Derek Barnett trips up Andrew Luck to preserve Eagles victory

In a situation that many fans didn’t expect to see, the Colts had an opportunity in the waning moments to steal a win in rainy Philadelphia. After trading blows all day, the Eagles began (and nearly ended) the fourth quarter, by running a exhausting 17 play drive that lasted 11 minutes and 18 seconds. Down 16-13, Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense started their game winning drive at their own 21. With consistent passing (8-8 on the drive), and a little help from penalties, (most notably a critical defensive hold on 4th and 5) the Eagles methodically marched down the field, eventually punching it into the end zone with a 13 yard strike from Wentz to tight end Dallas Goedert. That drive left Indianapolis with just 3:02 on the clock. The Colts would take possession at their 25 yard line, starting with a pass play from Andrew Luck to Nyhiem Hines for 12 yards. From there, the Colts would drive down the field into the Eagles red zone. At the Eagles 11, Luck threw a pass incomplete to Eric Ebron leading to second down. The next play, a 7 yards strike to Eric Swoope, put the ball on the Eagles 4 for a 3rd and 3. On 3rd down, Luck would try and float one in to T.Y. Hilton, but Hilton was unable to track the over the shoulder throw. Finally on 4th down, down 20-16, Luck dropped back to pass, evaded defensive end Derek Barnett for a moment, but couldn’t escape gravity, as Barnett caught Luck’s foot sending him to his knees for the sack. A quick 3 and out by the Eagles offense would allow the Colts offense to get back on the field with under a minute left. Playing a deep zone defense, the Eagles didn’t allow a deep pass, but did allow a few quick passes to Ebron and Hines to move the ball to midfield. With 5 seconds on the clock, head coach Frank Reich made an interesting decision. He brought on backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett to try a long Hail Mary. With the Colts on trips formation the Colts snapped the ball, Jacoby rolls out right and launches a deep rocket of a throw to the back of the end zone. With a sea of hands from Colts and Eagles players, the ball is tipped for a moment, but sadly falls to the turf, just out of reach of T.Y. Hilton. That’s how it would end.

The Colts, although unlucky in this game, do have some big takeaways.

  1. The defense showed up to play: For the second straight week, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard was a force. (13 tackles, 9 solo,5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 qb hits) The Colts finally have an identity on the defensive side of the ball, and it looks really promising. Indianapolis managed to sack Carson Wentz 5 times on the day, bringing the season sack total to 10. The switch to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 scheme has been virtually seamless, and Eberflus has them playing at a high level.
  2. Colts won the turnover battle: after at least 2 turnovers in their first two games, the Colts offense was clean in the turnover department this week. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to too many points, but hey, it’s a stepping stone.
  3. Too many drops in the end zone: Eric Ebron, Chester Rogers, and T.Y. Hilton all missed scoring opportunities, as the ball slipped from their grasp. Much of that can be attributed to a rainy day, but they can’t squander key opportunities in the red zone.
  4. The Colts really need to establish a run game. Not having Marlon Mack (hamstring) or Rober Turbin (suspension), has really made the Colts offense one-dimensional. There is news in the rumor mill of Indianapolis exploring trade opportunities with the Pittsburgh Steelers for Le’Veon Bell, but unless that dream becomes a reality, we’re left with rookie Jordan Wilkins as our leading rusher. (6 carries for 19 yards in week 3)
  5. Congratulations to Adam Vinatieri, who is now tied with Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen with 635 career field goals. Vinatieri has truly had legendary career, and I would expect him to collect his gold jacket when he finally decides to hang up the cleats.
  • Overall, the Colts did do better than expected. With plenty of adjustments to make, the Colts did manage to make some highlights and keep fans interested. Indianapolis (1-2) takes on Houston (0-3) at home next Sunday for a divisional matchup. While Philadelphia (2-1) will travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans.
  • Week 3 preview: Colts @ Eagles

    After two weeks of play, I still don’t know what to make of this Indianapolis Colts team. I really want to believe they have something special brewing. With what seems to be a gem in Darius Leonard (2018 second round pick) and the excitement of Andrew Luck and his new receiving core being on the same page so quickly, one could be led to believe that the Colts might not be so bad. Then…I start looking into the schedule, and the stats. Over then next four weeks Indianapolis travels to Philadelphia to play the Eagles with Carson Wentz returning, comes home to a divisional opponent in the Texans, goes into Gillette Stadium on a short week to play the Patriots, and finally, takes a ride up to the Meadowlands to face off against the current number one defense of the New York Jets. Thank goodness they get a break against the hapless Buffalo Bills in week 7; However, that may not even be a walk in the park, because the Colts have lost 3 of the last 4 matchups against Buffalo (last won in 2012). After all of that, they get Oakland in the black hole for their 5th road game in 8 weeks. This could get pretty rough, but the only way to get through it is to take the boring, obvious mantra (one play at a time).

