INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Every week, Bob Kravitz offers his Dopey Report Card on the Indianapolis Colts' performance. This week, he breaks down the Colts' win against Jacksonville.
RUN OFFENSE C-
After two straight productive performances on the ground, the Colts came hurtling back to earth – not a huge surprise given Jacksonville's defensive talent. Indy ran 28 times for 81 yards, but 53 of those yards came on a pitchout to Jordan Wilkins. Otherwise, the Colts ran 22 times for a microscopic 28 yards. The Jags have underachieved this season, but man for man, they feature one of the best front sevens in the league. By the way, if you haven't seen the video of Quenton Nelson screaming as he pulls and pancakes a defender, get yourself to the web and give it a watch (and a listen). Bradley Chubb has been an absolute stud pass rusher for the Broncos, but I'd say the Colts did pretty well in the pre-draft trade, ultimately selecting two future Pro Bowlers, Nelson and Darius Leonard, and a developing young prospect, Kemoko Turay. Worked out for both teams.
RUN DEFENSE A-
The Colts came into this game the way every team comes into games against the Jaguars: Stop Leonard Fournette and put the ball in Blake Bortles' hands. Mission accomplished. Fournette ran for 53 yards on 24 carries, a 2.2 yards-per-carry average. In total, the Jags ran 34 times for 91 yards, a 2.7 average. The Jags' entire offense was a boatload of checkdowns, except for the one long pass to former Colt Donte Moncrief. Here's another number that matters: The Colts had eight tackles for loss, including two by Jabaal Sheard, who has been a consistent but quiet performer for this team since his arrival.
PASS OFFENSE B+
I've got to think that Andrew Luck has been forced to reset that little clock inside his head: In the old days, he'd take the snap from center and count, ``1, 2…oh (bleep),'' as the pass rush came calling. Now, he's got two, three, four seconds to throw, and the results show. The Colts have now gone four games and 187 dropbacks without allowing a sack, their longest streak without allowing a sack since 2009 and the fifth-longest streak in league history. That's right, I'm talking about the Colts offensive line. Meanwhile, Eric Ebron had three touchdowns, two receiving and one running, as his breakout season continued. Take away Nyheim Hines drop and Mo Alie-Cox' bobble-turned-interception, and it's an almost-perfect game from Luck – even with the lack of general offensive production in the second half.
PASS DEFENSE C
First, let me say this: Kenny Moore II had a marvelous game, and not just because of his game-winning strip near the end of the game. He also had six solo tackles and two passes defensed, and generally made Jacksonville's wideouts disappear. With this defense, teams are going to get their yards, especially when they dink and dunk the way Bortles did most of the game (with the notable exception of the 80-yard bomb to Moncrief). It's just a matter of making opponents work hard for their points and stiffening in the red zone, which the Colts did for the most part. On the negative side, Indy's pass rush was largely non-existent, which has been the case the last four games or so. When Chris Ballard has another crack at the draft and/or free agency, he needs to find a pass rusher or two.
SPECIAL TEAMS D
The Jaguars had 109 return yards (108 on kicks, one on punts). The Colts had 13 return yards (seven on kicks, six on punts). That's normally a losing number. The Colts also fell asleep in an obvious fake-field-goal situation, giving up a huge first down that led to a Jacksonville touchdown. This has been a pretty solid group all season, but Sunday was not a good effort. This would have been a better grade if there hadn't been a foolish penalty on Anthony Walker's return of a blocked PAT – Walker had a terrific game, led the Colts in tackles – but alas, it was called back by a low block with Walker well on his way to the endzone and a two-point play.
I don't like Frank Reich's play calling in the red zone; I love it. Very creative, including a handoff to Ebron, who might as well start paying rent for all the time he spends in the endzone. There will be some who will default to the old complaint about how the Colts' offense didn't make adjustments in the second half, but that misses the point entirely and generally makes you sound like a dope. When you're starting first-and-20, or have Hines dropping a big pass or Alie-Cox bobbling a sure reception that led to an interception, you're not going to move the ball, much less score. Indy ran just 18 plays in the second half as the Jags played keepaway, owning time of possession, 21:33 to 8:27. Now about that decision to go for it against Houston…oh, never mind.
In a more perfect world, with a better team, you'd hope the Colts would put the Jags away once they ran out to a 29-13 lead. But…these are the Colts, and they don't run away and hide from anybody. At least you had to love the way they came out after the bye week, refreshed and ready to play at the same high level (at least offensively). Again, the second half was a small disaster, and if not for Moore's strip, the Colts could have A) lost this game and B) destroyed any hope of playoff contention. But they got a break when the official overturned the down-by-contact call on the field, so it's all puppies and balloons today and the rest of this week.