I took the liberty of changing the way this series is framed, because I was realizing that Steichen not only did not give much material for the bad decisions section featured before, but also because it was getting too nitpicky in my opinion and was not a fair reflection on the Colts’ head-coach. So, for this season and the future, I will instead grade Steichen’s (and his coaching staff) performance in offense, defense, special teams, and overall.
Judging Steichen’s offensive playcalling and schemes this season was always going to be difficult after rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson went down with a season ending shoulder injury, but what he has done with Gardner Minshew has been nothing short of spectacular. We all know about the streak of 20+ points scored by the team, but Steichen also worked wonders with the offensive line and keeping a simple scheme for Minshew.
Now focusing on the Bucs’ game in particular, Steichen probably knew he had a quarterback that rattled easily the last game we played, and that the offensive line was missing their starting center. Because of that the Colts seemingly employed a more conservative approach in the passing game, even though Minshew did throw the ball 41 times. I did not like that number, and think that we did not get enough of Taylor/Moss. That has been somewhat of a trend this season, and I get the fact that teams prepare for Taylor and the Colts’ running game and force Minshew to beat them through the air, but 41 passing attemps for Minshew and 23 combined runs for JT and Moss is not something I think is beneficial for the team.
Going to individual plays, the one I really did not like was the call to go for it on 4th and 6 just past midfield. The distance to the sticks was just way too long for a quarterback that panics even in the face of non-existent pressure like Minshew, and I thought that either going for the long field goal or even punting to pin them back would have been better choices. I did really like the two calls on 4th and 1, and think that is where Steichen’s creativity expresses itself the most. Keep in mind this is a head-coach in his first year, sky is the limit for him right now.
Overall, I still think it was a sound game called on offense by Steichen and the offense did manage to score 27 points and put up plenty of decent drives on the board.
Defense / Special Teams
The matchup on defense was much easier than that on offense, even despite still missing defensive tackle Grover Stewart. The Bucs’ offensive line has been mediocre at best, and the Colts took full advantage of that, getting six sacks including the game sealing strip sack by Ebukam recovered by Dayo Odeyingbo.
Gus Bradley forced Mayfield to beat them, and tried to take away the running game as much as possible. A questionable call on a drop by Mike Evans and a bad drop by Trey Palmer helped the team a lot, but it was still a really good performance once again by a defense that had allowed 35+ points three consecutive games not so long ago.
As for special teams, the Colts did not take any risks, and were tidy overall. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez is really struggling though and I am starting to think the Colts should start looking at options in the offseason.
Yet another good game by Shane Steichen and company, and the Colts are now over .500 through eleven games this year all despite losing their starting quarterback, being without their best offensive player for the first four games and then losing one of their most important defensive players for six. Coupled that with the accountability shown in releasing a locker room presence like Shaq Leonard, and the team has to be excited about the direction the team is headed, especially considering how Frank Reich is doing in Carolina.