The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Washington Commanders. There were a lot of positive things that happened, though. The most positive thing is that Sam Ehlinger looked far better than I expected him to and at times provided a spark that Matt Ryan seemed incapable of providing. His mobility and pocket presence allowed him to move away from pressure multiple times and his decision making was good all game long.
If I am being honest I expected to come away from this game absolutely sure that Sam Ehlinger couldn’t be the answer at quarterback and instead I’m still not sure. It’s going to take a lot of evaluation to figure that out but if he is able to build on what he did today for the rest of the season the Colts have a chance to win some games and you never know what might happen.
Without further ado here are some highlights
As much as the offensive line being bad, isn’t Matt Ryan’s fault, the 15 year vet just can’t move like this to extend downs and make plays. With a line as bad as the Colts, that’s exactly the guy you need under center.
Play action, stepping up, throwing accurately on the move... again there were a lot of exciting things that happened in this game. I know you play to win the game but the Colts didn’t win today, that doesn’t mean everything that happened was bad.
Jonathan Taylor started the day well
This run was great to see from Taylor but unfortunately he aggravated his ankle injury and didn’t quite look the same for the rest of the game. I doubt he practices much this week.
Grover Stewart deserves more attention than I can give him
Once again, Grover Stewart was excellent. The defense was good most of the day and Stewart was their best player, again.
Parris Campbell had a day
This version of Parris Campbell is who the Colts thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2019. On the ground and through the air, Campbell made plays today.
When an offense has a QB as mobile as Ehlinger it can take advantage of that athleticism and use creative plays that the defense has to respect. This is a perfect example of that.
Sam’s arm looks good enough
I won’t pretend that Sam Ehlinger doesn’t have limitations. He does. There were a couple of throws toward the sidelines that seemed to take a little too long to arrive, with that said this throw hit Alec Pierce in stride and traveled 50 yards in the air. Again, no one is going to confuse Ehlinger’s arm with Josh Allen’s, but there’s enough juice in his arm to get it done.
Despite popular opinion, the pass rush was effective at times
The Colts sacked Taylor Heinicke twice and flushed him from the pocket five times.
Really, Parris Campbell looked good
It’s really great to see Campbell playing well. No one was sure we would ever see him fully healthy and on the field again and now that we’re seeing it, I understand completely why the Colts drafted him.
I saw someone say that this was a bad throw, that Ehlinger should have put it in front of Nyhiem Hines more. While I understand that line of thought, I get why Ehlinger didn’t. When Ehlinger started throwing this ball, Hines was even with the linebacker who had inside leverage. If that backer is fast enough to stay even with Hines there’s a very real chance he beats the smaller back in a jump ball situation.
The safe throw was outside and Sam took the safe throw. Either his guy was getting it or no one. If this were Matt Ryan I would have been disappointed with this throw because Matt Ryan should know, in real time, that he’s throwing to Hines and that backer isn’t keeping up with him. Considering this was Ehlinger’s first start and what’s more, his first game action that meant anything in almost two years, I’m very happy with this throw.
I’m not going to lie to you, Shaq Leonard is not 100%. He looks slow. At times he looked lost. He looks like a shell of who he used to be. But on this play, he was in the right place at the right time and got the interception.
Nyhiem Hines got in for six and it gave them a two score lead in the fourth quarter.
The plays that lost the game
I haven’t looked at Twitter or the comment sections here on Stampede Blue, but I’m guessing everyone is being completely reasonable and not blaming the defense. In case you couldn’t tell, that’s sarcasm. I haven’t looked but I get the instinct to blame a defense that gives up a game winning drive, but if we’re not being silly and reactionary, there were two plays that lost the game for the Colts and neither of them were the defenses fault.
This was as fluky as fumbles get. It’s tough to tell from this angle but Ehlinger lost his grip on this ball trying to put it away to run. He didn’t even get hit. He just dropped the ball. This was the only major mistake Ehlinger made on the day and I’m willing to chalk it up to a bit of rust that needed knocked off. Either way this took at least three points off the board and the Colts lost by a single point.
Jonathan Taylor knows he can’t drop this ball, yet he did. Once again this took at least three points off the board.
So while the defense should have made a stop on the Commies final drive, it shouldn’t have mattered. An NFL offense should score more than 17 points, so if you allow 17 points you should win, every time. Teams that allowed 17 points or fewer this weekend went 5-2. The two losses were the Colts and the Houston Texans who gave up 17 points to the Tennessee Titans while scoring 10. Anytime your offense is mentioned in the same breath as the Texans, you have a problem.
Now, no doubt people are going to talk about Michael Pittman Jr.’s deep drop during the Colts final, desperate drop. While that drop was absolutely terrible and frankly inexcusable, it didn’t lose the Colts the game. It was already lost and once again, without losing those fumbles, the Colts don’t need MPJ to make that catch, anyway.
Final Thoughts For The Week
The season is far from over. The Colts aren’t good as a team but they’re not that far off from competing. Sam Ehlinger is going to settle in and if he continues to play the way he did today with a higher level of comfort, this Colts team is going to win some games. Is Ehlinger the guy at QB in 2023 and beyond? Who knows. But we’ve only got ten more weeks to figure that out.
Season is almost half way over. Enjoy what’s left.