Kravitz Dopey Report Card: Colts at Washington (September 16, 2018)

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, left, looks for a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


If you wonder why the Colts went 9-of-16 on third-down conversions Sunday and why they're first in the league in that category, look no further than the Indy running game. That's not the Colts' strength, but we know it's a Washington weakness (last in the league last year in rush defense). Time and again, Jordan Wilkins and Marlon Mack ran effectively on early downs, providing Andrew Luck and the offense with third-and-manageable situations, allowing them to maintain possession. The Colts rushed 28 times for 104 yards, a 3.7 average – not great, not awful, but Wilkins, who is an impressive rookie, averaged 6.1 yards-per-carry.


Consider this: Washington's Jamison Crowder went 25 yards early in the game on a jet sweep and yet, the Colts only allowed 65 yards on 22 carries, a 3-yard-per-attempt average. And if my math is right, and it rarely is, it means that if you take the Crowder run out of the equation, Indy limited Washington to 40 yards on 21 carries, an average that recalls my GPA the second semester of my freshman year. What stood out, though – beside Darius Leonard, who is a monster – was the quality of the team's tackling. This group has definitely benefitted from having had more padded practices in the run-up to the regular season. Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, who went wild one week earlier in Arizona, rushed 15 times for 21 yards. Little wonder they were just 5-of-15 on third-down conversions.


Andrew Luck had good moments and bad moments – still trying to figure out the second interception – but here's the thing: Luck didn't need to be great, or even really good, for the Colts to win this game. And that, kids, is very good news. He was 21-of-31 for 179 yards, two TD's and two interceptions, a 77.2 rating. Give credit to the offensive line, specifically replacement tackles Le'Raven Clark and Joe Haeg, who made edge rushers Preston Brown and Ryan Kerrigan all but disappear. T.Y. Hilton got the best of corner Josh Norman, especially in the first half, finishing with seven catches for 83 yards. I still don't quite understand why Eric Ebron doesn't get a lot of playing time in the second half – he didn't against the Bengals, either – but he made a solid back-shoulder catch for the touchdown on the opening drive. The Colts were also 3-for-3 in the red zone (Washington was 0-for-2), including a TD pass to Hilton on a beautifully conceived and executed play that gave the Colts a 21-9 lead.


You look at Alex Smith's line – 33-of-46 for 292 yards – and you figure Washington scored at least 17-to-20 points. And yet, the Colts really shut down the passing game, a lot of those yards coming late when Indy was in a prevent defense and happily allowing Smith to dink and dunk for seven, eight yards at a time. Kenny Moore II, an undrafted free agent, has emerged as very fine cornerback. Pierre Desir, another undrafted free agent, played exceedingly well one week after he mysteriously failed to play a single defensive snap. Nate Hairston has become a very good contributor, covering the slot or playing outside. The Colts had three sacks, six quarterback hits and nine – yes, NINE -- tackles for loss, and were led by Jabaal Sheard and Margus Hunt, who was effective playing tackle or defensive end.


Not a whole lot to report on here. Rigoberto Sanchez did what Rigoberto Sanchez does: Five punts for a 41.8 average. Adam Vinatieri didn't get a chance to close in on the all-time field goal mark, but how about this? If things break right, he could get the record, or records for points and field goals, when the Colts visit New England. And if you don't think Vinny wouldn't love to do it back where his career started, you would be mistaken. That would be…perfect.


Except for a gruesome offensive third quarter, during which the Colts managed just 18 total yards in 2:26 of possession time, Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni did a fine job massaging and leading the offense. Again, the numbers weren't off the charts and they'll need to be more productive next week in Philly – or so you would think – but there was a whole lot to like about the team's approach. As for defense, give Matt Eberflus and the defensive coaches credit. There's nothing unique or magical about the Tampa-2 – it's a defense that is simple both for the team that plays it and the team that plays against it – but if you tackle soundly, as the Colts did, it can win you games. In the end, it was a great complementary football game by Indy,


After going 0-2 the previous four years, after blowing lead after lead in the second half last year and again against Cincinnati in the opener, the Colts flipped the script. Maybe now we won't have to talk about "Groundhog Day'' and the team's self-fulfilling prophecy. Now…it's going to be a lot tougher next week against the defending Super Bowl champions on a day when they're getting their quarterback, Carson Wentz, back into the lineup. Plus, you can be sure the stadium will be filled by the city's rabid fans, as opposed to DC, where they drew an embarrassingly small crowd for the opener. But if you didn't derive some significant hope from this performance in Washington, you're either not paying attention or just overwhelmed by negativity.

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