Earlier today the Indianapolis Colts lost by a point to the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite the fact that the first half was as good of a half as the Colts have had all year, it eventually became clear to anyone viewing the game rationally, Frank Reich really wasn’t the problem after all. But the offense had a great first drive and the defense was absolutely stifling for most of the game. However, as the game went on, the same set of problems the Colts have had all season cropped up and Indy dropped another close one. It’s not Jeff Saturday’s fault, he’s just the guy who’s going to take the same fall for Chris Ballard that Frank Reich already took.
Anyway here’s some highlights... kind of.
Cool play but watch the right guard
That’s just a different version of the same stunts that have killed the Colts this season. Fortunately Michael Pittman Jr. had off coverage and Kylen Granson ran a vertical route from the inside, which provided some traffic for the defender to work through. MPJ came open, Matt Ryan put it on him and the rest is history. Had that corner disrupted the route at or near the line of scrimmage, Matt Ryan gets smacked on this play. Will Fries is better than Matt Pryor but so are most of the guards in the NFL. It’s not a high bar.
The line did do a good job here
Bernhard Raimann and Quenton Nelson had an effective double team before Q came off to pick up the flowing linebacker. Ryan Kelly and Will Fries worked their double team before Fries came off to pick up the ‘backer on his side. Kylen Granson got in the way of the DE he was responsible for, just enough to get Jonathan Taylor one on one in the hole with a defensive back.
JT made the first guy miss, as he’s been known to do and then he was off to the races. This one was well timed with the run fit the Eagles had called, the Colts won their blocks and it resulted in a really nice play.
It’s also important to point out the Eagles signed two DT’s who were on the street this week. Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh’s first snaps of the season came early in this game and it took a while for both men to get back up to speed.
This is it boys, it all gets worse from here
You handed it off to Taylor going left, good job. This was the first opening drive TD the Colts have scored in 11 months. It was also the only touchdown the Colts offense was able to score today.
New boss, same as the old boss
Both Raimann and Fries are beaten as soon as the ball was snapped. Taylor made a great cut to get outside, even though this play was not designed to go outside. Either way Q and Kelly made nice blocks. Braden Smith did his job but the play broke down so fast his assignment was weird. Shout out to Ashton Dulin for doing work, blocking up #33. Taylor made something out of nothing.
Amazing grab by Kylen Granson
Somewhat lost in the travesty of this season is the play of Kylen Granson. The Colts found an effective pass catching TE/FB/WR- or whatever he is. Bottom line Granson is a little too small to play TE on every down, he’s too slow to be a full time receiver and he isn’t a good enough blocker to be a full time blocking back. That said he’s really good when the Colts use him in their hybrid sniffer role, getting him in mismatches and letting him work misdirection routes into space.
On this one he ran his route and benefited from Matt Ryan stepping up to make the throw, making the underneath defender step toward Ryan giving the vet QB a wide open Granson. Granson’s growth from years one to two is exactly what you hope to see from a tight end in the modern NFL and the Colts have found a guy that should produce for years to come.
Having said all of that, go back and watch Will Fries hold on to Fletcher Cox for dear life. Cox was held, ref didn’t see it. Shout out to Fries for doing what it took.
Interesting note from Zak Keefer at the start of the fourth quarter
That escape and 23-yard run from Hurts was special. Only a matter of time before they found the end zone.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) November 20, 2022
Now Matt Ryan and Co. need to answer -- just one drive longer than 33 yds all day, and that was the first one.
Colts 13, Eagles 10, 13:31 to go.
Weird, I thought Frank Reich was the problem on offense.
The problem with the 2022 Colts has always been and will always be the line
I beg you to watch the first five (5) seconds of this play a few times (as many as it takes to understand what I’m saying) while watching each of the offensive linemen. Start by watching the left side of the line, Raimann worked a double with Q, before Q came off to get a nice second level block on the linebacker. Ryan Kelly gets a push against the DT lined up to his right. Braden Smith locked on to a linebacker and while he didn’t dominate his man, he was fine the play was designed to go away from him.
But Will Fries... not only did Will Fries get beat at the snap, he got beat at the snap by a defensive end lined up on Smiths inside shoulder. All Fries has to do here is keep that man from going inside. Just make him take the long way around you and you win this block. He had amazing leverage, all he had to do was stay hip to hip with Ryan Kelly and he couldn’t. Everybody else was fine and had Taylor not had that DE in his face, he probably avoids #33 that Pittman pushes down and he falls forward for 3-5 yards.
