When Frank Reich and Chris Ballard brought in veteran quarterback Philip Rivers this offseason, it’s safe to say that they were expecting different results. Rivers has made numerous mistakes in two road games that Indianapolis simply could not overcome. What’s perhaps most concerning is that there doesn’t appear to be a sign that the offense is progressing. The same mistakes and inconsistencies from Week 1 remain.
This season is without anything that resembles a dominant, start to finish drive. Even the scoring drives this season have typically included offensive penalties or other errors that made the drives feel more like a relief than like an expected outcome. Even in this game, when Rivers let the ball fly in the red zone targeting Trey Burton, you could feel the fan base hold its breath. With the game on the line, the Colts had to settle for a field goal.
The issue for Rivers is that he continues to make bad decisions with the football. He faced a ton of pressure today, of that there is no doubt, but his telegraphed rainbow pass in the direction of T.Y. Hilton was absolutely awful. His forced throw to Mo Alie-Cox with three defenders around him that led to a second interception, was another head scratcher. Even his throw out of bounds from his own end zone that resulted in a safety was ridiculous.
The Colts defense? Dominant.
The Browns entered the game with the best rushing attack in football. They were held to 124 yards on 33 carries for a 3.75 yards per carry average. If not for a run of over 20 yards by D’Ernest Johnson in the fourth quarter, the defense held the Browns to even less.
It should be said, with Kareem Hunt on the sideline the Colts should have been ready for a desperate attempt to get the ball outside the tackles. It wasn’t a surprise to see the Browns stay conservative and hand the ball off and even less that they would try to overwhelm one side to get the edge.
Still, absent the field goal to end the game, the defense pitched a second half shutout against a team that put up nearly 50 points a week ago.
Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni are going to need to figure things out in a hurry. The running game has been lackluster. The offensive line has clearly regressed. Rivers has not established a rapport with any of his targets. There is much to overcome.
It is fair to acknowledge that Colts fans have a reason to feel particularly good about the defense moving forward given that All Pro linebacker Darius Leonard didn’t play and Bobby Okereke looked like a star in his place. When Kemoko Turay returns to the field and Sheldon Day bolsters the depth on the interior, one of the top defenses in the NFL could get even better.
It is also fair to acknowledge that asking Le’Raven Clark to handle Myles Garrett one-on-one for much of the game was a recipe for disaster. Anthony Castonzo would have likely had his own hands full in that assignment and his absence went a long way to speed Rivers up quite a bit in the pocket.
Still, the offense was responsible for 16 points, 9 of them required the leg of rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. A kickoff returned for a touchdown by Isaiah Rodgers in the second half is what kept the Colts in striking defense but Rivers and Reich were never able to capitalize.
Indianapolis will need to rebound at home against the Bengals and on the road in Detroit. Currently 3-2, the Colts are second in the AFC South and have work to do to make up ground or to stay in a position to earn a playoff spot. The defense is doing its part. It’s time for the offense to do the same.