INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Every week, Bob Kravitz offers his Dopey Report Card on the Indianapolis Colts' performance. This week, he breaks down the Colts' win over the Cleveland Browns.
RUNNING OFFENSE: C
For the record, I am not taking a knee while writing the Dopey Report Card, but only because it’s not an ergonomically sound way of doing things. The running game gave the Colts what they needed in the first half, Colts rushers going for 63 yards and setting up the play-action game for Jacoby Brissett, T.Y. Hilton and others. Frank Gore looked particularly energetic early, adding a 21-yard carry. With every touch, it seems, he moves up in the record books. In the second half, they ran for just 29 yards as the Colts turned conservative and tried to bleed the clock, to no effect. The best rushes came from Brissett, who showed you why the Colts dealt Phillip Dorsett late in the preseason. The guy has all the tools and is able to make plays where none seem to exist. According to Pro Football Focus, when Brissett had a clean pocket, he was 15 of 19 for 248 yards and a touchdown.
RUNNING DEFENSE: C
After two solid games, the Colts were ordinary at best in defending the run. Isaiah Crowell averaged 3.7 yards on 12 carries, DeShone Kizer scrambled for 44 yards on seven carries (a 6.3 yard average) and Duke Johnson ran for 23 yards on two carries. In their defense, the Colts had a 28-7 lead late in the first half and were primarily playing the pass rather than the run. They also did a decent job of staying sound in their rushing lanes, rarely letting Kizer get loose for those back-breaking scrambles. Jon Bostic put up solid numbers, finishing with 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defense. John Simon continued to show why he’s among the team’s best defenders, rolling up six tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. Thought Johnathan Hankins was very active as well both in the run and the pass game.
PASSING OFFENSE: B+
This is what Brissett can do when he’s had some time in the playbook and time with his relatively new corps of receivers. He even performed well against the blitz, which the Browns did on 70 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, completing 9-of-15 passes for 215 yards. Hilton had exactly the kind of game you expected him to have after two quiet weeks in Los Angeles and against Arizona, hauling in seven passes for 153 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown. We take shots at Anthony Castonzo when he struggles; we’ll praise when he’s good. According to PFF, in 29 pass blocking snaps, he allowed no pressures and graded out as the Colts’ best run blocker. The only poor performance came from Jack Doyle, who rarely – and I mean, RARELY – drops passes or fumbles or does anything wrong. Rough day for him.
PASSING DEFENSE: B
If you don’t like Rashaan Melvin, you don’t like football. The man has been cut so many times, but he keeps coming back and keeps coming back, and now he’s establishing himself as a guy who will either continue to start or give the Colts quality depth in the secondary. After five years without a pick, Melvin had two of them Sunday and defended four passes. He gave up just three catches on nine targets for 47 yards, a 49.1 passer ratings according to PFF. Whether he continues to start or back up rookie Quincy Wilson, Melvin has developed into a key piece in what’s turning into a decent young secondary. Nice game as well from another rookie, Nate Hairston. The Colts pressured Kizer on 19 of 52 snaps – not great, but not bad – led largely by Simon and Jabaal Sheard. Both players had four pressures. The big number, though, was turnovers. Three interceptions. And it was nice to see Malik Hooker go down to the turf shortly after his game-ending interception. A lot of guys would have had a brain cramp and tried to take that to the house.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Rigoberto Sanchez isn’t quite Pat McAfee – not yet, anyway – but he hasn’t represented a significant falloff from what McAfee provided in past years. Some of us were shocked when they kept Sanchez and jettisoned Jeff Locke, but Sanchez won the spot and has punted and kicked off well for the better part of three games. He took a dangerous return man, Jabrill Peppers, completely out of the game, kicking the ball toward the sidelines or out of bounds, resulting in no return yardage. The Browns also had no return yardage in the kickoff return game.
It became painfully obvious the Colts were playing not to lose, rather than to win, once they got the 28-7 lead and then the 28-14 lead at halftime. At that point, you’d like to see them go for the jugular; instead, they put the brakes on, and the offense stagnated. After four touchdowns and 260 yards in the first half, Indy scored just three points and managed just 75 yards of offense in the second half. The good news is, this team was ready to play and seemed far more comfortable with the idea of unleashing Brissett and letting him do what he does well.
This was a desperation game; 0-3 teams simply don’t make the playoffs in the NFL, not with any frequency, and 0-3 teams heading to Seattle surely don’t reach the post-season. At this point, the Colts are in no position to worry about style points. It’s all about winning and moving on, about winning just enough games this early portion of the season to give Andrew Luck a chance to stage a late-season comeback. We can say this with some certainty: This isn’t the outfit that got embarrassed in Los Angeles. They’re getting better. And in the AFC South, that’s sometimes good enough.