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Film Room: 7 Observations From Colts-49ers

Diving into my seven key film observations of the Colts' win over the 49ers. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)
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The Indianapolis Colts continued their winning ways on Sunday night, beating the San Fransisco 49ers 30-18 on the road. It was the epitome of an ugly game, mostly referring to the weather, but the Colts escaped the road test with an important victory.

With the All-22 film out from this past game, I decided to dive into my key observations/takeaways from the game.

1.) Michael Pittman Jr's Rise to Stardom

I am here to happily say that I was wrong about Michael Pittman Jr. I was never down on him after his solid rookie season ago, but I more projected him to be a long-term number two option rather than the top guy. To me, a top receiver has to be a player that an offense goes to when they need a big play or need a big conversion, regardless of what the coverage looks like.

So far in 2021, that has been Pittman Jr.

He went over the century mark for the second time on the season this Sunday, hauling in four receptions for 105 yards and a score. He is currently sitting at 508 receiving yards this year, which has already surpassed his total from a year ago. He is currently on pace for 1,233 yards this year if he keeps this level of play up.

The biggest takeaway for me was the trust factor for Pittman Jr in this offense. On a key drive late in the game, the Colts faced a third and short. They drew up a quick slant, which he converted for a first down. Then, on the same drive, the Colts faced a third and long while only up five points. Again, Pittman converted, this time for the put-away 28 yard score.

Pittman Jr's ascension has been the best development of this young season and hopefully he can continue this high level of play going forward.

2.) Kwity's Progression

It has been a slow start for the Colts' highly touted first round pick, and fans are starting to grow a little bit frustrated. Part of that is due to misplaced expectations on the rookie (mainly because the Colts lack talent in just about every other playable defensive end).

Kwity Paye came out of college as a super raw, athletic pass rusher with all the upside in the world. He is going to be good for this defense, but it is just going to take some time. Sunday night's game showed flashes of what the young player can become.

He is having an outstanding year as a run defender, ranking as the fourth highest graded defensive end in that category (according to Pro Football Focus). He continued that great play on Sunday, along with having a few notable pass rush reps.

Paye is going to be a fine player for the Colts, and we are already seeing the progress on the field. Sunday was a great step in the right direction.

3.) Nelson-Fisher Duo

I have been highly critical of left tackle Eric Fisher in the passing game this year, but he has really stepped up in the run game recently. His recent play, along with the return of superstar Quenton Nelson, led to some massive holes on the left side in this game.

The Colts love their duo concepts because it allows them to run power without pulling an offensive lineman. This rushing attack gives these mauling linemen up front the ability to create space by moving the defensive tackle out of their intended gaps.

Fisher and Nelson just put on a clinic on how to create vertical displacement all game long. They were driving defensive tackles 5-10 yards off the ball consistently, and Fisher was even able to take some linebackers out of the play as well.

If this continues going forward, running back Jonathan Taylor should have no problem finishing second in the NFL in rushing yards this year.

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4.) Jonathan Taylor's Vision

Remember early last season when Taylor was missing easy reads and leaving yards on the field due to his poor vision? Well, that is simply not an issue anymore.

Taylor has clearly worked on his ability to manipulate rushing lanes, and the results are gorgeous. Marlon Mack was one of my favorite backs to watch in this department, and Taylor seems to be taking some notes from the veteran.

Notice how Taylor sets up his runs in these clips. He sells like he is going one way, before jump-cutting to a different hole for a big gain. He is blocking the linebackers with his vision and creating yards.

Obviously, there isn't much more to be said about Taylor this year. Just an outstanding player and the stats reflect that.

5.) Mo Value

I have talked a lot in recent weeks about Mo Alie-Cox and his ability in the receiving game. What I haven't praised enough, though, is his consistent work as a blocker.

Alie-Cox, unlike most basketball converts, came into the league as more of a blocking tight end. Over time he has slowly turned into a pass catcher, but he still remains strong in those roots.

He didn't have a ton of flashy plays as a blocker on Sunday, but he quietly got his job done in every role he was asked to do. Just a really solid game overall, and this shows why he has propelled himself to the top tight end spot on the team this season.

6.) Play of the Game: Xavier Rhodes Redemption Arc

Xavier Rhodes came to the Colts last season in what was essentially his last chance to turn it around. He was coming off of a terrible year with the Minnesota Vikings, but the Colts still gave him a chance to start. He rewarded that faith with an outstanding 2020 season.

Jump forward to this year and he has regressed quite a bit. He struggled with injuries early in the year, and he appears to have lost a step in his game. Teams have been targeting him in coverage, and it just hasn't been a good start to the year by any means.

That is why the play of the game on Sunday was so incredible. On third and short, the 49ers targeted their best receiver against the Colts' struggling defensive back. The result was what we all expected; Rhodes came away with the huge, game-changing interception.

Hopefully this is the big spark to turn around a rather forgetful season for the veteran cornerback.

7.) Play Design of the Week: Pittman Put-Away Score

This week's play design of the game is probably the least intricate design I've had to draw up all season. Facing a third and long late in the game, the Colts seemed set to throw a screen or a run a draw to get closer for field goal range.

Playing it conservative was just not on Frank Reich's mind, especially after how the Baltimore Ravens' game ended a few weeks prior.

Reich drew up a genius fake-screen shot play for his best receiver. While the 49ers' defense isn't completely fooled by this call, it does give Pittman Jr a one-on-one opportunity with the 49ers' backup cornerback. The result is the put-away touchdown.

 

Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.

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