Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts can keep it simple and highlight the strengths of his pass catchers. This will be vital to a solid start, which is something that has long avoided the Colts. Of course I’m referencing the infamous Week 1 losing streak.
This losing streak dates back to a 31-24 loss at the hands of the 2014 Denver Broncos who finished the season 12-4. That is a close loss to a respectable team, but that hasn’t been the case recently. Since 2018 the Colts have lost their season-opener to teams that have finished their own seasons with winning percentages bellow .500.
The Current Indianapolis Colts Must Disconnect From Previous Mistakes
“The past has no power over the present moment.” Superstitious fans may debate this quote, siting “curses” or something along those lines. Through this naysay, the Indianapolis Colts need to fully embrace this quote, and the mindset it provides, if they are going to play to their full potential.
The quote comes from The Power of Now by Eckhart Toll. This is one of my favorite books, and was featured on “Aaron Rodgers’ Book Club” a segment on the Pat McAfee Show. I think this quote fits perfectly for this situation for the Colts and their fans.
The Colts can empower this quote by disconnecting themselves with the past teams. While the skin and bones of the team are relatively similar to last season, some vital organs have been recently transplanted. I could compare Ryan to the brain, or Ngakoue to the heart of the defense, with his unlimited motor. But I am going to move on from the body comparisons.
Disconnecting from the past and focusing on the now will give the Colts an opportunity to finally start their journey off on the right foot. While the past trends need to stay in the past, the past is the only place where I can find statistics to back up my points, so don’t hold that against me.
The Colts Can Put the Correct Foot Forward with this Strategy
Moving past the spiritual side of sports, the Colts have a strength on the field that can expose a weakness of the Texans defense. The Houston linebackers tend to allow passes in the middle of the field, and as a whole the team misses some important tackles. As I mentioned this plays directly into the hand of the Colts offense, which thrives after the catch in open space.
Something the Colts Do Very Well
Jim Irsay, Chris Ballard, and Frank Reich are the main builders of the roster, most of us know that. Many also know their fondness for uber athletic players. Drafting or acquiring these athletes (Michael Pittman Jr., Jonathan Taylor, Kylen Granson, and Nyheim Hines to name a few) translates to players who can make a defender miss after making a catch. This missed or broken tackle leads to yards after the catch, or yards after contact.
Pro Football Focus designated 1,646 of the 3,588 yards gained by Colts receivers in the 2021 NFL season as yards after the catch (YAC). Taylor, Pittman Jr., Hines, and Ali-Cox led the way with 1,185 YAC between the four. Ryan has the accuracy to hit the receivers in stride, giving them the best opportunity to do what they do best. This strategy may work the best against the below average linebackers of the Texans.
A Large Weak Spot of the Texans Defense
Rookie Jake Hansen has presumably won the starting job at the SAM linebacker position. During the preseason, he allowed seven receptions on ten targets, while facing the majority of back-ups. Not the best sign for a new starter.
The other two starting linebackers are Kamu Grugier-Hill and Christian Kirksey. Both veteran LBs were graded below average and slightly negative for their overall performance in 2021 by PFF. Together they had a reception percentage of 78.9%. On these receptions they allowed 487 YAC.
These three players sit in the middle of the field, most of the time with little help. If they are forced into the wrong 1-on-1 match-up, that could spell danger for the Texans, and a feast for the Colts.
Envisioning the Perfect Start to the Season
The match-ups across the middle of the field should be exploited by Matt Ryan and the offense. Pittman Jr. has shown development on his route running and his footwork. This allows him to beat the defender and create space quickly. Faster than the physical battle he once relied on.
Early on, maybe even to start the first drive, look for a quick pass to Taylor or Hines. A guaranteed completion, schemed up by Reich, hoping to create a hole that the back can explode through. Then, if everything goes correctly, the back would make a defender miss on his way to the endzone. This would set the tone, not only for the game, but for the season and the future of the organization.
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