While the game script fit what the Colts needed to accomplish in Cleveland, they failed to capitalize on the scoreboard.
Matt Eberflus asked his defense to generate pressure with the front four in the first half and asked his secondary to play a lot of off zone coverage. The results is that Baker Mayfield was able to escape the pocket and make throws on the run into large windows. Once Eberflus made second half adjustments, Mayfield faced more pressure and made big mistakes that nearly turned the game around.
Cleveland’s top ranked NFL rushing offense was essentially a non-factor the entire game. The group was held to an under 4 ypc average and it would have been much lower if not for a game-sealing 28-yard run by D’Ernest Johnson to seal the game.
Frank Reich and Philip Rivers have yet to show signs that they’re figuring things out with the offense. Injuries to Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. are certainly not helping matters, and the injury to starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo was as costly as fans had feared, but there is very little sign of making progress in a positive direction from week-to-week.
There are games where the offense will need to score more multiple touchdowns to win. On the road against a talent-filled Browns offense is a prime example. Until the offense can put points on the board, the Colts will face an uphill struggle against quality opponents.
Philip Rivers has made momentum killing mistakes in both of the Colts losses this season. He doesn’t appear to have found a good rhythm or built a solid rapport with his receiving targets yet. He has a habit of trying to force bad throws or panicking in a collapsing pocket and making rushed decisions.
When there are questions about a quarterbacks decision-making, accuracy and command of the offense after five weeks, it’s not a good sign.
P Rivers QB 56 100%
The Colts relied heavily on Jonathan Taylor out of the backfield. Taylor again showed the athleticism that enticed the Colts to select him in the second round but continues to struggle at times with his vision.
Life as a running back isn’t easy. Half of the time people will yell at you for not hitting the hold hard and without any wasted motion. The other half they will yell at you for not being more patient and showing good vision to get the most out of a play.
Either way, unless something changes this offense is currently going to live or die on its ability to figure things out on the ground.
J Taylor RB 31 55%
N Hines RB 21 38% 2 7%
J Wilkins RB 2 4% 8 29%
The wide receivers remain a glaring weakness to this point in the season. The hope was the Hilton and Rivers would be able to establish the kind of rapport you expect out of veterans. The hope was the Rivers would identify Hilton’s talents and throw him open. The hope was the Hilton was going to look like a rejuvenated player after an injury-filled season in 2019.
Instead, the Colts have lost two of their three top receivers to injury and Hilton is off to the slowest start since his rookie season. The biggest threat of a downfield passing game in the receiver room to this point has likely been Marcus Johnson and he spends more time off of the roster or on the practice squad than he does on the active roster.
T Hilton WR 53 95%
Z Pascal WR 51 91%
M Johnson WR 30 54%
A Dulin WR 7 12% 16 57%
D Fountain WR 5 9%
If T.Y. Hilton was expected to be the team leader at wide receiver, Jack Doyle was expected to be the steady veteran presence at tight end. To this point, Doyle has been called for numerous offensive holding penalties that have helped to slow down drives and has looked sluggish as a route runner and pass catcher. His timing is clearly off with Rivers.
The best tight end on the team this season, Mo Alie-Cox, finds himself fighting to get reps. This despite the fact that he has clearly been the best blocking tight end on the team. Oh yeah, he’s also been clearly the most dangerous pass-catcher of the group this year as well.
It was nice to see Rivers start to figure things out late in the game with Trey Burton but there is no sense of any balance at this point for the tight ends.
J Doyle TE 34 61%
T Burton TE 25 45%
M Alie-Cox TE 21 38% 6 21%
The Colts can ill afford to lose Anthony Castonzo for any extended period. The need for a young left tackle prospects is glaring. Le’Raven Clark had his hands full with the league’s most dominant pass rusher this season but he was also asked to face Garrett one-on-one for much of the game.
Until this offensive line figures out how to run block again, Indianapolis and its offense will struggle. This team is a consistent running offense away from hurting opponents in the same was the Browns have gotten things going over the last four games.
Q Nelson G 56 100% 5 18%
B Smith G 56 100% 5 18%
L Clark T 56 100% 5 18%
M Glowinski G 56 100% 5 18%
R Kelly C 56 100%
This defensive line is one edge rusher away from being dominant. If Kemoko Turay can return to the field and collapse the pocket on the edge in the same way Justin Houston has been able to do so from the other side, opposing quarterbacks will hurried consistently.
As it stands, this defensive line is a juggernaut against the run but inconsistent rushing the passer. Matt Eberflus needs to be more creative and proactive in his attempts to generate pressure from different levels of the defense until Turay returns.
D Buckner DE 67 92% 12 43%
D Autry DE 54 74% 5 18%
J Houston DE 49 67%
G Stewart NT 48 66% 12 43%
A Muhammad DE 37 51% 5 18%
T Stallworth DT 15 21% 2 7%
T Lewis DE 12 16% 7 25%
B Banogu DE 10 14% 7 25%
Even without Darius Leonard, the Colts linebackers looked like a force for much of the game. Bobby Okereke has looked like a budding start. Anthony Walker continues to play excellent football.
If not for some short-zone coverage issues in the first half, particularly against Austin Hooper, this unit would have been nearly flawless. Leonard’s absence may have opened this up for Hooper to be more active early in the game but Colts fans should feel really comfortable with a trio with Leonard, Walker and Okereke that can gives opponents fits the rest of the way.
A Walker LB 73 100% 8 29%
B Okereke LB 73 100% 2 7%
Z Franklin LB 26 36% 23 82%
Perhaps the most interesting adjustment for the Colts in this game is that there were fewer nickel sets featuring a third cornerback than one might have otherwise anticipated. Additionally, Eberflus likes Kenny Moore matching up on the outside with Cleveland’s pass-catchers more than the seemed to like Rock Ya-Sin in that role.
Regardless, the first half saw far too many soft zones that were exploited by Baker Mayfield. It seems that every game the defense makes some adjustments to tight things up. Also, it seems that the defense is rewarded whenever it is forced to be more aggressive. Perhaps it is time to start being aggressive early in games?
K Moore CB 73 100% 2 7%
X Rhodes CB 67 92%
R Ya-Sin CB 49 67%
T Carrie CB 4 5% 21 75%
The Colts had a mixed performance at safety in Cleveland. Julian Blackmon continues to look like a promising young star. Khari Willis is a solid safety but appears better against the run than the pass. Tavon Wilson was abused when he took the field on defense to spell Blackmon — who missed a series due to a groin injury.
With Malik Hooker out for the season, the Colts will need Blackmon and Willis to stay healthy. As with most teams, going to the fourth option results in a meaningful drop-off in performance.
K Willis SS 73 100% 5 18%
J Blackmon FS 64 88% 3 11%
T Wilson SS 9 12% 15 54%
The Colts special teams unit had another strong game. Rookie Rodrigo Blankenship was perfect on the day. Rigoberto Sanchez had one punt that landed inside the 20 and netted 49 yards. Isaiah Rodgers ran back a kickoff return for a touchdown to breath life into the Colts in the second half, neutralizing a devastating pick-six thrown by Rivers in the previous play and getting back into striking distance after going down 17 points.
G Odum FS 23 82%
J Glasgow LB 22 79%
E Speed LB 15 54%
I Campbell FS 15 54%
I Rodgers CB 13 46%
R Sanchez P 13 46%
T Smith CB 9 32%
L Rhodes LS 6 21%
C Green T 5 18%
R Blankenship K 5 18%