There is only so much Reich can do with the limited talent he had an the skill positions on offense, and also having to deal with the NFL’s best pass rusher without the team’s starting left tackle is not good, but Frank still has to do a better job at putting the Colts offense in a position to succeed.
#1: Trusting Eberflus soft zone defense
Eberflus likes to run a soft zone defense that allows opposing quarterbacks easy completions near the line of scrimmage, but excels in open field tackling, preventing yards after the catch, and is really good at forcing mistakes. Mayfield was on a roll early in the game, tearing the Colts defense apart, but Eberflus stuck by the game plan and eventually Baker started getting inaccurate, throwing 2 picks and missing plenty of passes. I doubt this type of defense works against elite quarterbacks like Rodgers or Mahomes, but so far it looks good.
#2: Getting Burton involved in the passing game
Trey Burton was, after T.Y Hilton, the Colts best option in the passing game, so it was encouraging to see him show some chemistry with Rivers late in the game. Burton can form a really good duo with Mo-Alie Cox later in the season. I see him as a tight end similar to Eric Ebron, with much less athleticism, but better hands and no ego.
#3: Going for it on 4th and 2 on the first drive
I like how Reich trusted both his offensive line and Jonathan Taylor to make a play early in the game, facing 4th and 2 inside the Browns’ 10-yard line. The Colts delivered, and Taylor had an easy touchdown that put the Colts up 7-3.
#1: Play call near own endzone resulting in a safety
This was the biggest blunder in the game from Reich, as it essentially cost the Colts 2 points and the ball. It all started when Hines fielded a punt in the 4-yard line, pinning the Colts deep, but then Reich called a play-action pass where Garrett was left one-on-one. Rivers ended up throwing the ball away, drawing an intentional grounding penalty resulting in a safety. Not only was the execution poor, but the reasoning behind the play-call was not ideal.
#2: Giving Jack Doyle more snaps over MAC
Jack Doyle was perhaps the most consistent offensive position player the past few seasons, but now he is not nearly the same player he used to be. He is a liability in the run-game, committing some drive killing penalties over the past couple of games, and he has been a non-factor in the passing game, as his lack of athleticism is catching up to him. It is beyond any reasoning why he is still logging more snaps over Mo Alie-Cox, who has been an excellent run blocker and also a threat in the passing game.
#3: Excessive trust in Philip Rivers
The story with Philip Rivers is quite clear, if he has a stable running game behind him, and the offensive line can give him some time in the pocket, everything will be just fine, but expect anything else from him, and disaster ensues. Reich placed the ball in Rivers’ hands, and the result was not pretty. He threw two really bad picks, one costing the Colts 7 points, and he had a safety in the end-zone. This offense will only go as far as the running game takes it, so watching Frank abandon it while only down 10 was not encouraging.