Only two games into the NFL season, and the Indianapolis Colts are showcasing encouraging offensive rhythm. Rookie head coach Shane Steichen put in an extremely efficient game plan that put the Colts in an early lead on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the most impressive part for the offense was that both rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson and veteran backup Garnder Minshew looked comfortable in their command of the offense, putting points on the board.
Colts fans have become accustomed to slow starts, both in games and to start a season, so it’s understandable for there to be some relief after this divisional win.
Let’s start with Anthony Richardson. There’s a certain poise and composure with which Richardson operates on the field. Two games in, and Richardson is moving the chains, making intelligent decisions, and posing a dual threat with his arms and legs. Before the unfortunate concussion, that second touchdown run showed another early example of his ability to generate offense with his athleticism and take advantage of what the defense gave him.
While this is the second game in a row where he has dealt with some injury, our story earlier this week remains accurate. Nothing about Richardson’s mobility caused his injury. He needs to learn to protect himself and shouldn’t have been surprised by the lick he took at the goal line. If he had leaned into the contact, he would have neuralized the blow and not fallen in a way that resulted in his head slamming off the turf.
But football is a team sport. And every great quarterback needs a dependable backup to step in when the situation demands. Enter Gardner Minshew. When Richardson left the game, there might have been a few murmurs of apprehension. But Minshew stepped up and led the Colts to yet another touchdown. His comfort and adaptability within Steichen’s offensive scheme were evident throughout the game. With Minshew under center, the Colts didn’t miss a beat.
OFFENSIVE LINE AND ZACK MOSS
The offensive surge wasn’t just limited to the passing game. Credit must be given to the Colts’ offensive line. They played well, keeping the pocket mostly clean for Richardson and Minshew and paving the way for running back Zack Moss. Remember, Moss is coming off a broken arm sustained during training camp. He ran with power and refused to go down on first contact.
Outside of the offensive game plan, one coaching move in particular stood out. On the Colts’ second offensive possession of the fourth quarter, a quick first down behind two Zack Moss runs started to really create an issue of time for opposing rookie head coach Demeco Ryans and the Houston Texans. On the second set of downs, the Colts fell one yard short of a second first down and immediately sent out the punt team. Steichen pivoted on that plan, rushed the offense back onto the field to get set quickly, and threatened to rush for the first down.
With only seconds remaining on the play clock, Ryans took a timeout to ensure his defense was ready. This is precisely what Steichen had hoped for, as he would have likely allowed the play clock to run down and taken the delay of game penalty - leading to a punt. One less timeout for Houston, down 11 points, with less than 7 minutes remaining, took some wind out of Houston’s sails after they scored a touchdown earlier in the quarter to cut into the Colts lead.
PREVENT = ALLOW DEFENSE
However, every game has its challenges. As the Colts shifted into ball control mode, things started to wobble. The prevent defense showed some cracks, but when doesn’t it? I hate the prevent scheme. I know its purpose, but far too often, it simply allows the opposing team to do whatever they want and seems to hope time will run out.
Fans will have to monitor Anthony Richardson’s progress in the concussion protocol. It seems likely that the Colts will be cautious with him, given what they invested in him early in the draft, and that he has largely shown promise in his first two games. If Steichen can build off of this, continue to expand the playbook (likely), and maybe even get Jonathan Taylor back onto the field - this offense could be further ahead of schedule than most could have hoped.