An underwhelming offensive performance and the absence of a few star players made for a difficult game in Cleveland as the Colts took a 32-23 loss to the Browns.
It felt like the Colts may have taken a small step backward on Sunday, but let’s see how their temperature has changed.
I’ll start with the obvious: Philip Rivers did not look like a veteran quarterback on Sunday. I have no clue what was up with his decision making, but it essentially cost the Colts a victory. I’m not putting all of the blame on him, and I’ll address the other issues as well, but Rivers is supposed to be a leader on the field and he did a poor job of keeping the Colts in this game.
Statistics-wise, Rivers completed 21 passes on 33 attempts for 243 yards. He had no touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which may have been his worst throw all season. The first interception was on the opening drive of the second half for the Colts. It was a two-possession game at that point, and the Colts desperately needed a momentum shift. So what happened? Rivers threw a pick-six and suddenly it was a three-possession game.
We can’t forget the safety, either. The Colts went on to score 10 unanswered points after the Rivers’ pick-six and were down by just a touchdown. The Colts defense forced a punt and the offense took over at the Indy four yard line. On the very first play, Rivers was pressured by Myles Garrett in the end zone, threw the ball away, and was called for intentional grounding. By rule, if there is intentional grounding in the end zone, it counts as a safety. So, not only did it go from a seven point deficit to a nine point deficit, but the Browns automatically got the ball back, too.
Rivers needs to perform better against good teams. The Colts defense has been strong, but you can’t rely on them alone every single week. The offense needs to put up points, and that starts with Philip Rivers.
One of the reasons Rivers was having such a difficult time on Sunday was Myles Garrett’s dominance. Garrett made the Colts’ offensive line look pretty bad, particularly Le’Raven Clark who was playing in place of the injured Anthony Castonzo. Clark had a rough game, and it wasn’t made any easier going head-to-head with a beast of an athlete like Garrett.
Rivers was feeling the pressure from Garrett (who accumulated four quarterback hits and a sack) all game long. Garrett had more quarterback hits (4) by himself than the entire Colts defense (3) on Sunday.
One other thing I felt was important to address was the absence of the run game. Frank Reich talks every week about the importance of the run game for the Colts, and sometimes he doesn’t seem to use it. This would be yet another example of those times. The Colts had a total of 18 carries in this game for just 68 yards on the ground.
Jonathan Taylor had 12 carries for 57 yards by himself which basically accounted for the entire run game. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday, and was completely under-utilized. I’m not sure if Reich has noticed yet, but when the Colts get the run game going, the offense is much more successful.
There are so many other things to get into, but I think these were the most important negatives to address. Bottom line is: Rivers needs to play better, Castonzo’s injury really hurt the team for this game, and the run game needs to be established early.
Not too many things to go crazy for on the positive side right now.
The defense still looks relatively strong. The Browns do have a good offense, so 32 points isn’t crazy. Especially since seven of those points came from the pick-six and two of them came from the safety. You’re actually looking at 23 points given up by the Colts defense which is actually a pretty good performance.
A big defensive standout, in my eyes, was linebacker Bobby Okereke. Okereke knew he had to step up this week because starter Darius Leonard was sidelined with a groin injury and out for the game. Okereke led the team in tackles with 10 (8 solo), and he recorded his first interception of the season, which could not have come at a better time.
Another defensive standout would be Anthony Walker, who became the leader of the defense with Leonard not there. Walker also had an interception and two passes defended. It was a big day for the Colts’ linebackers.
Of course, I have to bring up the Isaiah Rodgers kick return for a touchdown. Right after the pick-six mentioned earlier, the Colts were getting the ball back and Rodgers returned the kick 101 yards to keep Indy in the game. You can’t expect something like this every game, but I do think Rodgers has done pretty well so far this year on kick returns, and this is the best example of it. The more yards you can pick up on kicks, the better field position you give to the offense. Rodgers kept the Colts in the game early on in the first half. You can relive the moment here:
There's the answer. @rodgers_isaiah takes it 101 yards TO THE HOUSE.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 11, 2020
CBS | #INDvsCLE pic.twitter.com/w4H7lZD5wv
The way this offense has been playing, the Colts will need more big returns from Rodgers to keep themselves in the game.
I may have gotten ahead of myself last week. I really thought the Colts had begun to figure everything out. The Browns are a good team, I get that, but they aren’t an amazing team. If the Colts can’t beat the Browns, how can they compete for a championship? We’re taking the Colts one notch down on the thermometer this week. The Bengals come into Indy on Sunday, and it’s important for the offense to get rolling again against Cincinnati. The Colts need a little spark to get on a run for these next couple of games. Bengals, bye, Lions, Ravens for the next four weeks. The Colts need to get this win on Sunday and use the bye week to get their endless list of injured players all healed up. They’ve cooled off this week, let’s see if they can get on another hot streak.