INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s our latest ‘hits and misses’ piece on 1075TheFan.com highlighting the good and bad from the previous game.
Outside of a few young individuals, it was mostly a disappointing effort by the Colts (4-7-1) in their Monday night loss to the Steelers (4-7).
What was the good and bad from the Colts (4-7-1) losing their third straight home game?
-Jelani Woods: I can’t even imagine what Jelani Woods has been dealing with in the past few weeks. Three of his former University of Virginia teammates were murdered earlier this month. With that extremely heavy heart, Woods has also had some professional hurdles to clear with an injury (shoulder) and some inconsistency with his role. With Kylen Granson out on Monday, Woods dropped his first target of the game, but then caught the final 8 balls thrown in his direction for a career-high 98 yards. It was the 6-7 Woods showing off that eye-popping catch radius, which helped draw an important pass interference penalty, too. Woods having a career-night amidst everything he’s been dealing with was really impressive to see.
-Kick Return Game: Without the Colts kick return unit on Monday, there’s a good chance they get run out of their own building. The numbers speak for themselves: 225 kick return yards (most for an NFL team this season, most for the Colts since 2004). They had 2 players each with more than 100 kick return yards (first time an NFL team has done that since Denver in 2010). With the anemic nature to this offense right now, it was a vital spark to get those 3 returns for 107 yards from Isaiah Rodgers Sr. and undrafted rookie Dallis Flowers adding 118 yards on 2 returns. The 89-yarder from Flowers to start the second half ignited the only good quarter of the night for the Colts.
-Braden Smith: Anytime you are facing T.J. Watt the matchup for the opposing right tackle is going to be watched closely. Well, Braden Smith held up very well against the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Watt had 3 tackles and 1 quarterback hit. Those are numbers the Colts immediately would have signed up before the game started. Credit Smith for holding his own against the game-changer in Watt.
–Passing Offense: It was horrifying to watch the Colts passing offense fail to even complete a pass until the mid-way point of the second quarter. And this was in facing the league’s 31st ranked passing offense. Matt Ryan arm looked weak in trying to distribute the ball around the field. Pass catchers had trouble in creating any consistent pressure. And the offensive line still had issues in pass protection (3 sacks and 8 quarterback hits). The Colts passing offense remains broken, even when playing an awful pass defense.
–Time/Game Management: While one could certainly make a strong argument Jeff Saturday mismanaged the clock on the Colts final drive, I think the stronger argument comes from the game management during that time. Instead of calling a timeout to preserve some time following a Matt Ryan scramble, such a pause would have allowed to get into the right play and have everyone on the same page, with personnel that included two rookies on the field, a running back not used to playing in 2-minute situations and the youngest play caller in the NFL. The Colts elected not to though, and Steelers edge rusher Alex Highsmith could tell what the Colts were running on that 3rd-and-3 run stuff, as he easily beat rookie Jelani Woods for the tackle for loss. Even if the Colts had converted, they would have faced some clock concern to get into the end zone. More than anything though, no stoppages led to the Colts inexperience in such a situation led to the Steelers winning individual matchups and stopping one final effort.
–Defense Dictating: Watching the Colts defense on Monday had a bit of a feel to how they defended another rookie quarterback in last year’s season finale. Kenny Pickett controlled things for long stretches on Monday, in earning his first road win in the NFL. Instead of the Colts defense dictating with pressure and contested pass attempts, Pickett got into an early rhythm, which aided him in leading a must-have drive in the 4th quarter, despite Najee Harris in the locker room. It was easily the poorest we’ve seen the defense play in a long time, given that unit has done so much heavy lifting in 2022. The Colts could not force enough turnover-type plays against a first-year starting QB, finishing the game with 0 takeaways. It was also one of the worst tackling efforts of the season for Gus Bradley’s unit.
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