Indianapolis Colts Quick Scouting Report: Week 2 vs. Minnesota Vikings
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings both find themselves chasing their first win of the 2020 regular season as they square off Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Both teams have several wrongs they would like to right, as the Colts let self-inflicted wounds steer them off course in a 27-20 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars while the Vikings were overwhelmed at home from the jump, 43-34 by the Green Bay Packers.
Minnesota opened in unspectacular fashion. After trading scores with Green Bay and leaving the first quarter with a 7-3 lead, the Packers took off from there.
A Packers safety kick-started 19 consecutive points as the Vikings faced a 22-7 deficit before scoring again.
Green Bay dominated time of possession, 41:16 to 18:44. Minnesota’s 24 points in the fourth quarter were too little, too late.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins caught fire with several chunk plays in the second half, going 19-of-25 passing (76.0%) for 259 yards (10.4 YPA), two touchdowns, one interception, and being sacked twice for a passer rating of 118.6.
With wide receiver Stefon Diggs being traded away in the offseason, Adam Thielen became Cousins’ top target. That was reflected in Thielen’s team-leading eight targets that resulted in six receptions for 110 yards (18.3 avg.) and both of Cousins’ TD passes. Cousins and Thielen also connected for a two-point conversion on Minnesota’s final score.
Running back Alexander Mattison and receiver Bisi Johnson had four pass targets, combining for seven receptions for 86 yards (12.3 avg.).
Minnesota’s offense starts with the run game and running back Dalvin Cook, who led the team with 12 carries for 50 yards (4.2 avg.), two TD runs, and two two-point conversions. Mattison had 50 yards on just six carries (8.3). Cousins added four runs for 34 yards (8.5).
Trailing for the majority of the game, the Vikings were not able to establish the run to the degree that they would typically like.
Vikings Passing Defense
This was a vintage performance from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who went off for 32-of-44 passing (72.7%), 364 yards (8.3 YPA), four TDs, and zero interceptions or sacks for a passer rating of 127.5.
Rodgers targeted top receiver Davante Adams far more than anyone else, their 17 targets resulting in 14 receptions for 156 yards (11.1 avg.) and two TDs.
According to Pro Football Focus, there was only one Vikings defender who did an exemplary job in coverage, as linebacker Eric Kendricks earned a grade of 87.9. That mark was good for second among all NFL linebackers in Week 1.
Vikings Rushing Defense
Aaron Jones dominated the carries in Green Bay’s backfield with 16 for 66 yards (4.1 avg.) and a TD, but the Packers ran the ball quite a few times overall with 32 carries for 158 yards (4.9 avg.).
Much like Minnesota’s pass defense, PFF was not a fan of the Vikings run defense. Their best grade in run defense came from cornerback Mike Hughes, whose 64.2 was still subpar compared to the rest of NFL defenders.
While Rodgers has rare, elite abilities that only a few other quarterbacks possess, the recipe is there for the Colts’ productive passing game to have a big day against Minnesota. The good news for the Colts, who strive to have a top-five rushing attack — the Vikings can be run on.
Rivers had just one fewer yard than Rodgers against Minnesota last week, but was likely thrust a bit into a more aggressive passing attack after starting running back Marlon Mack went down with a season-ending Achilles injury.
The Colts offense still begins with the run, they just need to adjust to rookie Jonathan Taylor and third-year Nyheim Hines leading the show rather than Mack, Hines, and Taylor.
While Rodgers fired an air raid at the Vikings defense, Green Bay also accumulated the fourth-most rushing yards in the league. Whether the Colts want to establish the run or keep going through the air, Minnesota has allowed a high volume of both.
Through one game, the top of the Colts receiver depth chart has taken shape similar to how they would have hoped last year, with Parris Campbell stepping up as a playmaker. Will we see more of rookie Michael Pittman Jr. this week?
