INDIANAPOLIS – Some opening game promise didn’t result in breaking a now decade-long streak for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts had a second-half lead against the Jaguars on Sunday but couldn’t cap it with a win.
Here is what we learned from the Colts losing a 10th straight season opener, this one 31-21:
1. 60-Minute Reminder For Anthony RichardsonSource:Getty
60-Minute Reminder For Anthony Richardson: Through 2.5 quarters on Sunday, Anthony Richardson was putting together a rookie debut to remember. But what Sunday was a reminder of is a 60-minute football game is long, especially at this level. Teams make adjustments. Sustaining things from quarter to quarter, half to half, etc. isn’t easy. And we saw that from the Colts offense, and their rookie QB on Sunday. Following the Michael Pittman Jr. TD early in the third quarter, which tied the score at 14, the Colts offense didn’t get a first down on their next 5 drives, capped by a game sealing interception where Richardson clearly didn’t see Tyson Campbell sitting in zone coverage. As far as the good from Richardson on Sunday, he got into a nice early rhythm passing wise and the offense clearly has the ability to stress a defense more than it did last year. With Richardson at quarterback, you have so much more multiplicity in how you distribute the ball and it stresses major eye discipline on a defense. He’s learning NFL speed though and windows to thrown are much tighter. When the Colts got a lead on Sunday, Richardson looked like a different QB, with more inaccuracy, and then the back-breaking INT after the Jaguars re-took the lead. For some reason, the Colts got away from running Richardson a bit when the offense was struggling, and we didn’t see really any deep shot attempts, which is a strength of the rookie QB. Richardson and Shane Steichen also had a rough day in key situations, going 2-of-12 on 3rd down and 1-of-5 on 4th down. This passing offense didn’t create enough chunk plays on Sunday. Richardson was put into a big-time 4th quarter moment with his team down 3 though. Yes, he did throw a costly interception in that moment, but, again, just experience in those situations is why you play the 21-year-old. Richardson did take quite a hit to what appeared to be his left shoulder area in the game’s final minute. The rookie QB got looked at by the athletic training staff while down on the field, but didn’t receive any more sideline attention from the medical staff, while Gardner Minshew took the final few snaps of the game. Shane Steichen said afterwards that Richardson “should be alright.” The hit causing Richardson to miss the end of the game came on a scramble, serving as another reminder of the risk that is there when he’s needed to run so much. The rookie referenced his knee post-game when asked how he was feeling, so this will be something to monitor in the upcoming week. Richardson’s debut was far from disaster, without a ton of highlight reel plays, but he also showed the ability to move the football, without much skill talent around him.
2. You Really Missed Jonathan TaylorSource:Getty
You Really Missed Jonathan Taylor: Chalk one up for the Jonathan Taylor camp on Sunday. I can only imagine Malki Kawa’s (Taylor’s agent) reaction watching Deon Jackson as the Colts starting running back in this opener. When Jackson has 13 carries for 14 yards (that 1.1 yards per carry is not a misprint, and the 2nd worst mark in Indianapolis Colts franchise history for a single game with at least a dozen carries), a critical fumble in the first half, a big third-quarter drop, and another fumble in the second half, it’s another reminder (not that one was really needed) of what you are missing at running back right now. And then rookie Evan Hull exited in the third quarter due to a knee injury. One thing to note on the Taylor front with the season underway, he is officially on a different contract extension timeline than past draft picks Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard, Braden Smith and Nyheim Hines, all of whom signed extensions before the final year of their respective rookie deals (Grover Stewart signed his second contract in November of the final season on his rookie contract). Taylor must remain on the PUP list for 3 more weeks, without practice or game action. Will Sunday’s running back performance impact the Colts’ desire to add a veteran running back in September, or is the upcoming return of Zack Moss enough to satisfy Chris Ballard? In the ‘support’ category for Richardson, the Colts clearly don’t have enough. Just look at the impact you got from your running backs, wide receiver (mainly Alec Pierce) and/or tight ends on Sunday. You’re asking your rookie QB to do so, so much heavy lifting.
