INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s our latest ‘hits and misses’ piece on 1070TheFan.com highlighting the good and bad from the previous game.
For a seventh straight season, the Colts are starting a season 0-1, as Frank Reich’s team lost its opener, despite being favored by more than a touchdown.
What was the good and bad from the Colts (0-1) losing 27-20 to the Jaguars?
-Rivers Accuracy: It was not all good for Philip Rivers on Sunday, but it was not all bad either. He attempted 46 passes, completed 79 percent of them, and threw for 363 yards. Those are numbers Jacoby Brissett never sniffed last season. We will get to the two interceptions, but we still need to acknowledge a lot of good from Rivers. For long stretches, Rivers showed on-time accuracy and helped the Colts routinely move the ball down the field. You saw a much different looking passing offense compared to the one last season. Is Rivers at peak arm strength? Of course not. But he’s still an accurate thrower in the short-to-intermediate parts of the field and this passing offense was able to achieve a rhythm that we hardly ever saw in 2019.
-Screen Game: Wow, the Colts finally had some great success in the screen department. Not only did Rivers complete all 18 of his targets to his three running backs, both Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack averaging at least 10 yards per reception. The Colts have struggled in recent years to find screen game success. It was a definite bright spot on Sunday though and another element to this offense that could be tapped into moving forward, along with the no-huddle approach we saw, too.
-Speedy Guys: Individually, I thought the Colts got some nice flashes from a few of their quicker players. You had Parris Campbell catching 6 balls for 71 yards. Nyheim Hines had 15 touches for 73 yards. And Ashton Dulin provided some kick return pop with a 41 and 25-yard return. Searching for more playmaking was an unquestioned goal for the Colts this past offseason. Some of these names can offer that jolt with their elite speed.
-Defense Disrupting: Going 19-of-20 in a walk-through would be a feat. Well, Gardner Minshew just did it in an NFL game. What was particularly so maddening was seeing the Colts have so many assignment breakdowns in the secondary. How many times did you notice a Colts defender throwing his hands up in the air after a play, confused why a Jaguars pass catcher was running free? This scheme continues to allow opposing QBs to find great rhythms, and as that confidence builds, you see historic outings like Minshew had in Week 1. The Colts defense did not cause enough blurry vision with their rush, nor coverage, unit. Xavier Rhodes looked lost too often leading to some huge plays for the Jaguars.
-Giveaways, Not Takeaways: All offseason long, we heard from the Colts in how big of a focus it was to create more big plays. Hardly any of that showed up on Sunday. From the Colts’ standpoint, Philip Rivers threw two picks—one that led to the Jaguars first points in the game and the second that came with the Colts down four points in the final minutes. They were crushing. But it’s not like the Colts provided opportunities via the turnover department either. Zero takeaways and never that close to making a game-changing play on the defensive side of the ball. That goal for 40 takeaways didn’t get off to a good start.
-Star Players Fold: The Colts wanted to create more friction this offseason and have more accountability within their locker room. Well, the leaders and stars of that locker room didn’t show up when needed on Sunday. We’ve talked about the Rivers interceptions. What about the two drops from T.Y. Hilton on the game’s final drive? Or the lack of impactful moments from DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard? Or Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly not sustaining blocks on 4th-and-1 early in the game? The Colts needed better from their frontline guys.
-Placekicking: Oh no, not again. But when you can’t convert a crucial 30-yard field goal, you are going to find yourself in the ‘miss’ category. From the right hash, rookie Rodrigo Blankenship banged one off the left upright from 30 yards out mid-way through the third quarter. In his 5 kicks on Sunday, the ball came off Blankenship’s foot pretty nicely, but this miss was certainly a reason why the Colts lost in Week One. We mentioned it in the days leading up to Sunday’s opener, Blankenship did kick in some very hostile environments in college, but every kick in the NFL means so much more with the parity in professional football. Looks like we will continue to keep a close eye on 4th down again for the 2020 Colts.