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Ryan Review: Colts’ QB, Offense Become Predictable vs. Eagles

Matt Ryan and Indianapolis Colts’ offense showed their limitations in a heartbreaking Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Indianapolis Colts could not get the victory in interim head coach Jeff Saturday’s home debut, falling to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-16.

While the defense did its part, holding the Eagles to their lowest-scoring game of the season, the Colts’ offense came up short, beating themselves with costly mistakes and poor execution.

Quarterback Matt Ryan failed to have a major impact for the Colts on Sunday, finishing the day 23-of-32 (72%) for 213 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, and a QB rating of 89.7.

“That's a tough one to swallow,” Ryan said after the game. “You know, make no mistake, they're a good football team. They've been playing very well all year. I thought we had a good idea of what we needed to do in order to win. We did a lot of really good things. We made too many mistakes along the way. And, yeah, that one feels like, you know, we let it get away.”

“Ryan Review” is back on Horseshoe Huddle, where we will look at the film each week and dissect how Ryan played. Ryan had some success in the normal areas, but the predictability and lack of execution for the Colts’ offense is a cause for concern.

Success Over the Middle

If you have followed this series throughout the season, you know that Ryan does much of his damage over the middle of the field. Throwing over the middle is the strength of the 15-year NFL veteran, and that was the case on Sunday.

Ryan picked up the majority of his yardage and had most of his conversions over the middle of the field. Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was the recipient of most of these throws, allowing the 6-4 223-pound wideout to go to work. Ryan is at his best when he can make throws over the middle to the second layer of the defense, especially when he can get the ball out quickly.

As long as Ryan is the starting quarterback for the Colts, expect the middle of the field to be the area the Colts utilize most through the air.

Opening Things Up

One area of the passing game the Colts have not utilized much is taking shots down the field. Now, there are some reasons for this – Ryan’s arm strength and holding up long enough in protection, to name a few – but it is an area the Colts should look at utilizing more moving forward.

Besides the 24-yard play by Pittman seen above, here are a couple more shots down the field that Ryan was able to hit. The throw to wide receiver Parris Campbell was the longest play of the day for the Colts. The protection holds up, and Ryan stays calm in the pocket as he delivers the ball downfield.

The Colts have not taken very many shots downfield because the protection has not been able to hold up long enough for those plays to develop. However, as we will see, opposing teams are catching on to what the Colts are trying to do on offense.

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Quick Passes Become Predictable

Because of the issues along the offensive line, Indy has dialed up numerous quick passing plays to get the ball out of Ryan’s hands quickly so the protection does not have to hold up as long. Since this has been an issue all season long, opposing defenses are now expecting the Colts to throw the ball quickly and are ready to converge when the ball is in the air.

This next clip shows a couple of examples where the Eagles were playing close to the line of scrimmage and expecting the ball to come out of Ryan’s hands quickly. The Eagles’ defenders were sitting on these routes and expecting the ball to come to the receivers close to the line of scrimmage. It made things simple for the Eagles to either rally to the ball or play tight coverage with the receivers.

Teams around the league know the Colts are struggling for answers in protection. They know if they can generate pressure and play tight coverage from the snap, the Colts will have trouble with longer developing plays. Expect this to be a trend over the last seven games of the season for the Colts.

Continuing to Crumble Under Pressure

While the Colts gave up only one sack in their win over the Las Vegas Raiders, the Eagles proved to be a different animal. The Colts gave up eight QB hits and four sacks on Sunday, with all four coming in the second half.

While the next clip is not a sack, it demonstrates that the constant pressure Ryan is facing is having an impact on his play. The Eagles send a blitz, and Ryan quickly dumps the ball off to his check down, running back Deon Jackson. However, because of wanting to get the ball out quickly, Ryan misses Pittman coming open at the bottom of the screen for a would-be first down. The second angle shows Pittman starting to come open across the field with no one around him.

The final clip of the day shows all four sacks of Ryan on the day. Some of the sacks are on Ryan for not getting the ball out, particularly the second sack as he has tight end Mo Alie-Cox open heading to the sideline. But whether it is on Ryan or the offensive line, the poor execution killed numerous drives by the Colts and stalled the offense tremendously.

Final Analysis

The performance by Ryan and the Colts’ offense is much of what we have seen from the unit all season. While Ryan has been able to dominate the middle of the field and hit deep shots when given time, protection breakdowns have been the crux of the unit and caused them to severely underperform. Opposing teams know the weaknesses of the Colts’ offense and are prepared to combat the ways Indy works around them. The Colts will have to adjust as an offense and become less predictable if they hope to have success the rest of the way.

Things will not get any easier this week as the Colts take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Although the Steelers (3-7) have a worse record than the Colts (4-6-1) on the season, they have a defensive front that includes reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year linebacker T.J. Watt, linebacker Alex Highsmith (9.0 sacks), and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward (4.0 sacks). The Steelers will be ready to get after Ryan on Monday night, and if the Colts are not prepared, Indy’s offense may be in for a rough night.

Want more Colts content? Check out the latest episode of the Horseshoe Huddle Podcast!

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