This is a game where it is almost impossible to identify any concrete takeaways from. First of all, the Colts were without 5 key starters for most of the game, and it became a blowout very quickly. Instead of nitpicking individual decisions that may have had a minimal impact on the outcome of the game, let’s try and find some reasons why the Colts were so shorthanded in this one and what Reich could have done to avoid this.
As alluded to previously, the Colts were missing their best two defensive lineman because of positive COVID tests. There’s nothing Reich could have done here. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Stuff like this just happens, and you have to deal with it. No matter how much depth you have (and the Colts have some serious depth on the defensive line), nothing can prepare you to play without your All-Pro anchor of the defense and also perhaps your best pass rusher. Grover Stewart was forced to play out of position, and it was also really bad timing that this happened against one of the best running teams in the NFL.
The Colts also were without perhaps the most irreplaceable starters on the team, and right at the worst time. The drop-off between Anthony Castonzo and Le’Raven Clark/Chaz Green is just way too drastic for the Colts offense to maintain their rhythm. Offensive tackle will be perhaps the first need in the off-season. The Colts were also without Bobby Okereke, and against an offense that loves to run play-action passes, Anthony Walker was continuously exposed throughout the game.
As to what I would have done differently, in my opinion T.J Carrie definitely deserves some of Rock Ya-Sin’s snaps. Rock has been really bad this season and his mistakes cost the Colts 11 points when the game was still competitive. The thing with defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is that he does not adapt the scheme to suit his players at all. When a player is not in a comfortable position, it really, really shows, as was the case with Walker and sometimes Ya-Sin.
Let me clarify that I am not a big fan of Frank Reich. I believe he is a solid coach but his play calling is really conservative at times, and he has not proven he can win without a franchise quarterback yet. That said, Sunday’s loss is nowhere near his fault. No head coach other than possibly Bill Belichick can overcome so many injuries to key players, especially when the entire defensive scheme depends so much on a disruptive 3-technique. Let’s just wait for everyone to recover this week, and see how the team does the next couple games, which will be key to deciding whether the Colts make the playoffs or not.