This game didn’t go like anyone expected. I’m sure by the time this story is posted you’ll have seen a healthy range of hot takez saying everything from cut “Philip Rivers, start Jacoby Brissett” to “It’s time to look ahead to the draft.”
The first thing we need to do is relax and realize that it is week one. The Colts played a game on the road against a division opponent, in a season without a preseason in the middle of a global pandemic. Let’s not overreact.
With that said, there were absolutely issues, and we’ll talk about those, but this one started off as well as anyone could have hoped for.
Rivers first play
Rivers threw to his backs early and often in this one and Marlon Mack was on his way to having a big day from the first play of this game. Mack went down with what looks to be a very serious injury, and honestly that information is worse than the loss itself.
There were a couple plays from the first drive I missed getting because apparently the preseason is important to me and my ability to post highlights on Twitter in real time, just know that Nyheim Hines scored the first rushing touchdown of the season for our Colts and he had a couple nice plays on the first drive.
The defense had a rough day
Boys, this is not encouraging pic.twitter.com/Nxr7hU5j2P— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) September 13, 2020
We were all expecting the defense to come out firing with another year of development of the young talent on the roster, and after trading for DeForrest Buckner. Buckner was quiet today, but, again, there’s no need to panic. Give it time, he’ll be okay. Instead of a defense that looked like it had taken strides, we saw a defense that looked like they weren’t sure what to expect.
Paris Campbell had a nice day
Paris Campbell just keeps winning this route pic.twitter.com/H8KN6jZF4H— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) September 13, 2020
Save for one incredibly stupid taunting penalty, the second-year pro looked good, pulling in 6 catches for 71 yards. Early on, the Colts offense was moving at a breakneck pace and Rivers familiarity with the offense was on full display.
The second drive stalled out when Frank Reich went for it on 4th and short by running Nyheim Hines up the middle. I liked the call to go for it on 4th, I didn’t love the play call. At the end of the day the Colts left points on the board on their second drive.
First sack of the year goes to...
Denico Aurty. Autry beat the right tackle to the inside and picked up his first sack of the season.
Defense gets a stop
The Colts defense started out the second quarter by getting a stop on third down.
T.Y. shows up
T.Y. Hilton didn’t have a very good day. He was targeted 9 time, made four catches for 53 yards and had a couple of big drops, including a drop that ended the game for the Colts offense.
Not T.Y.’s fault here
I’ve never liked Philip Rivers. I’ll be honest. Even leading up to the game, I still had this weird feeling deep down inside of distaste. I’m still not sure I like the guy, but as soon as the game kicked off I was instantly pulling for Rivers and the rest of the Colts. Turns out, I’m just going to cheer for whoever is playing quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.
Having said that, this was an awful decision.
People are going to overreact and say that Rivers was the reason we lost this game and while this play and his other interception absolutely hurt, Rivers' 363 yards was the reason we were able to move the ball at all in this one.
Again, it’s just one game, don’t freak out.
Doing what he does
I talked about Minshew using his eyes to move defenders in my scouting reports this week. I just wish he wasn't as good at it as I thought he was. pic.twitter.com/3yp0vorpo4— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) September 13, 2020
In this week’s Opponent Scouting Report I said this about Gardner Minshew:
On this play Minshew stares down the slot receiver and as he runs his post, Minshew begins stepping into his throw, looking right at the post the entire time. Malik Hooker starts drooling (I assume) because this ball is getting picked, for sure. Except at the last possible instant, Minshew turns his head to see the receiver he knew he had one on one against a rookie, just before the ball left his fingertips.
Ultimately, Khari Willis has to play this down better than this. His responsibility is the deep man. Instead, Willis comes up to try to make a play when Minshew gives a subtle fake to the receiver who came in motion. Willis’ misstep made this a really easy throw and catch for Minshew and D.J. Chark
Didn’t see much of this a season ago
I’m not saying you can’t find a similar throw from Brissett last season but I am saying that you’ll see a lot more throws like this from Rivers this year. These are the throws that, in no small part, make Rivers a superior option to Brissett.
Jonathan Taylor didn’t have the kind of massive debut that some seemed to believe he would have, but on this play he showed off his amazing speed. Taylor’s rushing numbers weren’t great so I’m going to pretend like I don’t know what they are and instead I’ll tell you about his 6 catches for 67 yards!
I understand why you call this play
So let's not play the backup unless Rivers dies... pic.twitter.com/ZVxHbCZ0ep— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) September 13, 2020
Without writing a novel on why I think it’s important to keep Jacoby Brissett involved in some way, I’ll just say using him as a running option is never going to be something we should hope for.
Hines once again
Ryan Kelly made a great block on this screen. Hines might end up having a massive year if he keeps up the pace he set today.
I feel like I wrote about plays like this, this week pic.twitter.com/XOKffdNbFJ— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) September 13, 2020
I did write about plays like this and the Jags used them often. Minshew was great today and he was especially effective getting out of the pocket.
A new era for the Colts
Rodrigo Blankenship’s first field goal came at the end of the first half. It was a short kick but Doug Marrone tried to ice him all the same.
Gutsy fourth down call
People on Twitter claimed that this wasn’t a gutsy play call as it was what “winning coaches do” but the bottom line is the Colts were winning in the third quarter and had they not picked up this first down they would have given the ball back to the Jaguars nearly in field goal range.
Most coaches would have punted in this situation. Most coaches would have been wrong but in a league where small mistakes can cost you millions of dollars, going for it on fourth down, given the circumstances , makes this a gutsy call. It’s easy to say what you would have done from behind a keyboard.
The screen game
The Jags use a lot of Cover three, which usually means the flats will be open. The Colts countered this by throwing a lot of screen passes including this well-designed play that got Anthony Castonzo out and moving so that Hines could maximize this play.
Regardless of what happened down field on this play, the Colts have to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks or they’re going to make a lot of QB’s look really good.
Justin Houston had a sack I missed as I was on dad duty, but I really wish he would have been able to finish this sack here as I believe Khari Willis gets the credit instead.
A frustrating drive
The Jags just kept bailing the Colts out and the Colts sure seemed like they didn’t know how to capitalize on the extra chances.
It felt like this was coming
The Colts drive directly before this took more than 8 minutes off the clock and finished with a made field goal. There was a terrible flag that was thrown on Jack Doyle that ultimately stalled the drive but even with that, watching this game it just felt like the Jags were going to drive down the field and get these points.
It was disappointing, but not surprising given the context of the game.
In big moments, big players make big plays and T.Y. Hilton didn’t do that here. He had his hands on this ball and he failed to bring it in. Again it’s just one game and I’m not here saying anything about the quality of T.Y. Hilton as a player, I’m sure there are people who will, I don’t believe he’s really fallen off but he struggled today.
It’s a long season. This one is disappointing, very disappointing. But lets wait until after week four before we gather outside of West 56th Street with pitchforks.