INDIANAPOLIS – Like they have after every loss this season, the Colts (8-4) responded with a win in Week 13.
That has them in the playoffs entering the final quarter of the season.
Frank Reich and his staff reviewed the film (virtually) on Monday, with prep for another big one against the Raiders (7-5) beginning on Tuesday.
What did we learn from Reich to start the week?
- Frank Reich confirmed OT-Le’Raven Clark has torn his Achilles and will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. First, what a tough blow to Clark who is playing in another contract year (he re-signed with the Colts back in March on a one-year deal). Here are the Colts healthy offensive tackles right now: Braden Smith, Chaz Green (has been dealing with a back injury this season) and undrafted rookie Carter O’Donnell (practice squad). Reich said on Monday that Chris Ballard is in the process of bringing another tackle in the building, with Green being the next man up. Rookie Danny Pinter played right tackle at Ball State, but has played exclusively in the interior since entering the NFL. Could Anthony Castonzo return this week? Or does his sprained MCL need more rest? If Castonzo’s absence is expected to be much longer (which doesn’t appear to be the case with the Colts not putting him on IR last week), would that lead to the staff exploring a Quenton Nelson at left tackle (and Pinter then at left guard)? Reich said he thought Green ‘held his own’ against the Texans. If Green’s back injury stays improving, he should be viewed as the first option, pending Castonzo’s rehab.
- As far as a return date for Castonzo, Reich shared this: “We didn’t put him on IR because we thought he could be back before then (the mandatory 3-week absence for IR guys in 2020). He’s the kind of player that you would take that chance with, at that position. Because of who he is, let’s not lock ourselves in, in case he has a speedy recovery. We haven’t ruled anything out. He had the weekend to rest and he’s continuing to rehab it and do everything right. We all know he’s very meticulous. As far as this week, it’s way too early to commit to that. We’ll get to Wednesday and assess where we are at.”
- Reich decided to bring up his 4th-and-1 decision/play call in his opening statement on Monday. Reich stood by the actual decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Houston 5-yard line and 6:50 to go (and the Colts leading 24-20), but he would like the actual play call back. Here was Reich explaining the thought process behind the decision: “For us, that was a clear go. It wasn’t even close. Very confident that was the right decision for us even though we didn’t make it. In that instance a field goal puts us up 7. They got plenty of time. They go down and score. In my mind, I’m convinced that they are going for two and the win, and they probably have the best quarterback in the league on a 2-point play. He’s probably the one guy you want on your team to go for it on a 2-point play. We wanted to put the game away. We just didn’t convert.” The play call had Rivers in the shotgun with Nyheim Hines and was an RPO (with a quick hitter screen option to the left). Rivers gave it to Hines, but the play had no chance with tight end Trey Burton getting blown up as a puller into the middle of the line of scrimmage. “As far as the play call, after looking at it, you know how I feel. If we don’t make it on 4th down, it’s my fault. Those aren’t just words. I really don’t think it was the best play call in hindsight. The play draws up as well. The play can be blocked. The play had options. Philip made the right decision. We didn’t execute it quite the way we needed to execute it, but it was more on me. I didn’t put the players in the best position possible. It wasn’t one of our core plays. And when the game is on the line, it’s got to be something that you have a lot of reps at. That particular scenario that came up wasn’t a scenario that we had covered enough and so I take responsibility for that. I have to better there. I have to put our guys in a better position. Thankfully, it didn’t cost us.”
- Was there any thought by Reich to let the Texans score on that 2nd-and-Goal from the 2-yard line with 1:28 to go, with the Colts having no timeouts? “There are situations (you do that) but that was not one of them,” Reich said on Monday. “It didn’t get brought up in the moment. It would have been really hard for me to let them score. I’m not going to lie. That did not get talked about.”
- Colts great Jeff Saturday had some emotional ties to the team that won on Sunday, but also the player/position that made the critical error. What did Saturday think of the errant snap by Texans center Nick Martin: “The Colts D-line had lit them up early and often, even the first series of the game, they did a great job pushing into Deshaun,” Saturday said on Monday, when making his weekly appearance on The Fan Morning Show. “They had done a lot of cross face stuff, so I think Martin was expecting to brace up. So as he was snapping, he was trying to get his hands on (Stewart) as quickly as he could, knowing that he was probably going to be singled. And you just get short with your snap hand. Instead of giving it the full snap and give yourself time with one hand on and then both hands come in, he probably tried to get to (the block) too fast and the ball comes out hot and low. That’s a mix. From a center’s perspective, when it hits a guy and it’s low, you are praying that it’s not a turnover. It maybe a loss of yardage and down, but you are hoping you don’t turn those over. The Colts got fortunate that it went both ways, a bad snap and Deshaun couldn’t handle it and kicked it around a little bit. You know Martin is feeling awful. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like. It’s a miserable feeling.”
- Speaking of that play, Frank Reich shared a cool anecdote on that story after speaking with Matt Eberflus on Monday: “Not too long before that play, Grove came over on the sideline and told Flus he wanted to run this one particular stunt, so on that play, they called that stunt,” Reich explained. “Grover crossed (Martin’s) face and he was there for when the ball was fumbled to keep the ball alive for (Anthony Walker) to recover it. Great communication there between Grover and Flus and the defensive coaches. That’s a good example of how we do this together, coaches and players together. A great player coming over and saying, ‘Hey I can beat this guy with this move.’ And then coach responding. ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ And picking the right time to do it.”
- It’s no secret, when Philip Rivers is at his peak efficiency, he’s getting the ball out at a quick rate. That was the case on Sunday, particularly without Anthony Castonzo. In Week 13, no NFL quarterback got rid of the ball quicker than Rivers (2.33 seconds time to throw). Yes, Rivers was under some more pressure as the game moved along, but his rhythm on Sunday had him completing more than 77 percent of his passes.
- Speaking of Rivers and his turf toe injury, Reich expanded a little more on what the quarterback is dealing with: “He’s got this turf toe and you know it’s painful. Everybody knows there’s degrees of it. On a scale of 1-to-10, you could never get him to tell you. He’s not the kind of guy what his number score is on that 1-to-10. He’s the kind of guy that unless he’s walking around in a boot, which he is, you wouldn’t know it because he’s not going to talk about it. He’s just going to go about his business. I don’t want to make it sound like he’s superman or anything, but that’s just the way he’s been brought up. I know he’s getting better. I didn’t feel hindered at all in calling the game. In watching the tape, do I think he’s 100 percent? No, I don’t think he’s 100 percent. Do I think he’s physically in good enough condition to play winning football against the best teams in the league? I do. I think he’s getting better every week. And the goal is, get these games in without having a major setback. To the best of my knowledge, we did not have any setbacks (on Sunday).”
- The Colts will get back to practice on Wednesday, with sessions on Thursday and Friday afternoon before taking on the Raiders at 4:05 PM this Sunday, in Las Vegas.