It would be impossible to judge Frank Reich on a game where he was without 10 starters, two of them All-Pros, and all happening the day before, or even a few hours before the game. The Colts were facing a very tough opponent away from home, even though it is worth mentioning that Arizona was also dealing with their fair amount of injuries/COVID.
Still, this was a game where the Colts were without 4 starters on their offensive line for most of the game, without the heart and soul of the defense, with 3rd string safeties, and without their starting tight end. Despite all that, Reich managed to keep the team together and pull out an unlikely victory that keeps the Colts with a firm grasp of a Wild Card Spot. I could nitpick some aspects of the game, or some decisions here and there that I did not particularly like, but how could I criticize Reich fairly on a game where he faced just so much adversity, and still pulled out the win?
Having to use 4 backup offensive linemen
Ryan Kelly was already ruled out because of personal matters, but then Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski were also ruled out because of COVID. After that, Eric Fisher was injured during the game, and no matter how bad he has been, backup tackle Julie’n Davenport is even worse. Managing to win with such a ravaged offensive line, especially when the offense had been relying so much on the run game, and Wentz struggles a lot under pressure, is no easy task.
Jahleel Addae/George Odum at safety
Khari Willis and Anthony Sendejo, the Colts’ starting safeties over the past few games, were both out on Saturday, and Eberflus was forced to turn to Addae and Odum, against one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the NFL. Sure, Arizona was without Hopkins, Moore, and Conner, but the Colts defense did an amazing job at preventing explosive plays and keeping everything in front of them. Overall, they just simply looked better coached.
No Darius Leonard
Darius “The Maniac” Leonard is the heart and soul of this defense. While Kenny and Deforest are almost as valuable, Leonard is just too important, especially with the way the Colts play defense. He is the turnover machine, and the main reason why the Colts are first in the NFL in turnovers forced. In his absence, Eberflus was forced to go with E.J. Speed at linebacker, a player who had not started a single game, now playing in a defining matchup. While he was picked on a bit by Kyler, Speed more than held his own and actually ended up leading the team in tackles.
All of it on such short notice
It is one thing to already know you are going to be without several starters to prepare for the game, but what makes it even more impressive is that most of the roster moves came on Friday or Saturday, so Reich was forced to prepare a completely different team on just a matter of hours.
I know I have perhaps been one of Reich’s biggest critics this season, and while there are still some things I don’t agree with, he is clearly the best head coach for this team. He is an above-average play-caller, with excellent coordinators next to him, and a standup guy that knows how to keep the locker room together through adversity.