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INDIANAPOLIS – Even the ex-quarterback hates it.
Frank Reich doesn’t love the stat that his Colts are currently leading the league in.
No team has thrown more passes in 2018 than the Colts.
The 246 attempts for his team is 14 more than any other team in the league.
“It’s killing me to have to throw it this much,” Reich says.
Assessing the Colts’ current personnel makeup, the right arm of Andrew Luck is certainly the biggest offensive strength.
To win games, the Colts have to rely a good amount on Luck’s ability to throw the football.
But, after a 1-4 start to the season, they’ve been too reliant on that, according to Reich.
“I know you can’t sustain this,” the first-year head coach says. “The story doesn’t end well when you have to sustain this level of throwing. We need to be more balanced for sure.”
Reich does point out that early deficits the past two weeks have led to the Colts large discrepancy in throwing versus running.
But they’ve still leaned heavily on the pass, even when games have been well within reach.
In the last three weeks, all losses for the Colts, the team’s running backs have combined for 161 yards on 46 carries (3.1 yards per carry). The Jets, this Sunday’s opponent, got 318 yards on 33 carries from their running backs last week (9.6 yards per carry).
The Colts have rushed the ball 101 times this season, 26th most in the league. In a surprising move, the Colts have given the ball to rookie Jordan Wilkins just one time in each of the last two first halves. Wilkins has easily been the team’s most successful runner through the first five weeks.
Against the Patriots and the Texans, the Colts hovered around a pass/run game difference of 75-80 percent pass, versus 20-25 percent run. Reich knows that the score can cause some skewered numbers, but he still desires a 60/40 ratio as the goal.
The Colts currently have a run/pass ratio of 71.7/28.3 percent. That’s the biggest difference in the NFL through five weeks.
While Reich wants better balance, he isn’t naïve to lose sight of what is needed to win a game over the course of 60 minutes.
Yes, Luck’s right arm, and using that more so than the run game, is something that cannot be ignored. But that doesn’t mean such a drastic disregard for the run game is effective either.
Early run-game success would allow for the more third-and-manageable situations, take pressure off of a banged-up offensive line and force a defense to at least think twice pre-snap about the pass/run debate.
And what about finding a run game to set-up some opportunities in the passing game?
“Play-action passing is a big part of what we want to do,” Reich says. “And it’s something that Andrew is particularly productive at. But play-action passing loses its effectiveness the more and more you don’t run the football. Early on in the season, we can get away it because there’s always the threat of the run. But once you get further into the season and you are one of those teams that’s been determined, ‘these guys can’t run the ball.’ Then, as the season goes on, they pay less and less respect and the play-action pass isn’t as effective and it just snowballs.
“We are committed to having more balance.”
Reich points out three other reasons why better success in the run game is needed.
“One, there does become more predictability to what you’re doing pass-wise,” Reich notes. “Number two, I just think you’re putting your quarterback at greater risk. The third thing is that it kind of creates a mindset of more of a finesse team. It doesn’t have to be like that, but that’s just usually what happens. I believe what wins championships is being physical. Yeah, you have to be finesse and you have to have great skill players, but you’ve got to win up front on both sides of the ball. At least that was my experience certainly last year and then some other years that I have been on really good teams.
“It just eventually catches up to you. You just know from time and experience that you have to run the football.”