    For the Colts to get to the bye, they first have to get through the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s not going to be easy (they may not even do it) , but if they have just enough “Luck”, they might get it done. Here are a few keys to this weeks’ matchup:

    1. Andrew Luck has to be the 40 passing touchdowns version of himself, and not the 18 interceptions rookie year version. As consistent as Luck is passing (71.4%), he isn’t getting the scoring production he needs. He is tied for 11th in passing touchdowns (4), but is tied for second highest amount of interceptions (3). Indianapolis can’t afford to have Luck play at a mediocre level. For as much as they spent on him, and for the amount of time they waited for him to return, he has to be better.
    2. They need to have better offensive consistency. Three scoring drives might not be enough to get past most teams. Luckily, last week was an exception. The three 75 yard touchdown drives we saw were great last weekend, but the rest of the game wasn’t so hot. Every Indianapolis non-scoring drive in week 2 was a disaster. Let’s read in between the scores:

    1st half: 3 plays 4 yards (punt), 7 plays 58 yards (interception), 3 plays 8 yards (punt), 3 plays 6 yards (punt), 1 play -1 yards (kneel/end of half)

    2nd half: 3 plays 0 yards (interception), 3 plays 5 yards (punt), 4 plays 22 yards (punt), 1 -1 yards (kneel/ end of game)

    Five, 3 and outs are nothing to be proud of. The way I see it, the Colts failed to score at least a field goal on 70% of their offensive possessions last week (throwing out kneel scenarios). With an offensive minded coach (Reich) and a star quarterback (Luck), they should be clicking more often than 30%. If that lack of production bleeds into week 3, the Eagles will walk all over them.

    3. The defense we saw in week 2 needs to be their every game. Every level of defense was involved. The front 4 were plugging the holes, the run game was held in check, and they forced the quarterback to try and make plays. They played inspired, they played hungry, they were excited, and they were well prepared. Those are words we haven’t heard relating to the Colts defense since maybe the 2006 Super Bowl run.

    This week with the Eagles offense, the Colts have a giant test. Carson Wentz is back, the crowd in Philadelphia is always horrible (remember they booed Santa Claus), and Wentz has weapons. These weapons include second year receiver Nelson Agholor and veteran tight end Zach Ertz (each have 16 receptions in just two games). They also include an effective group of running backs (Ajayi, Clement, and Smallwood) who can kill with 4 and 5 yard bursts, or catch linebackers off guard in the passing game. On the other side of the ball, the Colts offense has to find ways to move the sticks against this Eagles defense. There are tons of household names on their defense. They have a great starting lineup and solid depth. Names like Haloti Ngata, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox will have the offensive line busy. While names like Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby will try to frustrate the Colts thin receiving core. For the second week in a row, I’m picking against Indianapolis. I predict that the familiarity of Frank Reich’s offense, the spark the Eagles will have with Wentz returning, and the amount of playmakers on the Philly defense, will just be too much for this Indy team to handle. The Colts do have one thing going for them though..I’m 0-2 with my predictions this year.

    My prediction: Colts 16 Eagles 31

    Photo Credit- Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

    Colts get the win; rookie linebacker has stellar performance

    The Colts did something on Sunday, that they had not done since week 15 of the 2016-17 season. They held an opponent under 10 points. In a game that featured tight end Eric Ebron and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton finding paydirt for the second straight week, the Colts defense was really the bigger headline. To open the game, Indianapolis drove 75 yards on 11 plays to go up 7-0. From that point, they would never trail, but weren’t without mistakes. The next two Colts drives would be a three and out, and a three play drive that ended in an interception (the first of two Andrew Luck interceptions). Following the pick, the Redskins drove 27 yards in 5 plays, settling for a 49 yard field goal. The Redskins momentum would be short lived though, as the Colts marched down the field on the next drive, capping it with an 8 yard Nyheim Hines touchdown. This put Indianapolis up 14-3, and they would take that lead into halftime.

