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Indianapolis Colts Championship Fever: Weeks 9 and 10

Two games have come and gone since the last edition of Championship Fever. Coming into Sunday, the Colts were entering into what many considered the toughest stretch of their schedule. They come out of the first two games with a 1-1 record which brings them to 6-3 on the season. Some very promising football was played this week, but there is still a lot the Colts need to work on if they plan to be a championship team.

Let’s see how the thermometer looks through week 10:


NEGATIVES

I want to start with negatives this week because I think these are pretty clear and obvious.

The main gripe I have is with the Colts offense. It is a combination of Philip Rivers making mistakes, Jonathan Taylor’s play making ability (or lack thereof), and Frank Reich’s play calling.

In the Ravens game on Sunday, the offense could never get into a rhythm against a solid Ravens defense and they only put 10 points on the board. Indy will not beat any playoff-caliber football team if they only manage 10 points.

Rivers threw another interception on Sunday, with no touchdown passes. He made a couple key plays, but there was pretty much no consistency. He was much more consistent on Thursday night against the Titans, which makes me wonder if he just struggles against good defenses, or if there is something more.

All season long, it appears that the Colts offense is very on and off depending on the week. Some games, they can not be stopped, while others scream disaster.

I personally blame a lot of this inconsistency on Frank Reich and his play calling. There is no question that the Colts have one of the best offense line units in all of the NFL, but for whatever reason their run blocking has been less than stellar this season.

Reich puts a lot of faith in the Colts run game, as he should. However, it feels like every running play just goes up the middle and will end anywhere between a gain of three and a loss of one. There is little trickery in these runs, and Taylor can not seem to find holes to pick up big yardage.

It also makes no sense that in some games, Nyheim Hines does not get fed. On Sunday, Hines touched the ball a total of four times, with two receptions for 20 yards and two carries for 18.

On Thursday, however, Hines was the leading rusher for the Colts with 70 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, as well as five catches for 45 yards and another touchdown.

Reich needs to understand that Hines should be the guy moving forward, and he should start to utilize him more moving forward. Taylor may be the future, but if the Colts are serious about trying to win a Super Bowl, Hines will be a player that is key to success.


POSITIVES

The good news is that the defense has continued to dominate, specifically at and around the line of scrimmage.

Over the last two games, the Colts have accumulated three sacks, seven QB hits, and 16 tackles for loss.

The defensive line has done a great job applying pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers have played great while spying the quarterback and playing short pass coverage, and this makes it easier on the secondary to defend the deep ball. I still worry about coverage, even though there have not been a ton of deep gains against the Colts this year.

A few individual players that deserve acknowledgement are:

  • Darius Leonard, who continues to be a leader on the field. It appears that no matter where the ball is going, Leonard is close by to make a tackle.
  • DeForest Buckner has been great with pressures all year long and had three QB hits on Thursday night.
  • Grover Stewart has been a force as well. Stewart is key for stopping the run and was able to accomplish that on Thursday against Derrick Henry and the Titans. Big Grover has generally been one of the most impactful players on the line recently.

Watch here as Stewart grabs Henry with one arm, wraps around him and throws him to the ground. Even with Henry’s size and strength, Stewart got the best of him a few times on Thursday.

Offensively, the two standouts these past two games have been Nyheim Hines, as mentioned earlier, and Michael Pittman Jr.

It was proven this week that Hines serves a great importance to the success of the Colts offense, and it is now up to Frank Reich to use him the right way.

As for Pittman, he has been the leading receiver the past two weeks for the Colts. Over those games, Pittman has 11 receptions for 157 yards. He also had a rushing attempt for 21 yards.

Pittman is still waiting on his first career touchdown, and came close a couple times on Thursday, but his production has been much better recently and the Colts will likely utilize him more and more as his chemistry gets stronger with Rivers.


FEVER

I realize the Colts lost to the Ravens on Sunday, but I do believe that defensively, the team proved themselves big time. They did more of the same on Thursday against the Titans. Indy is still hit or miss on offense, but I trust that Reich will soon realize his mistakes and find a way to get the offense to be more consistent. The stretch of tough games continues next week when Green Bay comes to Indianapolis. This week, the thermometer will heat up. It only makes sense for it to rise. The Colts showed promise in both games, and now have sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Two questions remain: Can the Colts offense get into a rhythm early next week? And how will the defense handle Aaron Rodgers?