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New Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich and Other Things to Watch for in Week 9

Can Reich guide Ehlinger to another win over the New England Patriots?

NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Sunday, Sam Ehlinger made his first career start at quarterback. He also threw the first pass of his career and logged his first loss. Since then, the Indianapolis Colts have fired their offensive coordinator and traded away their only player who scored a touchdown last week. Things are not going well for the Colts, but there are plenty of things to watch for this week.

  • How Will New Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich’s Offense Look?
NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Colts fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and wished him well. Though Frank Reich is the man who calls the plays on Sundays, Brady wasn’t a figurehead in charge of getting everyone coffee and holding clipboards. Brady had a large role in the... coordination of the offense. While we don’t know for sure how the duties were split up, it’s safe to assume Brady had a large role in determining the plan of attack each week as well as helping to design the list of plays Frank Reich would choose from once the lights came on.

Now, with Brady out of the picture, the coordination of the offense rests solely on Reich's shoulders. Make no mistake, Frank Reich took on a lot more work when he fired Brady, and now we’ll get to see if there will be any improvement with Reich calling the shots as well as the plays on offense.

  • Can Sam Ehlinger Build on His Solid Opening, Against Bill Belichick?
NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Ehlinger’s career got off to a better start than anyone not named Ehlinger thought. Even thought he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he didn’t throw any picks, either. Ehlinger challenged all three levels of the field, made several full-field reads, and worked his progressions to find open receivers. He was also excellent stepping up into the pocket and making use of his athleticism, extending plays and throwing on the move.

All of that will be even tougher to do this week against a New England Patriots defense that has been notoriously difficult for young quarterbacks under the leadership of Bill Belichick. Ehlinger is no doubt aware and reports are that he’s doing everything he can to mitigate the Pats plan:

This week it will be interesting to see how Ehlinger does against the Pats in New England.

  • Who Is The Patriots Quarterback?
NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Both Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones have started and won games for the Pats this season. Jones, the listed starter, missed time earlier in the season with an injury. While he was recovering, Baliey Zappe replaced him and played incredibly well, 70% completion, 781 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions, all good for a QB rating of 100.9. Jones, on the other hand, has thrown three touchdowns to seven interceptions, completing just under 66% of his passes with a QB rating of 73.1.

Two weeks ago, Jones returned to the starting lineup against the Chicago Bears. Jones threw six passes, completing three and throwing one interception before being benched in favor of Zappe. Last week against the New York Jets Jones started and played the whole game, eking out a win on the road. Jones has thrown at least one interception in every game he’s played this season.

Will Jones finish the game? Will Zappe take over? Will Jones play well if he doesn’t? Sunday will tell us a lot about the Patriots moving forward.

  • Can the Colts Start a Winning Streak Against the Pats?
NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

A season ago, on the back of Jonathan Taylor, the Colts got their first victory over the Patriots since the 2009 season. Prior to last season the Colts had lost 8 games in a row and this weekend, against all odds, the Colts have a chance to put together their first winning streak against the Pats since their ‘08 and ‘09 victories.

Four times since moving to Indianapolis have the Colts racked up back-to-back victories against the Pats, and only once have they won three times in a row, from 2005-2007. No Colts fan, not even the fans that want the Colts to tank the rest of the season for a better draft pick, will be able to root for the Colts to lose against the Patriots. I feel pretty safe in saying we all hope for the fifth win streak against the Pats in Indianapolis Colts history.

Final Thoughts

According to Tankathon, the Colts currently hold the 15th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. I know a lot of people are already looking forward to the draft, and while I enjoy the draft and everything that leads up to it, there is still a lot of football left. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t think the Colts are as out of it as most people seem to believe. Are they good? No, definitely not. But there are reasons for hope.

The offensive line was better a week ago, opening up multiple holes for Jonathan Taylor and Buffalo Bills running back Nyheim Hines. There were even a couple of times Sam Ehlinger was able to spend way too long in the pocket. Speaking of Ehlinger, he did things that Matt Ryan just can’t physically do. So while the offense wasn’t exactly better under Ehlinger, it is reasonable to believe that with more experience under center in the NFL, Ehlinger will improve and as a result the offense will improve with him.

The other option is they could fall apart completely and stink a lot by seasons end.

Time will tell.

Either way, go Colts.