The performance by the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday can be described in one word: Abysmal.
The Colts lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-0. The shutout brings the Colts to a 0-1-1 record and marks the third time since 2003 that the Colts have been shut out, with all three having come against the Jaguars.
After an embarrassing loss in Jacksonville to end last season, the expectation was the Colts would be fired up to revenge themselves. Instead, the performance was uninspired and has many fans calling for the jobs of Frank Reich and Chris Ballard.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has not exactly had the best start to his Colts tenure. Ryan was 16-of-30 (53%) for 195 yards with zero touchdowns, three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 34.0 in the loss.
“I've got to play better,” Ryan said after the game. “There's no doubt about that. I think as a group we all have to play better, too. It's disappointing when you put in the work during the week and you come out and you don't play the way that you're capable of playing. Credit to Jacksonville. I thought they did a good job, played well, but we have to set a certain standard for ourselves. Every week we have to show up, and we've got to be ready to go.”
This is “Ryan Review” on Horseshoe Huddle where we will look at the film each week and dissect how Ryan played. Ryan struggled in the loss to the Jaguars, but the film revealed the play around him put the quarterback in a near-impossible situation.
Master of the Middle
Ryan has been great throwing the ball over the middle of the field for years. The Colts did not throw much over the middle last year with Carson Wentz, as Wentz opted for throws outside the numbers. Ryan has already made it clear that he loves to utilize the middle of the field.
Our first clip shows that the middle of the field was one of the only areas where the Colts had success. When Ryan had time to throw, he was able to deliver the ball accurately over the middle and pick up first downs.
The final play of the clip shows a mesh concept with Parris Campbell and Kylen Granson running across the field, allowing Granson to get open. Mesh is a staple of a Frank Reich offense, but we have not seen it much in 2022. Mesh concepts should be more prevalent to give Ryan easy throws as well as help the young wide receivers and tight ends get open and have opportunities for yards after the catch.
Dulin Steps Up
With Michael Pittman Jr. (quad) and Alec Pierce (concussion) both sidelined for Sunday’s game, the wide receiver group as a whole had to step up. Unfortunately, only Ashton Dulin received that message.
When Ryan had time to throw – notice a pattern here? – Dulin was his favorite target. Dulin finished with five catches for 79 yards, including some tough catches over the middle and a 39-yard shot.
When looking at the film, Ryan shows the trust he has in Dulin by delivering the ball to him over the middle in tight situations. Ryan displays good accuracy, putting the ball in a place where Dulin can still catch it, but the hit will be minimized. Unfortunately for the Colts, no other pass catchers stepped up enough to make a difference.
No Help in the Red Zone
The Colts were unable to get to the red zone until the fourth quarter. When they finally did reach the red zone, things did not go well. A lack of separation and execution by the wide receivers and tight ends made it almost impossible for the Colts to convert.
This first clip from red zone work was the Colts’ best shot at a touchdown, but they could not convert. Ryan has time to throw and delivers the ball to the back of the end zone for Mo Alie-Cox, but Alie-Cox cannot get both feet in, and it is incomplete. The failed play is on both Ryan and Alie-Cox. Ryan should have led Alie-Cox to the corner of the end zone rather than making him twist for the ball. But even though the ball is off target, you still expect your TE1 to get both feet down. Poor execution.
The second clip sums up what happened most of the day. The wide receivers and tight ends created little to no separation on every play. Combined with the fact that the offensive line was a turnstile, it makes it tough to do anything on offense.
The Colts have serious issues in the red zone. If Pittman is the only pass catcher that can get open in that part of the field, it will be a long year for the offense. Ryan can only do so much, and he cannot create separation for the wide receivers and tight ends.
Running for His Life
The offensive line of the Atlanta Falcons was putrid last season, pressuring Ryan on many of his pass attempts. The thought was he would enjoy throwing behind a much-improved line in Indy than what he had in Atlanta. That has not been the case.
Ryan was sacked five times on Sunday as the Colts’ offensive line was dominated up front. The Colts had a hard time handling Josh Allen and did not do a good job of blocking stunts. Ryan was left with hardly any time to throw, and it killed drives for the Colts.
The Colts are paying their offensive line $42.2 million this year, which is the most in the NFL. For them to play like this is unacceptable, and it is hard to expect Ryan to make much happen when he is constantly under pressure. Matt Pryor and Danny Pinter have struggled mightily as the starters at left tackle and right guard, and the unit as a whole needs to play better.
Ryan’s three interceptions on Sunday give him four for the season and five total turnovers in two games. That is not winning football in the NFL.
Here are all three interceptions by Ryan against the Jaguars. The first one was said to be a miscommunication between Ryan and Dulin, but Ryan lofts the ball in the air for a long time. The throw does not look like it has a chance of being completed.
The second and third interceptions are on Ryan as well, but pressure plays a factor. Pinter gets worked by the defensive lineman and allows him to get his hand up to tip the ball. Even if the ball was not tipped, it looks like the play does not have a good chance of being completed. On the third interception, Ryan is hit as he throws and sails the ball over the head of Campbell.
The biggest thing Ryan must work on is protecting the football. Too many times in the first two games Ryan has turned the ball over and given the opposing team more chances. It’s hard to win when you are giving the ball back to the other team.
The Colts’ loss to the Jaguars is one that the entire team would like to forget, including Ryan. Ryan still made some plays over the middle of the field and connected with Dulin on multiple occasions. However, pressure from the Jaguars, turnovers, and his weapons’ inability to create space made for a long afternoon for the veteran quarterback.
The tape revealed that Ryan was not good on Sunday, no question about it. But Ryan is hardly the main problem for the Colts, and the majority of the blame for the offensive woes should rest on the terrible play of the offensive line and the lack of weapons at his disposal. His teammates and coaches need to step up in a big way so he can be the quarterback the Colts envisioned him being when the trade was made in the spring.
The road does not get any easier for Ryan and the Colts as the Kansas City Chiefs come to town. The Chiefs bring a 2-0 record into a sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium as the Colts limp to their home opener. Ryan and the Colts have time to turn it around, but they will need to shock the football world if they want a shot at beating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
More Ryan Review
Want more Colts content? Check out the latest episode of A Colts Podcast below as Brandon Moses and Andrew Moore recap the Colts' loss to the Jaguars and the rest of Week 2!
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreNFL.