Last week the Colts were on their bye, but in week 10 we saw them travel to Germany and beat a terrible New England Patriots team by a score of 10-7. The Colts are 2-0 in their last two games, which is good, but those wins showed serious reason for concern. Chiefly among them is the fact that despite both the Patriots and Carolina Panthers being two of the worst teams in the NFL the Colts only managed to score 23 offensive points combined in those games. Though you could make the argument that while the Panthers and Patriots aren’t good teams, they do have vastly better defenses than offenses. While I wouldn’t argue against that notion, it hardly makes me feel better that the Colts averaged 11.5 offensive points against two teams with a combined 3-17 record.
A lot of people probably believe these concerns are an overreaction. A bump in the road in a season that saw the Colts be the only team to score 20 points in every game for weeks after the last team fell short of the mark. And they had that success despite playing with their backup quarterback. Shane Steichen’s offense has been effective for most of the season and while fans are sure to have gripes here or there, a quick look at social media and fan sites of other teams will show you that fans of all 32 teams have gripes about their teams offensive play calling. Right now you can find tweets criticizing Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Mike McDaniel, and Andy Reid’s ability to call plays. So while there will be quirks and predictabilities from Steichen, they exist everywhere in football (because football is a game with a limited number of proven, effective strategies). So if Steichen’s offense has been good, why am I so worried about the offense over the last two games?
Back in week six against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I noticed something. The Jaguars figured out how to limit the Colts offense. They loaded the box, they prevented the Colts from running and they dared Gardner Minshew to throw. In week seven against the Cleveland Browns the Colts rushed for 119 yards and Minshew went 9-13 for 146 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions in the first half. The Colts went to halftime with a 13-7 lead. In the second half the Browns started loading the box and limited the Colts to 49 rushing yards. Minshew went 6-10 for 159 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The touchdown was a short pass that Michael Pittman Jr. turned into a 75 yard score. Ultimately the Colts ended up losing the game 39-38. Obviously when you score 38 points you should win the game and the defense didn’t do their part, so you can’t blame this loss on the offense. But the problems were there if you paid attention. Outside of a great catch and run from Pittman, the Colts offense was dead in the water in the second half after the Browns took away the run.
Week eight came against the New Orleans Saints and the story was similar. The Colts rushed for 110 yards (at 6.1 ypc) while Minshew went 13-21 with 102 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. The Colts went to halftime down one point 14-13. In the second half the Saints loaded the box and dared the Colts to throw. The result? 54 yards rushing and Minshew went 10-20 for 111 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The Colts were outscored in the second half 17-7 and they lost the game 38-27. Once again, you could easily argue that the defense let the team down and 27 points should be enough to win the game. And you’d be right if you argued that. But the problems on offense were present if you were paying attention.
Then week nine came and the Carolina Panthers loaded the box and forced Gardner Minshew to throw. The Colts ran for just 78 yards and scored a total of 13 offensive points. They won the game because Bryce Young threw two horrible pick-sixes to Kenny Moore. The Colts won the game and if you weren’t paying attention the 27 points looked really good on the scoreboard.
Then week ten. The New England Patriots loaded the box and forced Gardner Minshew to throw. The Colts ran for just 70 yards and scored a total of 10 offensive points. The Colts got the win and they were in Germany but even with those excuses it was harder to ignore the offensive problems that exist.
The Colts offense has been figured out and the problem centers around the fact that Gardner Minshew can’t beat defenses that other quarterbacks would carve up. Play a Bear Front against Derek Carr and the Saints will have a field day. Do it against Minshew and you’ll need two defensive touchdowns to not go to overtime with a 1-8 team.
So the question isn’t “is there a problem with the offense” (objectively, I’ve shown that there is). The question is what can Shane Steichen do about it? And that’s a very good question. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and I’m just not sure. One thing I am very sure of is that if this offense is going to have success it needs to find ways to be effective on the ground because unless Steichen is literally a wizard, I don’t think he can fix Minshew’s issues as a passer over the bye week.
The Buccaneers will be a good test for the Colts and we will get to see what Shane Steichen did with the bye week. The best news is, no matter what, we get to watch Colts football today.
This is your week twelve open thread so hang out here, chat, celebrate, commiserate, and argue in the comments! Go wild (within reason)!