INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s our latest ‘hits and misses’ piece on 1075TheFan.com highlighting the good and bad from the previous game.
In a game the Colts had a lead mid-way through the fourth quarter, there’s going to be some positives even in a 10-point loss.
What was the good and bad from the Colts (0-1) regular season opener?
1. Hits: Zaire FranklinSource:Getty
Credit to Franklin for overshadowing the return to game action for Shaquille Leonard. Franklin not only had an eye-popping number of 18 tackles, but he also had a key pass defensed, forced a fumble (when everyone else thought the play was dead) and made some plays in space we aren’t used to seeing from No. 44. It was an impressive season-opener for the captain, as he tries to back up the franchise-record season he had last year in tackles.
2. Hits: Defensive PlaymakingSource:Getty
Defensive Playmaking: Far too often last season, the Colts defense didn’t do enough in the playmaking department. The Colts defense created a good amount of big plays on Sunday though, in facing a pretty potent offense. You had 2 sacks, 7 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. The Colts had 2 turnovers, and had 2 more near takeaways from Julian Blackmon and E.J. Speed. With the expected offensive output this season not being very high, the Colts need this from their defense.
3. Misses: Deon JacksonSource:Getty
Deon Jackson: Simply, Sunday was one of the worst games you’ll ever see from a Colts running back. Not only did Deon Jackson average just 1.1 yards per carry (the 2nd lowest total in the 40-year history of the Indianapolis Colts, when carrying the ball at least 12 times), he also had some costly ball security issues. He fumbled on a first down in Jacksonville territory late in the first half with the Colts on the verge of entering field goal range. Jackson then had a drop late in the third quarter, with the Colts at midfield (that drive ended in a turnover on downs). It was an ugly, ugly day for the former undrafted free agent, with the offensive line not aiding his run game production of 14 rushing yards on 13 carries.
4. Misses: Handling Game PressureSource:Getty
Handling Game Pressure: Offensively, the Colts looked like a much different unit once the score was tied early in Sunday’s third quarter, or even after the Colts took a lead (thanks to their defense) right before the start of the final period. After a Michael Pittman Jr. TD tied the score at 14 with 11:25 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Colts had 5 straight offensive possessions that ended with 0 points and 0 first downs, across 16 plays. That’s quite a sight to see, and a true inability to try and put a quality team away with second-half opportunities. Playing near (or with) a lead is different, especially in the second-half of a game, when adjustments start to take more and more shape. Plus, the Colts need to be much, much better in key situations after going 2-of-12 on third down and 1-of-5 on fourth down.
5. Misses: Punt UnitSource:Getty
Punt Unit: In all my years of doing “hits and misses” I can’t imagine many (if any) times we put the punt unit on the negative side of things. But it certainly earned a spot on Sunday. You had Rigoberto Sanchez making his return from a torn Achilles (on his kicking leg) with shaky punts of just 37 and 38 yards, among his 5 total boots. But no bigger play occurred on Sunday than a Sanchez punt Jaguars return man Jamal Agnew fielded after a bounce at the Jaguars 6-yard line with under 11 minutes to go in the game, and the Jags down 21-17. Agnew caught the Colts punt coverage unit napping a bit, and took off down the right sideline for a 48-yard return into Indy territory. Instead of the Jaguars having to drive 85-90 yards needing a touchdown—in the midst of a 7-drive span in which Jacksonville had scored just 3 points—Agnew gave the visiting offense a jolt and a short field to work with. The Jags turned that big return into a touchdown, re-taking the lead. Then Anthony Richardson, facing a 3-point deficit, tossed an interception. And three plays after that Travis Etienne put this game on ice with a 26-yard TD. That punt return, more of a recognition issue than an execution one, was a massive game-changer in the Jags outscoring the Colts 14-0 in the final quarter of the game.