the Colts really need a touchdown. Brissett was intercepted the last time he stared down Hilton, but he trusted his No. 1 receiver.

The pass is actually not at risk of an interception because T.Y. has Butler beat on the release. The Titans CB is trying to make up lost ground quickly, so he doesn’t even turn his head around to locate the ball. Brissett throws a bit of a jump ball and Hilton does what he does best.


Concluding Thoughts

It’s clear that Brissett is, for now, a game manager. Reich can tell the media that the playbook is hasn’t been shrunk from Luck to Brissett and that he trusts his QB. However, these aren’t mutually exclusive. By Reich’s own words, Brissett is a top 20 QB in the league (Luck was arguably top 5), so clearly the approach he and his staff take leading up to the game is different with #7 instead of #12 under center, no matter if they say otherwise.

Don’t believe me? Let me show you a quick NextGen Stats chart that reveals some of Brissett’s limiting capabilities.

17/28 of Brissett’s passes were between 0 to 5 yards from the LOS. Not exactly a sign of extreme confidence by the Head Coach.

Second, Brissett only had 5 passes for over 10 yards. 2 completions (1 TD), 2 incompletions and a INT where I’m pretty sure he burnt a hole through Hilton’s jersey with his eyes.

Finally, you can clearly see how the short passes are impacting the run game. When we tested the ball deep and made the secondary respect us, Mack and Co. were able to rip off good runs. Meanwhile, when we play it safe and go for 3-5 yard passes, the run is constantly stuffed.