Instead the right guard was so bad JT had to improvise, it led to a pile that needed help from behind to cross the line and it resulted in JT getting held up and the ball stripped.
This was a great call and the line did their jobs
It’s also been great to see Parris Campbell have a good season after the rough start he’s had in the NFL.
It's almost like the offensive line has been the problem all season and it doesn't matter who's coaching.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 20, 2022
Weird. If only someone would have said this. #Colts#ForTheShoe#Eagles#FlyEaglesFly#PHIvsIND pic.twitter.com/dDZ9zFzjrz
Raimann always should have been treated as a developmental prospect and instead he’s been thrust into the starting role. All things considered playing him is the right move for this season but it’s not exactly surprising that in his third year ever playing offensive line, that sometimes things like this are going to happen. Once again the line is just too bad for the Colts to compete this season.
What other issues were there?
Play calling was an issue but not the biggest one
I don’t feel like writing this again so I’ll just give you these Tweets too:
1/3 Well I crunched the first down numbers and here's what they were.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 20, 2022
The #Colts ran 23 first down plays.
Adjusted for 1st downs inside 2 minutes to play in either half:
But that first drive was awesome! Lets look at everything else https://t.co/sEYnySTPSR
2/3 On the 12 first down runs they called after the first drive they averaged 0.75 yards per attempt.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 20, 2022
That is not a typo.
On 1st down (outside of 2 minute situations) the Colts ran the ball more than 80% of the time to the tune of 0.75 yards per attempt.
3/3 Not only is this awful, it's the kind of predictability you might find from a bad 3A Georgia high school football team... oh wait.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) November 20, 2022
Go Colts, amirite?
I’m not even upset with Parks Frazier, the guy is doing the best he can. But this is bad. Even if it was good, the offensive line is still bad enough it probably wouldn’t have mattered. The line was bad, the play calling was objectively bad. See, some play calling is subjectively bad, but this wasn’t it.
For example say the coach calls a pass on third and one from his own 40 and the QB takes a sack. Fans and pundits might pan him because they believe he should have handed the ball off. But that’s subjective. What fans and pundits might not know is that maybe the coaches spent all week figuring out how to get the opposing defense in a specific look so that they could run a specific play that would result in an explosive play more often than not? What if they saw something on film, maybe a player who would cheat a look or formation and was susceptible to a specific route combination and it just so happens they had set that player up perfectly and on that third and one the player gave the look the offense wanted? What if that player did exactly what the play caller expected him to do? What if everything set up perfectly, because of countless hours of study and planning put them in that exact moment, they spent hours and hours hoping they would be able to do exactly what they were doing in that five second window of the game and it all fell apart because the right guard wouldn’t even be playing second string for Alabama?
The coach gets panned by everyone and everyone thinks it was a bad play call.
See that’s a subjective “bad play call”. Objectively it’s a bad idea, in 2022, to run the ball more than 80% of the time on first down. Objectively it’s a far worse idea, in 2022, when you’re doing it to the tune of 0.75 yards per attempt.
And before you say “well what if they saw something on tape...” and try to throw my words back at me, if they saw something on tape that told them to almost always run on 1st down, that’s fine. But once you realize it’s not working anymore (so mid-second quarter) you have to adjust. You went to the well too much and it’s dry. Maybe you try again later. Maybe you sprinkle it in. What you don’t do is keep dropping your bucket into the well hoping you missed a drop the last 10 times you dropped it in.
So objectively the play calling was bad today. But even with good play calling it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. The defense is great, the offense can’t score touchdowns even on a short field and it’s still because of the offensive line.
Final Thoughts For The Week
I don’t know how many times I’ve typed some form of “it doesn’t matter who’s coaching or calling plays the offensive line is too bad to win” but it’s a lot. Turns out I was right. Again.
I want to make something else clear. Believe it or not, I actually like Jeff Saturday. How can you dislike him? I don’t think he did anything wrong taking the job. But now he’s here in the same impossible situation that Frank Reich was in only now the team has an objectively worse play caller.
Hopefully they get it figured out. The Colts have the Pittsburgh Steelers next week and it’s a game they can absolutely win. I’ll let you decide if a win is what you should be rooting for at this point, though.