The Colts ground out a win against the Chicago Bears Sunday by playing stifling defense and committing to the run game, in what would have been Chuck Pagano’s fever dream had it not happened with him as the Bears defensive coordinator. Through four weeks, the Colts defense has proven that they are no fluke, and put together another great performance on the way to a 19-11 win.
With the game mostly in hand, the Colts did have to weather a 4th quarter comeback attempt by the Bears, but their luck ran out and the Colts were able to hang on to move to 3-1 on the season.
Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from this week four win.
What a start to the rookie safety’s season it has been! The Colts selected the cornerback-turned-safety in the 3rd round, and after tearing his ACL at the end of last season, it is fair to think it would take the young defensive back some time to acclimate to the new system. Not so for Blackmon, who has put together back-to-back solid performances, and flashed the ability to be a game-changer at times. He laid a timely hit on Allen Robinson that knocked the ball loose on what would have been a first down catch, and got his first career interception off a high pass from Nick Foles that went through the hands of his receiver. Blackmon seems to have a nose for the ball, and just keeps making high impact plays. That is great news for the Colts, who are getting that kind of production at every level of the defense.
We are reaching Quenton Nelson territory with Buckner here. At some point I may just have to classify him as a permanent winner and note if he somehow struggles, because Buckner has been a revelation for the defense. Despite getting doubled all game, Buckner is still able to create penetration and disruption consistently. The Bears running backs were held to 28 yards on the ground and Buckner was in Nick Foles’ face all game, recording 3 QB hits and paving the way for pressure across the rest of the line. This was exactly what the Colts hoped they were getting from Buckner, and he hasn’t disappointed.
No one has benefitted from the arrival of DeForest Buckner more than has Justin Houston. Houston is a 32-year-old in a contract year, and is on pace to record the second highest sack total of his career. With teams having to deal with the leviathan that is Buckner in the middle, Houston is on the edge just creating havoc. That is exactly what they need from him, and that pressure is what has made this defense so effective. If Kemoko Turay comes back after the bye week and looks like he did in the first part of 2019, this defensive line is going to be an absolute nightmare.
With Parris Campbell out indefinitely, Michael Pittman Jr. sidelined for a few weeks, and T.Y. Hilton having had a minimal impact through 3 weeks, the Colts needed a receiver to make an impact. Zach Pascal was happy to oblige, and while he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, he seemed to be Rivers’ preferred target on the day. They’ll need that production to continue for the offense to improve.
Despite his monumental impact so far this season, Cox saw his role reduced with the return of Trey Burton. That didn’t stop him from making his opportunities count. In the red zone, an area they’ve struggled, Cox took his pass from Rivers and barreled over a defender and into the end zone for the Colts’ first score. Based on what we saw from Burton, I would prefer Frank Reich reduce his role and keep Cox more involved, as he is clearly both the hot hand, and has a much higher upside than either Doyle or Burton. Especially given the injury to their pass catchers, it seems like time to feed Mo.
The Colts have had really good special teams play across the board in 2020, but props specifically should go to Glasgow. If you’re a 6th round linebacker drafted to this roster, you had better come ready to bring it on special teams if you want to earn a spot. That’s exactly what Glasgow has done. He started his performance with a blocked punt, and absolutely planted Cordarrelle Patterson on a kick return late in the 3rd quarter as well.
Look, in any win it is going to be nitpicking to call people losers, but I’m giving Reich that label here. We know Reich is a capable game planner and play caller, because he’s done it well in the past. However, he has been orchestrating a very bland attack that clearly misses his speedy playmakers in Marlon Mack and Parris Campbell.
While it is certainly true that the Colts need to run the ball to maintain balance, and they have the defense to handle a ball-control kind of approach, their predictability at times can be frustrating. They don’t use the play action as frequently as they should, the screen game has all but disappeared, and they are running the ball in situations where it sets them up for tough conversions.
Add to that the fact that they have converted just 46.7% of their red zone appearances and you have an offense in need of a big step forward. I have hopes that Reich can find that pathway, but so far it has been the defense and special teams carrying the load and winning games. He will need to scheme ways to get T.Y. Hilton more involved, and they have to get more creative in their attacks. The schedule won’t stay this soft forever.