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Ryan Review: Colts’ QB Shows Poise Under Pressure in Win vs. Chiefs

Matt Ryan fought through pressure to get his first win as a member of the Colts.

Any team can win on any given Sunday in the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts proved that on Sunday, upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The win is the first for the Colts on the year, and brings them to 1-1-1, second in the AFC South. While it wasn’t always pretty, the Colts were able to grind it out and found a way to win in the end.

Quarterback Matt Ryan won his first game in a Colts uniform in exciting fashion. Ryan went 27-of-37 (73%) for 222 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a QB rating of 105.9. The comeback victory was Ryan’s 43rd of his career, sixth all-time.

“We still have a lot of improving to do,” Ryan admitted after the game. “You know, and what I've found throughout my career is you continue – you usually continue to get better as the year goes on, and you clean things up, but you've got to find ways to win along the way as you're improving. That's what I'm proud of today.”

This is “Ryan Review” on Horseshoe Huddle where we will look at the film each week and dissect how Ryan played. Ryan faced a tremendous amount of pressure, once again, but delivered in the clutch and introduced “Matty Ice” to Indianapolis.

Rookies Provide Help

If the Colts’ offense was going to be successful this season, they would have to receive help from their young group of pass catchers. Two rookies answered the call in a big way against the Chiefs.

The first rookie was tight end Jelani Woods. Woods made his first career catches against the Chiefs, with both going for touchdowns. Ryan looked for the big 6-7 Woods in the red zone, and the rookie delivered.

On the first touchdown to Woods, Ryan starts out looking at tight end Kylen Granson in the flat. Quickly seeing it is covered, he looks to Woods and fires a dart to the tight end before taking a big hit. Getting through his reads quickly and staying strong in the pocket leads Ryan to the score.

The second touchdown to Woods was the game-winner. Ryan knew he wanted to go to Woods the entire time, waiting for Woods to clear the linebacker in the second level. Ryan shows elite ball placement to put the ball where only Woods can grab it, and the defender does not have a chance at making a play.

The other rookie to step up was Alec Pierce. Pierce had three catches for 61 yards in his return from a concussion and gave Ryan another option on the outside. The next clip shows Pierce winning at a variety of routes, and Ryan giving him a chance to make plays.

Ryan’s trust in Woods and Pierce is growing, and the veteran is looking for his rookie weapons. The more these two can contribute when called upon, the bigger their roles will be in the Colts’ offense. Ryan desperately needs more weapons he can rely on, and this is a good start.

Utilizing His Strengths

Two areas Ryan has excelled in throughout his career are throwing over the middle and using play-action. The Colts’ offense had success in these areas on Sunday as well.

The first clip shows some examples of how the Colts used the middle of the field to pick up first downs. The throws to wide receiver Ashton Dulin and Granson show elite ball placement from Ryan once again. Ryan made numerous tight window throws that allowed the Colts to extend drives.

Ryan also took advantage of play-action, with wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. being the recipient of most of these throws. Pittman returned from injury to catch eight passes for 72 yards, becoming Ryan’s security blanket for much of the game. Notice how the linebackers and cornerbacks hesitate slightly on these plays as they account for running back Jonathan Taylor, allowing the pass catchers to get a step. It is still incredible how Pittman was able to catch the final throw.

The Colts have had success over their first three games over the middle and with play-action. With these two areas being strengths for Ryan, head coach Frank Reich should continue to include these in the game plan.

‘Make the Layups’

One of the biggest issues the Colts had with Carson Wentz last season was the quarterback would not take the easy completions. Wentz had the mentality that he could score on every play, and it led to forced throws and holding the ball too long. General manager Chris Ballard told reporters after the season that he and Wentz had discussed “making the layups” and how that would be crucial to his development.

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With Wentz now in Washington, and Ryan quarterbacking the Colts, Indy has a quarterback that can make the layups. While the plays in this next clip do not look very special, Ryan is taking what the defense is giving him and making the short completions to extend drives. Each throw goes for a small gain, but the end result is either a first down or a better situation to get the first.

Plays like these do not make the highlight reel but can be the difference between a drive ending in a touchdown or a turnover. Ryan making the layups allows the Colts to continue drives and makes playing offense easier for the whole unit.

Ball Security and Pressure Still an Issue

Unfortunately for Ryan, his fumbling issues to begin the 2022 season continued against the Chiefs. Ryan fumbled twice in the victory on Sunday, bringing his season total to seven in three games. Both fumbles happened on strip-sacks, and it looks like Ryan could have prevented them.

On the first fumble, there is a free blitzer coming at Ryan from the moment the ball is snapped. While it would have to be quick, Ryan has a split second where he could get the ball to wide receiver Parris Campbell over the middle for the completion.

On the second strip-sack, Ryan rolls left and has an opportunity to float the ball to Woods. Ryan instead holds the ball just long enough for Chiefs defensive end Carlos Dunlap to slap the ball out of his hands. Both fumbles result in turnovers for the Colts.

Besides the ball security issues, pass protection continued to be a problem for the Colts and had Ryan on the run for much of the day. Ryan was sacked five times and hit a total of ten times on the afternoon.

The last clip shows the remaining three sacks of Ryan. Each sack is a result of guard Danny Pinter struggling to block his assignment. Pinter either gets blown up or requires help, causing a free rusher to come at Ryan.

Ryan’s ball security issues, combined with a leaky offensive line, have really held the Colts offense back through the first three weeks of the season. If Ryan can hold onto the ball and the offensive line can fix some of their issues (and there are a lot of them,) the Colts’ offense will be much more formidable.

Final Analysis

While it was not always pretty, Ryan made the right plays when it mattered and got his first victory in a Colts uniform. Ryan showed elite ball placement on many throws and displayed toughness in the pocket. He trusted his targets, including two rookies, and they rewarded him by making big plays.

But this offense will not reach its full potential if Ryan and the offensive line cannot correct their glaring issues. The fumbles need to stop for Ryan, and the offensive line must clean up their communication and execution issues. These problems will cost the Colts wins down the road if they are not addressed.

The Colts and Ryan cannot rest on their laurels after the win as the Tennessee Titans come to town this week. The Colts lost both meetings to the Titans last season, and while the Titans are 1-2, they have a very talented roster. The Titans’ defensive line will be looking to get after Ryan early and often, and the veteran quarterback will need to be sharp if he wants to have a good day against another divisional foe.

More Ryan Review

Want more Colts content? Check out the first episode of the Horseshoe Huddle Podcast below as Chad Jensen and Andrew Moore give their gut reaction to the Colts upset of the Chiefs!

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreNFL.

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