The Colts are coming off their fourth loss of the season, and this one was a heartbreaker with 36-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Colts’ turnovers were a big reason they lost the game, with a fumble by Jack Doyle being a big turning point in the game. The red zone is the bigger struggle for the Colts offense at this time. The Colts have been good outside of the red zone, but they just cannot seem to finish drives that could have turned losses into wins. So what can the Colts do to get better? The main issue that I see is the play calling.
To be frank, the Colts are passing excessively in the red zone. You would think with Frank Gore, and the emergence of Marlon Mack, that the running game would be leaned on more inside the 20. While Jacoby Brissett has displayed solid play all season for the Colts, his red zone struggles are a big issue. He is seven of 18 in the red zone with a 38.9% completion percentage and 62.7 quarterback rating. Inside the 10 is even worse, where he is two of eight with an 18.8% completion percentage. He has also taken four sacks, which has killed drives and led to field goals. The wideouts are also struggling to create separation in the red zone and have not helped Brissett at all. On the Colts third possession in the red zone, they had first and goal from the eight-yard line with one timeout and they passed all three downs. The play above highlights the separation issue; Colts are 11 personnel with trips to the right of Brissett, and Moncrief to his left. Brissett wants Hilton in the slot, who is running an out-route at the top of the end zone. Post-snap, Hilton struggles to beat the press coverage and never gets a good release into his route. With everyone else covered, this forces Brissett to throw it away.
On the next play, the Colts come out in the same personnel and formation. This time Hilton is running a quick drag across the field, with Moncrief running a post-route to Brissett’s left. The Titans line up with man-to-man across the field, even putting a safety on Hilton. Post-snap, the Titans fool Brissett with the safeties switching off coverage vs Hilton’s drag route. Brissett, thinking the safety is following Hilton, goes straight to the second read which is the post to Moncrief. He is almost picked off, and the Colts have to again settle for a field goal.
This play against the 49ers is the most egregious of them all. After a great first drive in overtime, the Colts have a first and goal at the eight-yard line. Instead of running the ball, the Colts come out in 11 personnel with four wide. The play is designed to go to Darrell Daniels on a post-route in the back of the end zone. The 49ers are in Cover 2 with everyone sitting on short routes to protect the end zone. Brissett sees Daniels open in the back of the end zone, but underthrows the pass, which allows for an easy pick by Armstrong.
The Colts have to lean on the running game inside the red zone. The running game can set up play action, which gives the quarterback easy reads, especially in the red zone. The Colts have to realize their quarterback is only starting his ninth game this week, and he is still effectively a rookie. Leaning on him in the red zone is not working and adjustments are needed.
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