    To open the second half, the Redskins ran an 8 play 38 yard drive that fizzled out near midfield, as the Colts defense forced Washington to punt for a fifth time on the day. The next Indianapolis drive would be costly, as Andrew Luck threw a bad pass into double coverage. The pass found it’s way into D.J Swearinger’s hands for a second time. The interception would allow Washington to put three more points on the board, making the game 14-6. The Colts faced their 4th three and out of the game on the very next drive, which gave the Redskins a bit of momentum. Still, the momentum would only go so far, as the Washington offense was stopped in the red zone. They would settle for another Dustin Hopkins field goal, and inch closer to a score of 14-9. That’s as close as the Redskins would get on Sunday. Indianapolis answered right back with their only long drive of the second half. T.Y. Hilton would cap the 13 play drive with a touchdown, putting the Colts back up by 12 points. The next Redskins drive showed that the Colts may have found a second round gem in this year’s draft. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (18 tackles/1 sack/1 forced fumble) knocked the ball from of the hands of Washington tight end Jordan Reed, while cornerback Pierre Desir jumped on top for the recovery. The turnover, with five minutes left in the game, proved insurmountable for the Redskins. Washington would get one more chance to put points on the board, but the Colts defense once again stood their ground, forcing the Redskins into a turnover on downs. 21-9 is the final, and there are quite a few big takeaways from this game, as the Colts prepare for the Eagles next Sunday.

    Takeaways

    1) Jordan Wilkins was productive: The Colts rookie quietly rushed 10 times for 61 yards (6.1 avg). Indianapolis will need this type of ground production in order to keep the pressure off of Andrew Luck.

    2) Darius Leonard was a beast: Rookies who act like veterans are my favorite kind of rookies. Leonard stepped up on Sunday with 18 tackles, a sack, and a key forced fumble in the fourth quarter. This could be the beginning of something special for this young Colts defense.

    3) Colts can win, even when Andrew Luck isn’t playing his best ball: A fairly pedestrian day, Luck only threw for 179 yards, and also threw two interceptions. The turnovers could have been costly, but the defense stepped up, and held the Washington offense two field goals as opposed to touchdowns.

    4) Indianapolis might have more defensive depth than we realize: Defensive tackle Jihad Ward, who had been taking up space on the Colts, had a great day. With a sack and 3 quarterback pressures (led team), we may see Ward on the field again next weekend.

    5) The offensive line held up, even with missing pieces: Coming into the game, Washington’s defensive front looked worrisome. The Colts have lost three offensive linemen since the start of the preseason, and were thought to be a week unit. However, this line managed to show excellent resolve, keeping Luck upright (gave up only 1 sack for -2 yards) and paving the way for Colts running backs (running backs ran for 4.25 yards per carry)

    Castonzo, Autry, and Mack get updates on status for Sunday @ Redskins

    After starting the week with high hopes and a confident demeanor, Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo suffered an unfortunate setback late Wednesday. He was listed as a non participant on Thursday, and was downgraded to OUT on Friday afternoon. Dealing with a nagging hamstring injury for much of the preseason and week one, the Colts starter will miss his second game in a row, after starting every game over the past two seasons. Week one was the first time Andrew Luck had been without his star tackle in Luck’s 71 game career. This puts Indianapolis in a precarious spot at offensive line. Injuries to tackle/guard Denzelle Good (knee/wrist), J’Marcus Webb (hamstring), and now Castonzo (hamstring), have limited the offensive line depth rather significantly. Joe Haeg may get his second career start at left tackle against the Redskins, although 3rd year man Le’Raven Clark is listed on the depth chart directly behind Anthony Castonzo. Clark has started just 8 games out of a possible 24 in his career. He did not see the field in week one against the Cincinnati Bengals.

    One of the Colts’ offseason acquisitions was injured Wednesday. Defensive tackle/end, Denico Autry aggravated his ankle during practice. Last Sunday, Autry played as a rotational defensive end, as he tallied one tackle and two quarterback hurries. His status has been downgraded to OUT for the week two matchup. With Autry not playing, look for Hassan Ridgeway and Grover Stewart to fill in during his absence.

    Saving the good news for last, Colts running back Marlon Mack took part in his first full practice of the 2018 regular season on Friday. After working his way back from a hamstring injury suffered in the Colt’s first preseason game, he will likely see his first game action in week two. Even if Mack does see the field this weekend, he’ll likely be splitting playing time with Jordan Wilkins (14 carries/3 receptions week one), and rookie Nyheim Hines (5 carries/7 receptions week one). The running back by committee approach should help Mack ease back into a larger workload, which will be especially relevant, given the potential of rainy field conditions at FedEx Field on Sunday.

    Roster moves

    The Colts waived tight end Erik Swoope today. This move opened up room to bring in defensive tackle Jihad Ward from the practice squad. Swoope, who had a great preseason, found himself in one of the positions that Indianapolis has great depth. With the addition of Eric Ebron in the offseason, Jack Doyle maintaining his starting role, and the recent signing of Ryan Hewitt, likely made Swoope nonessential.

