INDIANAPOLIS – It sounds simple, but it’s true.
Philip Rivers looked like himself in his debut with the Indianapolis Colts.
For much of Sunday’s season opener, the 17-year veteran was in full command of his new offense.
He was accurate (Rivers completed 78.6 percent of his passes—the team’s highest number since 2018) and still had a yards per attempt number (7.89) that achieves what this staff is looking for in getting the ball more vertical this season.
But you also saw the side of Rivers that showed up too often last season, as he tossed two costly interceptions, one that led to Jacksonville’s first points of the game and the other coming with the Colts behind in the 4th quarter.
Looking back at the 60 minutes of football, and this was the Rivers many expected to see.
When playing from ahead, and with the offensive line protecting well, Rivers can give the Colts what they need from their quarterback position.
But when obvious passing situations arise, questions remain on Rivers’ arm strength outside the numbers and his ability to go ‘win a game’ when trailing—something the Colts cannot put him in position to do on a routine basis.
Like Frank Reich typically does, he was pretty protective of his quarterback following the opener.
Reich took full blame for the first interception (by having the formation too crowded to one side), and for not sticking with the run game. That, along with failing too often in the red zone, led to the Colts relying on Rivers to do something he had to do too often last year with the Chargers (15 of Rivers’ 20 interceptions last year came with the Chargers trailing).
“Overall, there were a lot of good things,” Reich began when assessing Rivers going 36-of-46 for 363 yards, with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in the opener.
“What we really have to do is we have to be better in the red zone. Philip took the responsibility for not seeing Jack (Doyle) on the one (in the red zone) that he should have seen him on. But we can also help him out better than we did. We have to have a better run-game plan, better pass-game plan for him down in the red zone. We have high standards. Our red-zone efficiency, I was very disappointed in. We all have to do better there starting with myself and the coaching staff.”
Rivers found great success in finding his running backs—a perfect 17-of-17 in targeting those guys.
The Colts hit on some key crossers, but questions are still there on Rivers nailing down outside the number timing with his wideouts.
“I saw all the same throws that I’ve seen in the past, outside the numbers, intermediate throws on the crossing routes, I didn’t see anything that said to me he’s lost any velocity and I would say the same thing about practice,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni says. “That’s been consistent. I think he has the same arm in there. Are we going to have some miscues here and there? Absolutely. Throughout a game, maybe we are short on a route or we are long on a drop, where there’s a little bit of off right there. We would love for every play to be perfect but in reality that’s just not the case. There were definitely a couple of those, where route depth and drop depth were off.”
All in all, the Rivers we saw on Sunday was about what one should have expected.
That’s where Rivers is at, as he plays at the age of 38. He can still be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL.
However, even in a game where Sirianni called the pass protection ‘one of the best (he’s) ever been a part of in the NFL,’ the quarterback did make a couple of critical mistakes.
Moving forward, for the Colts to see more of the good we saw from Rivers in Week 1, a couple of things need to happen: the Colts must maintain the clean pocket consistency we saw in the opener. And finishing off drives at a better rate has to occur, too.
If not, then expect some highs and lows from Rivers like we saw in opener.