Through 23 games, Frank Reich has shown himself to be one of the elite coaches in the NFL. With his leadership and a revamped offensive line, the Colts look like they have the potential to be serious players in the AFC for years to come. Their drastic improvement up front was on full display against the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs, which kept reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes off the field.
Put aside the fact that Mahomes and the Chiefs were banged up on Sunday, missing wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and left tackle Eric Fisher. The Colts came in with a great game plan that was executed effectively for four quarters.
We noticed in the first game of his rookie season that Quenton Nelson was a difference-maker. He has been the key piece in the turnaround of a decade-long sub-standard offensive line. On Sunday, Reich hitched his wagon to Nelson and the big boys up front, knowing that this is where they had the greatest advantage. Indy finished with an impressive 182 yards on 43 carries (removing Jacoby Brissett’s 2 kneels) and possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes.
Quenton Nelson made his presence felt play after play.
Watch how he stayed with his block well downfield to help spring Marlon Mack for 30 yards on the Colts’ first possession.
Now watch his athleticism as he reaches to block defensive end Frank Clark on this outside zone. Again, he is #56.
Nelson’s feet might have come back a little too much, but he did a great job of swinging his hips around and keeping his feet underneath him as he sealed Clark off inside. This opened up the lane for Jordan Wilkins. Nelson made a difficult block look easy there.
Later in the game, on a critical 3rd-and-2 with 4:17 remaining in the 4th quarter, who do you think made the key block? You guessed it – Quenton Nelson once again. Watch him dig his man out of the hole below.
And just for fun, watch him finish this block.
That’s the type of dominance you normally see at the high-school level, not in the NFL with grown men in the trenches.
The brilliance of the Colts’ game plan was in its simplicity. Control Kansas City at the line of scrimmage, take time off the clock, and keep the Chiefs’ explosive offense off the field. Most teams set out to do the same thing against KC. Few can execute. Few have the discipline to stick with the game plan. It also helps to have a defense that does its part on the other side of the ball.
Perhaps the most impressive stat of the night was that the Colts faced 3rd-and-4 or less on 9 of their 14 third downs. This just shows you how much they controlled the line of scrimmage, especially on the early downs. Keeping the offense in manageable 3rd-down situations is critical for the Jacoby Brissett-led offense. Staying on schedule will not only help Brissett, but it will give the offense more options on the most critical down. They can stick with it on the ground or attack with T.Y. Hilton on what are high-percentage man-coverage situations. That’s a great place to be for Indianapolis.
As much as we love the new flashy and creative offenses around the NFL, it is sometimes just as fun to watch a team line up and physically kick the defense’s ass. That’s what the Colts are built for, and that’s what makes them a team to watch for the rest of 2019.
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