    Ward, the former 2nd round pick out of Illinois, finds himself with with a good opportunity in the Colts defense. Due to a potential injury to defensive tackle Denico Autry, who was listed with a, “did not practice” designation today, Ward has the potential to step into a rotational role this Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Ward brings his talents over from Oakland, after spending the last two seasons with the Raiders. His career stat line is (games:21/game starts:14/17 tackles/1.0 sacks/1 fumble recovery).

    Week 2 preview: Colts @ Redskins

    The Colts face their first road opponent this week, as they travel to FedEx Field to battle the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are boasting a new look offense this season, featuring quarterback Alex Smith (formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs) and late preseason addition, running back Adrian Peterson (2012 League MVP). The last time these two teams met was in 2014. That game went very well for the Colts, as they cruised to a 49-27 victory, thanks to 5 Andrew Luck touchdown passes. The two teams do not play each other very frequently, but the Colts historically own the matchups, going 20-12 in a series that dates back to 1950. Indianapolis has won 4 of the last 5 games in the series, not taking a loss since 2002.

    Indianapolis should expect to hear added pressure around the NFL this week, as a loss to the Redskins would mark a fifth straight year of starting their season 0-2. Coming off of a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis looks to build on the positives, of which there are a few. The Colts defense is deceptively one of those positives. Even though they squandered a 13 point lead, the Colts defense actually found some success in containing Andy Dalton and big play receiver AJ Green. Indianapolis forced an early interception due to great pressure by the defensive line, and recovered an AJ Green fumble. Safety, Matthias Farley nearly recovered a second Green fumble, after knocking the ball loose in the 4th quarter.

    Another bright spot in the Colts defense was rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard played the most snaps of any Colts defender (56), and would go on to have 9 total tackles and a fumble recovery. The second round draft pick out of South Carolina State, could end up being a building block for a young Colts defense that is looking to establish an identity.

    Of course, we can’t forget about Andrew Luck’s passing performance! The veteran quarterback shook off the rust, and compiled an impressive statistical performance. Going 39-53 (73%) with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, Luck showed his shoulder is as healthy as ever. Hopefully, he won’t have to throw 53 times every week, but it is good to know that his arm can handle the workload.

    Even with a healthy Andrew Luck, Indianapolis will have their work cut out for them this week. The Washington Redskins are coming off of a solid 24-6 road victory against last year’s #6 defense, the Arizona Cardinals. Led by Alex Smith, Washington had a huge 21 point second quarter and never looked back on a dominant day. Smith’s stat line for the day was 21-30/255 yards/2 touchdowns/0 interceptions. Arizona running back David Johnson would put a touchdown on the board with 5:47 left in the game, but it was too little too late for the Cardinals. The Redskins rushing attack was also at work, with their running backs totaling 168 yards on 34 carries. Most of the ground damage was dealt by Adrian Peterson, who carried the ball 26 times for 96 yards and a touchdown.

    To me, the score of the Cincinnati Bengals game didn’t indicate how close the Colts were to actually winning. Perhaps if not for a late Jack Doyle fumble, the result may have been much different. That being said, I don’t think the week one result should all be put on Doyle. The Bengals closed the week one matchup with 24 unanswered points, as the Indianapolis offense struggled to put together scoring drives in the second half. Going into this weekend, you can expect the Colts coaching staff to preach playing a full four quarters of football. The return of left tackle Anthony Castonzo (and potentially running back Marlon Mack) will help the Colts, but I think the Redskins defense will still be a little too tough for this Indianapolis offense.

    My week 2 prediction:

    Colts 20 Redskins 24

    Photo Credit (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Colts lineman returns

    Indianapolis left tackle Anthony Castonzo cheered up a lot of fans and teammates yesterday afternoon. While talking to the media Wednesday, Castonzo was quoted saying there is, “no question” that he’ll be playing this weekend against the Washington Redskins. With the loss of right tackle J’Marcus Webb (hamstring) on Monday, and the early season absence of guard/tackle Denzelle Good (knee/wrist), the Colts were hurting for quality at the tackle position. Last week, right tackle Joe Haeg started in place of Castonzo, in what was his first career start at the left tackle position. However, Haeg did have experience at left tackle while in college at North Dakota State. He started 31 straight games, and protected the blindside of current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Now that Anthony Castonzo has returned to the starting lineup, Haeg is expected to return to the right tackle position where he has started 29 games in his NFL career. Now healthy, the Colts offensive line will have to battle the likes of Pro Bowl defensive end/linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, second year defensive end Jonathan Allen, and rookie nose tackle Da’Ron Payne.

    Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports