Colts head coach Frank Reich’s vanilla play calling and lack of creativity were covered by an amazing performance by the defense on Sunday. If the Colts are to become a true contender in the AFC, Reich will need to find a solution to the many issues plaguing the offense.
#1: Taking the points in the redzone
I was glad Reich respected the strength of his opponent and elected to just take the points instead of risking turning the ball over on downs. The Colts offense struggled throughout the game, and the running game could not find any sort of rhythm. Luckily, Rodrigo Blankenship continued his solid start to the year and nailed all his kicks (even though the longest was just 44 yards). Giving Blankenship plenty of opportunities to kick also means he will have more confidence when the time comes, and making a kick becomes the difference between winning or losing.
#2: Unleashing Julian Blackmon
Last season, Reich seemed to have rookie standout Khari Willis on a tight leash regarding snap counts, even though he was clearly outperforming the rest of the safeties on the team. It is nice to see that the coaching staff is clearly not repeating the same mistake with safety Julian Blackmon, who in very little time has already made a bigger impact than Malik Hooker made all of last season. Blackmon is coming off a torn ACL, so rotating him more would probably be a good decision long-term, but if the Colts are fully confident in his knee then there is no reason at all to hold him back.
#1: Way too conservative play calling
The offensive play calling yesterday reminded me of the days of Pep Hamilton, only this time there is no elite quarterback to save the day. The argument can be made that Reich was playing conservatively because the defense was playing so well, but some of the play calls left a lot to be desired. Reich will also have to re-think the entire game plan to deal with Campbell, Pittman, and Mack’s injuries. Someone will need to step up. My main candidates for that are either Jonathan Taylor or Zach Pascal.
#2: Soft defense late in the 4th
The Colts defense shut out the Bears all day long. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, which is why I do not understand the soft defense utilized in what was the Bears’ final drive of the day. Indy’s so called prevent defense allowed Nick Foles to march down the field on a 90-yard touchdown drive, plus a 2 point conversion, in just 2 minutes. The Colts went on to recover the onside kick, making the amazing drive just a footnote, but had the Bears recovered it we could be telling a whole different story.
#3: Running back touches management
After lead back Marlon Mack went down, the Colts started use more of a “running back by committee” approach, apparently running the hot hand, as Hines was the primary back the first game while Taylor got more of the workload the following weeks. On Sunday, Taylor seemed like the only back who could make something out of the little space available in the Bears front 7, but Reich gave him just 17 carries, while Hines and Wilkins got 9 a piece. Wilkins’ inefficiency was uncharacteristic of him, as his calling card is consistently being able to make something out of nothing. As Taylor gets more acclimated to the speed of the NFL, expect to get him more and more of the workload, which is why Hines and Wilkins will have to prove that they are still worth getting some valuable carries in the flow of the game.