The Colts picked up an important divisional win at home against the Houston Texans. This pushes their regular season record to 2-4, which is somehow good for second in the division and could very easily put them just one game behind the Tennesee Titans after they play the red hot Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
I suppose it’s good to be in the AFC South.
THE OFFENSE IS STILL LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY
Carson Wentz has been putting together strong statistical games for much of the season. Our very own Troy Russell will tell you that QB Rating isn’t the most important statistical measure to evaluate a quarterback’s play (he may use stronger words) but it’s still impressive to see Wentz average a QB rating of 118 in games not facing the Rams (where he got obliterated) or playing on two really bad ankles (Titans). Even including those two games, his season average QB Rating is north of 102 and he has thrown for nine touchdowns against only one interception.
This is part of the reason it’s fair to say that Wentz isn’t primarily responsible for Indy’s early-season record.
However, the raw stats also mask a few things. For instance, the Colts were 3-of-10 on third down against the Texans. On passing with a third-down distance of three or more yards, the Colts have converted at 30% on the season. It’s actually worse if you look at third down with a distance between three and ten yards, where the Colts have converted on 23% percent of their attempts.
There are a variety of reasons for third-down inefficiency but this weakness kills a lot of offensive possessions. At times, Wentz holds onto the ball too long. Wentz still has a habit to miss high with a lot of his passes too, in part due to some mechanical issues he’s had since college. Also, offensive play-calling on third down isn’t particularly exciting either. A lot of long-developing route concepts have made it even more difficult on a banged-up offensive line.
Also, while the Colts' running game is definitely a strength, even with the injuries on the offensive line, it is oddly ignored at times. The Colts have attempted to run the ball on third down with one to five yards to go and converted seven of nine times for a 78 percent success rate versus a passing success rate of 47 percent.
Finally, it’s fair to say that without some pretty big runs by Jonathan Taylor today, the offensive performance wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting. It all counts, but it’s worth noting.
DEFENSIVE OPPORTUNISM RETURNS
Matt Ebeflus has put together a defensive style that relies heavily on being opportunistic. If the Colts defense creates turnovers and rewards the offense by keeping points off of the board or providing it excellent field position, Indianapolis should have a pretty good day. While this isn’t groundbreaking, as it works that way for most defenses, it’s arguably more important for a unit that otherwise allows opponents to move the ball.
Darius Leonard still looks less than 100 percent but he was a sack away from a defensive hat trick. He did a nice job playing centerfield on his interception and used his patented tomahawk club move to force a fumble that the Colts recovered. These plays change the momentum of the game and were huge in keeping the Texans' offense off-balance.
It has to be noted, though, that everyone in the NFL knew Houston was going to utilize Brandin Cooks heavily on offense. He is arguably the only offensive weapon to fear in Houston at the moment. Bill Belichick and the Patriots were able to take him out of the game. The Colts allowed him to catch nine passes on 13 targets for 89 yards.
Far too often, this defense will leave receivers wide open in spaces while playing zone. Injuries may play a role in how soft those zones are at the moment but even when healthy, this has been a recurring theme in the Eberflus Cover-2 concept.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell is a World Class athlete. He entered the league after flashing big-play ability at Ohio State. Numerous injuries have slowed down his progress as a pro and commentators have been just waiting to see him turn a corner and shake the bug. Last week, Campbell played an active offensive role and helped the Colts push the Ravens to the brink in Baltimore.
If you saw what Baltimore did to a really good Chargers team today, you’ll have more respect for what Indianapolis was able to do on Monday night.
Unfortunately, Campbell left the game prematurely with a foot injury. He will have to be monitored again as the season progresses.
I know what Colts fans are thinking. Who suffers a foot injury?
T.Y. Hilton made his big return and got started right away, catching Wentz’s first pass of the day. He even had a 52-yard reception, adding the deep-threat element the offense had been missing early in the season. He too left the game early with a quad injury.
Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin finally returned to the field — a relief after the Colts’ secondary buckled late against Baltimore. Sadly, he suffered an ankle injury in the game and will have to be monitored at practice before Week 7.
As they say, a win’s a win and there was no doubt in this one. Still, the Colts have work to do and need to get and stay healthy if they want to maintain some momentum and catch the Titans in the AFC South.