Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Eric Ebron, Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts, Jack Doyle, Jacoby Brissett, Josh McDaniels, Marlon Mack, New England Patriots, NFL, Nyheim Hines, Ryan Kelly, Tennessee Titans, Tom Brady, Ty Hilton
For this week’s amateur adventure in films I have looked at the Indianapolis Colts’ offence against the Tennessee Titans, taking my inspiration from the Ringer’s NFL Podcast and Robert May’s enthusiasm for what was going on in Indianapolis.
There was a lot of flux for the Colts this offseason, not least of which was that they thought their new head coach would be the Patriots’ Josh McDaniels but after he had a change of heart and decided to stay in New England after the Super Bowl loss they has to find someone else. They decided to grab the winning offensive co-ordinator from the Super Bowls in Frank Reich whose main job was to revive the form of Andrew Luck, a quarterback who early in career talked of liking to get hit but who after playing though injury was not even throwing NFL footballs at the start of training camp and hadn’t taken a competitive snap in over a year.
It may have taken a few weeks to get going, and there was a lot of noise about Luck being pulled out of the game for a Hail Mary attempts as his backup Jacoby Brissett had the stronger arm, but it certainly seems to be flowing now. So how does it look?
The Colts played predominantly with 11 personnel but with good mix 12 and 13 personnel mixed in and one of my favourite was a grouping of 21 personnel with rookie running back Nyheim Hines lining up at receiver and Marlon Mack staying as the running back.
The Colts would usually stick with a single back in the backfield but would motion other players back there as well as mixing in some motion, in particular with the tight ends. Speaking of which, one of my favourite performances in this game was from Jack Doyle. I’m sure the focus of most discussions about the Colt’s offence would centre of Andrew Luck or TY Hilton and the big name in the tight end room would perhaps be Eric Ebron, but I loved the versatility of Doyle who was the every down tight end who moved round the formation, both blocking and as running routes whilst Ebron came in as the move receiving tight end.
However, focussing on Andrew Luck it seems the offence is really suiting him and part of that is that he’s getting the ball out quickly. Gone are the days of him holding onto the ball and trying to tough things out to make a play, the ball is coming out quickly with a good balance of run and play action keeping the defence honest. This is not a run first teams but a modern balanced offence, and in the second quarter the Colts scored almost a perfect play action touchdown where the fake handoff drew in the Titans’ single high safety and TY Hilton flew past his corner to score a sixty-eight yard touchdown. This is something that is possible when you have sprinkled enough run plays into the mix from the same formations that you are passing from and although the Colts only just made one hundred yards on twenty-eight carries in the run game, they established it enough to make the play fakes work. There were also some really good timing throws throughout this game to a number of different receivers although star of the show in terms of receiving was undoubtedly TY Hilton who caught all nine of the balls thrown his way and finished with one hundred and fifty-five yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Finally, whilst I was not focussing on the offensive line, the athleticism of Ryan Kelly caught my eye as it is not often that you see a centre pull as frequently in the run game as Kelly did and the whole line had a good day as they did not give up a sack and Luck only had to move a couple of times to avoid the rush even if a couple of throws were affected by pressure.
This was obviously a good game to see the Colts offence running smoothly, they managed a total of three hundred and ninety-seven yards, five touchdowns and gave up no sacks. They ran the ball well enough for the play action fake to be legitimate in the defence’s mind and structurally they were clever enough to elicit comment as I watched the game. It’s not that uncommon for me to talk aloud to the tape (I’m sure my partner loves this habit…) but it is kind of a test on offence and between their motion, route combinations and fakes they got enough separation for Andrew luck to complete twenty-three of his twenty-nine passes. The Colts have won their last four games and after a tough start to the season seem to be heading in the right direction with a large part of that being the position they are putting Andrew Luck in to succeed. It took me by surprise that Luck is already twenty-nine but as he heads into his prime it looks like the Colts are finally giving him the team to win consistently and they will have a large amount of cap room in the offseason. Don’t look now, but with the focus this season seemingly on the young quarterbacks coming up under Tom Brady and Drew Brees, Andrew Luck is reminding us all that he’s still there and should not be overlooked.