INDIANAPOLIS – Even with Christmas coming this week, the Colts will maintain their normal Wednesday-Friday practice schedule.
That’s understandable, knowing what is at stake in these final two games—Steelers (11-3) and Jaguars (1-13)—as the Colts try to clinch their playoff berth.
What did we learn from the Colts during their first practice of the week?
- The Colts rested two of their most important players during the first practice of the week. Philip Rivers (toe) continues to sit out Wednesday practices as the Colts manage his pain each week. DeForest Buckner (ankle), who rarely misses practice time, didn’t participate on Wednesday. Frank Reich said this about Buckner’s situation after playing 35 snaps following an injury to his ankle last Thursday: “Obviously, he had some soreness and swelling after the game so we just want to be safe and get him back on track.”
- Appearing on the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday, Frank Reich did an admirable job tiptoeing around a question that will continue to be discussed. Eisen asked Reich about the play of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz this season and if the head coach believes his former pupil can get back to playing at high level. Reich responded this way: “Right now, honestly, I’m really just focused on—it’s a fair question—the quarterbacks on our roster,” the Colts head coach, who was the offensive coordinator for Wentz in 2016 and 2017, said. “I know, and love, Carson. He’s a close friend of mine, and I think he’s really a good player. I have a lot of belief and confidence in him personally. But, right now, I’m more focused on our guys.”
- Jonathan Taylor is a hot, and consistent, running back right now. Taylor has rushed for at least 80 yards in four straight games. In fact, he’s just 1 of 3 NFL running backs (Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb) to have achieved that feat this season. He’s the first Colt to do that since Joseph Addai in 2007. At 842 yards with 2 games to go, Taylor needs to average 79 yards per game in the final two weeks to reach that 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, something Addai also achieved in ‘07.
- During this 3-game win streak, the Colts haven’t committed a turnover. That ties the 2nd longest streak in franchise history (4 games in 2017, in which they actually went 1-3). They’ve only gone 3 straight games without a turnover 5 other times in franchise history. Green Bay is the only team in the league with a longer streak this season.
- The pass rush challenge is much more about timing this week. While Deshaun Watson has a propensity to hold onto the ball a little bit longer, Ben Roethlisberger gets it out quicker than anyone in the NFL (2.29 seconds time to throw). The Steelers lead the NFL in allowing a sack on just 2.1 percent of pass attempts this season.
- A major, major reason why the Colts have won their last 3 comes with how their defense has defended inside the 20, and 10-yard lines. The Colts have allowed just 5-of-13 conversions in the red zone, including forcing 3 turnovers. That 38% conversion rate allowed would easily be the best in the NFL. With goal-to-go situations, the Colts have allowed 2-of-6 conversions. That 33% rate would also easily lead the NFL. The yardage issue is there right now for the Indy defense, but these stats are massive in pointing to why the Colts are undefeated in December. Matt Eberflus mentioned earlier this week that along with being tied together in rush/cover and stopping the run, some credit should go to safety Khari Willis for how he’s disguising coverage pre/post snap.
- Over the last month, the Steelers and the Giants are the only teams to have not scored 20 points in a game. Pittsburgh has scored 19, 17, 15 and 17 points, in going from 10-0 to 11-3. The Colts are 1 of 10 NFL teams to have scored at least 20 points in each of the last four games.
- It’s a harsh reality of life in Pittsburgh for the Colts. They’ve won 1 of their past 16 meetings in the city of Pittsburgh (a win in 2008). That spans back to 1968 and is something certainly on the mind of Owner Jim Irsay. With Sunday’s line as the Steelers favored by just 1.5, that’s the second smallest spread the Colts have faced in these road matchups in the Steel City.
- For the second straight week, the Colts had the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. DeForest Buckner is a very deserving AFC Defensive Player of the Week after what he did against the Texans. It was an incredible effort by Buckner to even play in the game (he injured his ankle in last Thursday’s practice), let alone put up 3 sacks and 4 quarterback hits on a season-low 35 snaps.
- The Colts will practice again on Thursday and Friday afternoon, with a Saturday morning walk-through ahead of Sunday’s 1:00 PM road finale in Pittsburgh.