Week four is in the books and things didn’t go as planned for the Indianapolis Colts against the Los Angeles Rams. A lot of people aren’t going to bother reading beyond this, if they read this at all, so I’m just going to get straight to it; the Colts are not now, nor have they ever been contenders in the 2023 season. Obviously wins are better than losses and there are a lot of negatives to come from this game, for sure. But you and I aren’t going to be the ones to fix those problems. I’m not hiding from the problems. They exist and I’ll acknowledge them as I come across them, but you don’t need me to tell you what they are. And if you do, we have bigger problems, problems I’m not solving in a highlight article. This season isn’t about contending, it’s about growth for the future. Always has been.
Either way, today we’re focusing on the good things that happened with an eye toward a divisional matchup next week against the Tennessee Titans. So let’s jump into it.
In an unprecedented event the NFL decided these two teams didn’t need to play a first quarter. At least if they played it, I have absolutely no memory of it.
Also the defense really missed DeForest Buckner’s presence in the worst way. If you ever wondered about the impact he has on the team, go back and re-watch Taven Bryan in this game. If Buckner is limited next week Derrick Henry will look like he’s 25 years old again.
Oddly this is all I remember from the second quarter
In a rough day for kickers in a dome, Rams kicker Brett Maher went just 3 for 5 on field goals while reigning AFC special teams player of the week, Matt Gay, missed his only attempt.
Down three scores after two quarters, no one would have been surprised if a young Colts team would have come out in the second half and accepted their fate. But that’s not what they did. Not at all.
Signs of life were spotted
Quarterback Anthony Richardson felt the pressure, moved to his right, kept his eyes downfield and threw an accurate pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox. Alie-Cox did a great job turning upfield, running through smaller defenders and getting into the endzone for six. The touchdown was great, what the play from the Colts young signal caller might mean, is even more exciting for the future.
I can’t remember two points being this much fun
Under pressure from a Hall of Famer, Richardson stumbled, regained his balance, moved away from the pressure which pulled a defender toward him. He got his eyes up which allowed him to see his newly open running back, Zack Moss, and he completes the two point conversion. On back-to-back plays the Colts 21-year-old quarterback made ridiculous plays. What that might mean for the future of the Colts is exciting.
Kenny Moore got himself on the stat sheet
Color commentator Jonathan Vilma called this an inaccurate pass and I won’t kill the guy for saying it. After the booth we all suffered through this week, Vilma was great by comparison. But this wasn’t an inaccurate pass, it was right on the money. Kenny Moore just made a great break on the ball, he jumped the route and came away with the pick. Great play from Moore.
I have a lot of thoughts about this clip
Leading up to the 2023 draft I watched a lot of tape on the draftable quarterbacks. I knew what people were saying about Richardson before I started and when I turned on his tape I was really surprised by how much of what other people were saying seemed completely wrong. Some mostly objective things were being said about him that were verifiably false. I was dumbfounded. Either there are a lot of people out there pretending to understand what they’re watching when they fire up game tape, or well, I won’t speculate on why someone would just lie about a 20 year old kid trying their hardest to accomplish their dreams of becoming an NFL quarterback. But it was wild.
One of the things that I saw other people say most often was that Richardson would rely on his athleticism and wasn’t a “pass first” quarterback. But the thing is, there were dozens of examples of him in the pocket, feeling pressure, moving away from it, keeping his eyes down field and then throwing the ball. Now, admittedly the ball didn’t always go where he wanted it to (a problem that has improved since Florida, but still shows up too often) but the kid almost always looked to pass first. Saying otherwise was verifiably false.
And this wasn’t the first example of it in this game but it’s a darn good example. The pocket is collapsing, a run-first quarterback would have felt the pressure, pulled the ball out and tried to run. Instead Richardson stepped up and got the throw off to his receiver, Alec Pierce, who made a great catch and took a big hit.
Plays like this are exciting for the future of the Indianapolis Colts.
Using his athleticism
Imagine having a quarterback who can read a defense, work his progressions and throw a catchable ball on one play and then do this a couple plays later?
That’s pretty exciting for the future of the Colts.
Escapes pressure, eyes downfield, catchable ball
Moving to his left after avoiding pressure, keeping his eyes downfield and moving the chains to try to keep the comeback bid alive.
Working holes in the zone
The Rams went with a two deep shell. Those deep safeties make it tough to complete deep passes but there tend to be holes underneath those safeties and behind the linebackers. Richardson recognized the coverage and Drew Ogletree ran his route right into the hole in the coverage. Richardson put the ball right on him, throwing underneath the safeties and splitting the underneath linebackers and Ogletree picked up a nice gain because of that recognition.
Big fourth down conversion
First, he probably didn’t need to get outside of this pocket, it was clean. But I understand why he would want to. It was 4th and 4 and if there was nothing available, Anthony Richardson probably wanted to give himself a chance to sell out and make a play with his legs. I won’t argue it was the right thing to do. I’m sure he’ll talk with Jim Bob Cooter and Shane Steichen about it and he’ll learn from it, or not, I’m not in their meeting rooms I don’t know what they want him to do in this situation. But either way, down by a touchdown, on fourth down, in the fourth quarter of his third NFL start Anthony Richardson found an open receiver, delivered a catchable pass and kept the game alive for his team. That’s a pretty good sign.
Watch this clip and then scroll up four clips
Sure Richardson delivered this ball, but let’s take a minute to appreciate Shane Steichen. When I saw them come out in this formation I said out loud “Oh, they’re going to pass it this time” and everybody knew it. But the problem is, Richardson is such a good athlete the Rams defense had to stay in just in case Richardson did just run the same play again and he scored another rushing touchdown. That split second hesitation from the safety (#4) was just enough to allow Ogletree to get into the endzone pretty easily on third and goal.
Game on the line, not a hard pass but he still had to make it
In his third start Anthony Richardson led his team all the way back from being down 23-0. That’s a pretty good sign.
Ultimately the defense just couldn’t hold up any longer. They didn’t play well in the first half and while they settled in, in the second half, it just felt like they ran out of gas in overtime.
Still, the team never gave up, they fought hard and forced the Rams to play them for more than four quarters. Watching them fight to get back into and stay in games, it’s easy to forget this Colts team only won four games last year and that’s pretty exciting for the future of the Indianapolis Colts.
Final Thoughts on Week Four
This is life with a rookie quarterback. Sometimes he’s going to look great. Sometimes he’s going to have 50 passing yards in the first half. I’m not comparing anyone to Peyton Manning but Manning won three games in ‘98. Winning is better than losing but the Colts aren’t contending this season and if we’re being honest, the wins and losses aren’t what’s important in 2023. Positive growth and development from the games most vital position is. And so far, so good.
As always, go Colts.