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Colts Head Coach Shane Steichen displays mastery of opponent manipulation

A deep dive into how Indianapolis Colts’ head coach Shane Steichen outsmarted the Cleveland Browns’ defense, unveiling a blueprint for exploiting their vulnerabilities.

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Key Ideas:

  • The Colts showcased tactical brilliance against the Browns’ lauded defense.
  • Guided by backup QB Gardner Minshew, the Colts amassed 38 points and 456 yards.
  • Steichen exploited the Browns’ weakness in zone coverage.
  • Key strategy: “pick” plays to disrupt man coverage. The slant/flat concept achieved 0.92 EPA per play.
  • They shifted focus to the middle field once the Browns switched to zone. Result: 33.3% explosive play rate targeting this area.
  • Steichen’s game plan reveals the potential to outmaneuver strong defenses.
  • Consistent strategic execution could signal a promising future for the Colts' offense.

Last week, the Indianapolis Colts orchestrated a tactical masterclass against the Cleveland Browns, a team that has received much praise for a dominant defense. The Browns had just shut down the San Francisco 49ers the week before. While the Colts lost the game (no comment), offensive performances like last week should inspire confidence in the Colts fan base.

The Browns, who have particularly dominant in man coverage, were left regrouping this week as the Colts, guided by backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, racked up 38 points and 456 yards.

Steichen’s approach hinged on understanding and exploiting the Browns’ defensive inclinations. While the Browns excelled in man coverage, they showed vulnerability in zone defense. So, Steichen forced the Browns into these uncomfortable zone looks.

One of the Colts’ key tactics early in the game was using “pick” plays. These are designed to disrupt man coverage by creating horizontal movement, making it challenging for defenders to maintain their coverage assignments. The Colts executed this perfectly, particularly with their slant/flat concept, which yielded a staggering 0.92 EPA per play.

Once the Browns were compelled to switch to zone coverage, Steichen and his offense targeted the middle of the field. This strategic move avoided confronting the Browns’ strong cornerback trio, instead putting pressure on their linebackers in coverage. The results were telling - the Colts had a 33.3% explosive play rate when targeting the middle of the field.

For the Colts and head coach Shane Steichen, this game was a testament to their strategic acumen. By compelling a defensively strong team to play to their weaknesses, the Colts have demonstrated that with the right game plan, even the most formidable defenses can be outmaneuvered. If Steichen can do this with regularity, the future of this Colts offense is very bright.