The Colts Re-Watch: Week 1 vs. Lions
Each week, I will head back to the computer to re-watch the Indianapolis Colts’ previous game – sometimes multiple times – to help pick up on some things I might have missed the first go-around while watching live.
The Colts were 2.5-point favorites going into their regular-season opener against the Detroit Lions, and after climbing back to gain the lead after an 18-point comeback, the Colts wound up relinquishing that lead in the final minute and losing 39-35. Though it was tremendous to see a Colts offense with a pulse again, there were plenty of gripes people had about several things, and rightfully so. Let's hit the tape.
- After not playing in a meaningful game in 10 months, Andrew Luck was outstanding against Detroit. He was 31-for-47 (66%) passing for 385 yards, 4 touchdowns, 21 rushing yards and no turnovers. He didn't have any of his signature "hero ball" plays that cost the Colts anything either, and he was precise and made good decisions. He threw the ball away when he needed to and scrambled and slid when needed as well. If the Colts are going anywhere this year, it's clear that they need this version of Luck to do it.
- On Kerry Hyder's second sack, Frank Gore was late identifying the pressure and whiffed, letting Hyder bring Luck stumbling down.
- After Hyder's aforementioned sack, Luck's protection was great. He was able to have time after play-action and deep drops, something uncommon for him. When he was pressured, he was able to either climb the pocket or escape it, finding receivers downfield.
- I really like the Robert Turbin fullback dive on 3rd-and-short. By my count, he is 3-for-3 on converting them to first downs stemming back to the preseason. The offense could also really benefit from getting Josh Ferguson the ball out in space. He had a couple of nice screen plays (2 catches for 26 yards), and if they utilized him more, it could keep the chains moving. They saw how that can work with Detroit's Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah (combined for 10 catches for 120 yards and 2 TD's just in passing game).
- We finally saw what the trio of TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett should look like, and boy, was it beautiful. The three combined for 16 catches for 237 yards (14.8 avg) and 1 TD. All three had catches short, intermediate and deep, and they were all given some run-after-catch opportunities as well. This is how you will likely see them used most weeks.
- I didn't understand Moncrief's touchdown dance in the least, but I often find myself saying that when he scores. As long as he's scoring touchdowns, I don't mind doing this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- The tight end combination of Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle seemed to be more productive on Sunday than the entire position group was all of last year. Allen and Doyle caught three of Luck's four touchdowns, and their 7 catches for 88 yards and 3 TD equated to roughly 59% of the duo's production from all of 2015. After Allen's third-quarter touchdown, he also caught the ensuing two-point conversion to cut the score to 21-18, which would've played a huge part in the comeback if they would have won.
- Sio Moore saw a good chunk of the inside linebacker action next to starter D'Qwell Jackson, though he split time with Antonio Morrison and Josh McNary. Moore likely separated himself from the pack, though, and started to prove the decision to cut Nate Irving was the right one to make. Moore was all over the field, leading the team in tackles with 13 (1.0 for loss), and he displayed toughness and attitude, which this defense obviously needs a shot of.
- Morrison's awareness wasn't there on Sunday like it had been in the preseason. Two plays jumped out in particular. On one, he failed to touch Eric Ebron down after a catch, but the referees called Ebron down anyway. And then, there was a touchdown throw to Ameer Abdullah that Morrison appeared to be in charge of but never noticed until it was too late. To be fair, the speed of the game was probably much greater on Sunday, and as a rookie, he deserves to have his growing pains, but that was costly.
- With the Colts missing Vontae Davis and Darius Butler, then losing Patrick Robinson in-game to a concussion, the Colts defense had to rely heavily on newcomers Antonio Cromartie, Rashaan Melvin and Darryl Morris, all of whom joined the team just within the last few weeks. Given the circumstances and what expectations should be for the three, they were all pretty solid in coverage. They did not give up much downfield to the receivers, and they did what they could to keep the receivers in front of them. If there was an issue against the passing game, it was with tackling, or the lack thereof. Robinson also looked better against the Lions than he did in the preseason before leaving the game.
- The offensive play-calling got off to a very slow start (a shovel pass on 3rd-and-15?) Their first three drives all resulted in punts – the latter two being three-and-outs – and they totaled just 31 total yards. Five designed runs were peppered in for 13 yards... not very fruitful. After they scrapped their conservative approach and let Luck improvise a bit, things turned around.
- Overall, the defense was predictably brutal. Injuries and a lack of execution led to the loss. They forced no turnovers against a giving quarterback and had just one sack against a below-average offensive line. The linebackers need to get better at containing the edges so these multi-dimensional running backs don't run roughshod over the defense. The backs are very agile, but there were several times where the defense had them contained in the backfield, only for them to wriggle their way downfield for big gains. Defenders not getting off of blocks was a huge issue as well. To the defense's credit, they were able to get the occasional stop against Detroit's offense to help the offense continue the comeback, but they fell apart (also due to coaching decisions) when it mattered most.
- Continuing with the defense, there were not many plays made by some of the elders, Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, D'Qwell Jackson and Mike Adams. Mathis was even lined up against rookie left tackle Taylor Decker a bit of the time, a matchup that should've gone in his favor. Walden did spark a sack in the third quarter, but considering he is supposed to be the guy that they expect to set the edge and they got killed on the edges...
- On the Lions' final offensive drive that they used to kick the game-winning field goal, the defense was actually able to get some pressure on Stafford while in the prevent defense, but what made the coaches think that soft-cushion defense would work in the first place? They'd been eaten alive by the short catch-and-run all day, and that is one thing that the prevent allows. What made them think that Detroit (still with all three timeouts) wouldn't march down into field goal range? It's not like their defense had been stout by any means throughout the game. Then to follow that up with an attempted kickoff return for a touchdown rather than to try something with the offense didn't seem very optimal either.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on Facebook, Google+ and FanCred.
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