3. Defense Didn’t Deserve Final ScoreSource:Getty
Defense Didn’t Deserve Final Score: The scoreboard won’t show it, but the Colts defense did not deserve a 31-point total for the opponent on Sunday. That might sound like a cop out, but the Colts D kept the overall team in it for long stretches on Sunday. But as the offense continued to sputtered, and the usually reliable punt unit was abysmal in controlling field position, the defense finally broke. Outside of the Bengals, you could make a strong argument this is the best quarterback/wide receiver group combo the Colts will see all year. And you felt that on Sunday. When Zay Jones, Jacksonville’s No. 3 wideout makes the TD grab he made in the first half, it’s a reminder of how deep the Jaguars are at that position, and what the Colts don’t have at that position. Entering Sunday, we stressed all week long the need for the Colts defensive line to win its matchup with the Jags offensive line. And that unit did its part. In a game in it wasn’t aided by the offense or special teams, Gus Bradley’s unit disrupted the timing of Trevor Lawrence much better than it did last year, and stuffed the Jaguars run game, until it was on the field for far too long, and eventually broke in the final quarter. Zaire Franklin was outstanding with 18 tackles, and Shaquille Leonard had 8 tackles in his return to game action.
4. The Play That Almost Won ItSource:Getty
The Play That Almost Won It: Just when you think you’ve seen it all…I can’t think of a more accurate description for the strip, fumble, strip, fumble recovery, returned for a touchdown by DeForest Buckner against Trevor Lawrence, and then Zaire Franklin against Tank Bigsby, with Buckner then returning it for his second career touchdown. It gave the Colts a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter. The play started by Buckner, looking like an All-Pro, whipping his 1-on-1 matchup. And then as the ball he knocked out of Trevor Lawrence’s hands bounced, and 90 percent of the players thought it was an incompletion, there was the veteran and captain Franklin popping the ball out of a rookie in Bigsby’s hands, knowing a whistle hadn’t been blown. And, fittingly, Buckner scooped up the bouncing ball and finished what he started. This play had tremendous individual playmaking (Buckner) and then extreme headiness (Franklin). In a league defined by one-possession games, these plays can often make the difference, and it’s needed right now with how the Colts offense is constructed. While this one didn’t lead to a win on Sunday, it was one of several turnover-type moments the Colts defense created on Sunday, which is a good sign, after it didn’t do enough in that category last season.
5. Another Season-Opening Loss:Source:Getty
Another Season-Opening Loss: As we’ve said, this season isn’t about wins and losses. It’s about the development of Anthony Richardson. But in these game recaps, we will examine the ‘win/loss’ element to each game though. Why? Because they keep score for a reason and you never know what can happen in an NFL season. And Sunday marks the 10th straight season the Colts have lost a season opener. It’s such an astonishing, and embarrassing, feat. And this particular loss is a bummer, because you had chances to steal one of your harder games on the schedule, and get an early divisional win, against the obvious AFC South favorite. Jacksonville was the only AFC South team to win in Week 1. The Colts will now head on the road in Week Two to face a rookie QB in C.J. Stroud and the Texans. If this season is going to be anything in the win/loss department, you go and win that game.
6. Quick HittersSource:Getty
-Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive: RB-Zack Moss (arm), CB-JuJu Brents, DE-Isaiah Land, OT-Ryan Hayes, TE-Will Mallory, DL-Adetomiwa Adebawore. The following players got injured and did not return: TE-Drew Ogletree (concussion), RB-Evan Hull (knee).
–Key Stat: Anthony Richardson finished Sunday 24-of-37 for 223 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He added 40 rushing yards on 10 carries, with a rushing TD.
–What’s Next: The Colts (0-1) will hit the road in Week Two, taking on the Texans (0-1) at 1:00 next Sunday afternoon.