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Reich’s Best/Worst Decisions: Week 1 @Houston

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Best Decisions

Feeding Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor is special. Of course this is something that we all know by now, but it was encouraging watching Reich clearly give Taylor the keys to the offense. Despite running lanes being fairly limited throughout the game, Taylor did the most out of what very little he got, carrying the ball 31 times for 161 yards and a touchdown. Of course this amount of touches are unsustainable during the course of a 17-game NFL season, as that would put him over 500+ carries for the year, but on games where the offense is struggling (as was the case yesterday), just giving the ball to your best player on the team is always a good thing to do.

Play-action designs

I have been very critical of Frank Reich throughout the years, but I always thought he is among the best minds in the game taking advantage of the play-action, and it seems like every single time the Colts use this concept a wide receiver/tight end is wide open. Reich knows how to leverage his strong running game into opening up intermediate-deep passing lanes in the play-action game.

Last 6 minutes of the 4th quarter

I don’t know what it was, but something just seemed to click late in the game for the Colts, when the loss seemed inevitable. Both the defense and the offense started to perform, and what they could not do in the other 50 minutes of playing time they managed to do in the last minutes of the game. That speaks well of Reich, and how he is a good motivator that manages to keep his players in the game despite having what seemed like the most terrible of afternoons.

Worst Decisions

Slow starts once again

As I already mentioned in a previous article, when a problem becomes systematic, one has to start pointing fingers at the guys in charge, and the Colts have once again struggled with slow starts. They started the season looking really bad, and after scoring a field goal allowed 20 unanswered points and got into a 20-3 deficit against one of the worst rosters in the NFL. After emphasizing on this issue the entire off-season, and after the heartbreaking loss against the Jaguars, I expected the Colts to come out and punch the Texans in the mouth, leaving NRG Stadium with a statement win, instead they came out and laid an egg.

Getting too cute in the redzone

Once again, this is a problem area for Reich, who seems like he wants to be smarter than everyone else once the Colts manage to get inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. This time the problem was on 4th and short, where he called what seemed like a read option with Ryan out wide, something like a variable of the much documented Philly special. The Texans read the Colts like a book, and easily made the key stop, leaving the Colts empty handed. I always try not to judge the outcome of a decision, but to try and judge the thought process and the reasoning behind it, if Reich dials up a good play and the players fail to execute (like was the case with that Alec Pierce drop), one cannot fault Frank, but when the players are seemingly not in the best position to succeed because of weird, complex, play calls, one has to start questioning the decision maker.

Play calling in the last drive before overtime

With the game tied at 20, after a miraculous save by Rodgers, the Colts had the ball at their own 9-yard line with 1:15 remaining on the game clock. Many of us expected Matty Ice to show what he was made of, but instead we got some really weird play calls that I just could not understand. The time management was also just head-scratching, and it is worth noting the Colts had to waste a timeout in the third quarter after the unnecessary roughness call on the Texans because the offense was not ready.

Overly-conservative on defense

“Bend don’t break” was the staple of Matt Eberflus’ defense, and it was an approach that was not working properly. With new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and some solid additions in the offseason, I expected this defense to stifle the Texans’ offense. Instead, they looked sloppy, the defensive line failed to generate any sort of consistent pressure, they were several blown coverages, one resulting in a wide open touchdown for the Texans, and after starting off fine, they allowed 4 consecutive scoring drives. Keep in mind this was against one of the least talented offenses in the NFL.

Still having Blankenship as your kicker

When your team has playoff aspirations, and you put plenty of emphasis on special teams, you cannot have such an unreliable kicker like Rodrigo Blankenship. After a somewhat regular rookie year, Blankeship struggled a lot last season, and he started off this campaign missing what would be a game winning 42-yarder, and kicked the ball out of bounds twice on kickoffs during crunch time. This is a guy that simply put, seems to crumble under pressure, and he should not be the Colts’ starting kicker next week.