INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts expect to have one of the NFL’s top defenses this year, but that was hardly evident during Sunday’s season-opening loss against the Seattle Seahawks.
Too many big plays. Too many long touchdown drives. Too many regrets.
Seattle averaged 7.2 yards per play and had twice as many first downs converted (18) as third-down snaps (9). It was a dominant performance that began with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in the run game and featured four passing touchdowns from elite quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Colts rallied in the second half – limiting the Seahawks to seven points and 124 total yards after intermission – but the damage already was done. As cornerback Kenny Moore II noted in the postgame media scrum, it was all too reminiscent of last year’s inconsistency.
“That was our whole 2020 season, was a tale of two halves pretty much each game,” Moore said. “It’s not gonna always be how we want it.”
Indianapolis now has precious little time to correct it.
Matthew Stafford and a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense visits Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend, on the heels of a 34-14 victory against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
In his first start for the Rams, Stafford was 20-of-26 for 321 yards with three touchdowns and a 156.1 quarterback rating. He presents a different challenge than the uber-elusive Wilson, but the L.A. scheme should look familiar to Indianapolis defenders.
New Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron arrived after an internship under Rams head coach Sean McVay. So the attack the Colts see this week should share common traits with the one they saw Sunday.
“I think it’ll be very similar, very similar,” Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said. “Another very good offense, obviously. And I think it all starts with the ability to stop the run. All the big plays they make in the passing game, so many of them are predicated on their ability to have a good running game, and I think that’s what they’ve done well. So if we’re gonna have success, we’re gonna have to stop the run.”
That was a key in the Colts’ second-half improvement against the Seahawks, who gained just 44 yards on 13 rushing attempts over the final two quarters.
The question for Indianapolis is how to bridge the gap between its split personalities. The defense in the first half allowed Seattle to pull away and torch the Colts’ game plan. In the second half, the defense repeatedly gave a suddenly struggling offense opportunities to get back into the game.
The defining trait of the league’s top units has always been consistency. Indianapolis struggled to find it a year ago and can ill afford to ride the roller coaster again.
“I feel like first game, a lot of fans, there’s jitters, and sometimes you get nervous and you play out of your scheme,” second-year safety Julian Blackmon said. “So I think that personally, for us, we’ve just got to get back to doing our stuff – just doing what we’re good at, staying in our gaps, doing our own responsibilities and we’ll be fine.”
THEY SAID IT
“It meant the world to me, and honestly I plan on rewarding the Colts with my best year of football and earning every penny of it.” – running back Nyheim Hines on the three-year, $18.6 million contract extension he signed Saturday.
The struggling offensive line took another hit Monday with the news right tackle Braden Smith suffered a foot injury during the loss to Seattle. Reich said it’s not related to the injuries that sidelined quarterback Carson Wentz and left guard Quenton Nelson for three weeks during training camp, but the team is still awaiting more information.
“It’s a different kind of injury,” he said. “Not sure the full ramifications of it just yet. Hopefully, we’ll get that figured out in the next couple days.”
The Colts also will keep a close eye on left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) this week. He’s made outstanding progress throughout the summer, but his two limited practices last week were his first of the season.
“No update,” Reich said. “I’m encouraged from last week. I guess that would be the only update, but he’s still kind of fresh out of everything. So we’re just gonna take it day by day.”