INDIANAPOLIS – It’s the loosest Frank Reich has been all season long after a Monday film review.
Reich’s team is in the dance and he thinks they have a real chance at making some noise when the playoffs get underway with the No. 7 seed Colts (11-5) facing the No. 2 seed Bills (13-3) in Buffalo this Saturday at 1:05 PM.
What did we learn from the Colts on Monday?
- Whether it was the chuckles, jokes he was cracking or the direct nature in how he describes his team’s approach this week, Frank Reich was one loose individual on Monday. “The pressure is not on us,” Reich said on Monday of Wild Card week. “We should be loose, aggressive. We should be freed up to play our best game of the year against a really good football team…In the reality, no one is going to give us a chance.” Currently, the Colts are a 7-point underdog to the Bills.
- It sounds like the Colts have found their starting offensive line for the playoffs (or at least the start). Frank Reich thought new left tackle Jared Veldheer was ‘very solid’ in his Colts debut on Sunday against the Jaguars, which came after just two practices—the first time the veteran had been on an NFL field this season. Reich said he believes the Colts will stick with Veldheer at left tackle again this Saturday, when the competition will certainly increase. Buffalo is a middle of the pack sack team but do blitz at a pretty high rate.
- When you have team success like the Colts have had, other organizations are going to have interest in plucking your talent. That appears to be the case again this offseason with the Chargers, Jets and Texans reportedly wanting to interview Matt Eberflus. If the Colts are still in-season, those interviews would have to be virtual. Reich said on Monday that the focus for Eberflus this week will be on preparing for the Bills on a short week, while also offering a strong endorsement for Flus as a head coach one day. “Flus is a great coach,” Reich said on Monday. “He will be a great head coach. But, to be honest, we aren’t thinking about that much. We’ve got a short week.”
- Despite rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship being just 1-of-4 on kicks past 45 yards this season, Frank Reich isn’t worried. Reich said he was fine with Hot Rod being short from 56 yards on Sunday, saying he’d rather have a kicker miss it short than shanking one off to the side. Reich reiterated that he’s seen Blankenship make kicks of that distance in practice. With Reich’s experience playing, and being a holder, in Buffalo, the head coach said he might have a short conversation with Hot Rod this week about kicking conditions in the 30-degree weather on Saturday.
- Frank Reich was asked on Monday about his pass defense, which has really struggled as of late, with the quality in opposing quarterbacks rising. Reich said that the issues are not constrained to just one or two things pass defense wise, but he knows things must change against a dynamic Bills passing attack. Buffalo set a franchise record this season in points scored with Josh Allen shattering several team records, too.
- We will have more on this later in the week, but Frank Reich did acknowledge that since clinching the playoff berth he has thought about the missing piece on Philip Rivers’ Hall of Fame resume. That would be Rivers’ playoff record, with zero Super Bowl appearances despite making the postseason 6 times.
- Two analytical notes from Sunday’s win over the Jaguars: Next Gen Stats had Jonathan Taylor as the fastest ball carrier in Week 17. Taylor revved it up to 22.05 MPH on his 29-yard rush on the first play of the third quarter. On a not so positive front, Philip Rivers had a completed air yards number of just 2.7 on Sunday. His season average is 5.2. The passing offense had one of its least efficient days of the season on Sunday.
- With a schedule still to be finalized for this week, it sounds like the Colts will practice just on Wednesday and Thursday and then have a Friday walk-through before traveling to Buffalo for Saturday’s kickoff at 1:05 PM.