— QB Philip Rivers: 78.3% completions, 363 yards, 7.9 YPA, 1 TD, 2 INT
— WR Parris Campbell: 6 catches (9 targets), 71 yards (11.8 avg.)
— WR T.Y. Hilton: 4 catches (9 targets), 53 yards (13.3 avg.)
— RB Nyheim Hines: 8 catches (8 targets), 45 yards (5.6 avg.), 1 TD
— RB Jonathan Taylor: 6 catches (6 targets), 67 yards (11.2 avg.)
The Colts’ 88 rushing yards in Week 1 were far off their 133-yard-per-game pace in 2019, and now must plan accordingly after losing Mack for the year.
“Jonathan will step into the starting role,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said Monday. “He looked good (on Sunday). Again, I won’t go into it with Marlon, but such a big loss and so upset for Marlon. But Jonathan is ready. He’ll step up and he’ll do a great job. Nyheim is still going to be an important part of the mix – on all downs, not just on third down. But then Jordan (Wilkins) will step up. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Jordan. I’m a big Jordan fan. He’s an excellent runner and he’ll do a good job for us.”
The Colts’ Week 2 rushing attack should have more definition than last week.
— RB Jonathan Taylor: 9 carries, 22 yards (2.4 avg.)
— RB Nyheim Hines: 7 carries, 28 yards (4.0 avg.), 1 TD
— RB Marlon Mack: 4 carries, 26 yards (6.5 avg.)
— WR Parris Campbell: 1 carry, 9 yards (9.0 avg.)
Cousins is capable of gaudy statistical performances, but it’s often as a result of the defense playing lackadaisical and not forcing Cousins into difficult throws.
After the Colts surrendered only one incompletion to Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was asked how they can tighten up Cousins’ throwing windows.
“I think it’s like any week,” Eberflus said. “You want to take away what they are doing early in the down by re-routing receivers. If you’re playing mass coverage, you want to do that. If you’re playing man-free, you want to be tight in your coverage. We do all those different things during the course of the game. We have to do a great job of handling the run game because everything runs through their halfback, and we know that with this group. It’s going to be a big challenge for us going forward this week.”
One area the Colts did excel in last week was putting pressure on the quarterback as they sacked Minshew four times and PFF credited them with 10 quarterback pressures. Defensive end Denico Autry led the way with 2.0 sacks while fellow defensive end Justin Houston and safety Khari Willis each had one.
A big key for Cousins and the Vikings passing game will be taking advantage of soft spots in the Colts zone. The tape is there for the Colts from last week and a handful of late-season games in 2019. It’s up to the Colts to button up their coverage and make things more difficult in front of them.
— QB Kirk Cousins: 76.0% completions, 259 yards, 10.4 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks
— WR Adam Thielen: 6 catches (8 targets), 110 yards (18.3 avg.), 2 TD
— RB Alexander Mattison: 4 catches (4 targets), 30 yards (7.5 avg.)
— WR Bisi Johnson: 3 catches (4 targets), 56 yards (18.7 avg.)
— WR Justin Jefferson: 2 catches (3 targets), 26 yards (13.0 avg.)
The Colts held Jacksonville to 91 rushing yards on 23 attempts last week, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
On 17 touches, rookie undrafted running back James Robinson picked up at least five yards on eight of those plays, including four for at least 10 yards.
The Colts were able to regroup and swarmed to the ball better in the second half, but Cook is a far superior player this week. Mattison is no slouch himself. If the Colts aren’t disciplined on defense, the Vikings run and screen game could cause heavy damage.
— RB Dalvin Cook: 12 carries, 50 yards (4.2 avg.), 2 TD
— RB Alexander Mattison: 6 carries, 50 yards (8.3 avg.)
— QB Kirk Cousins: 4 carries, 34 yards (8.5 avg.)
Vikings 2020 Key Stats
— 1st in yards per carry (6.1)
— Tied-1st in pass plays of 20-plus yards (5)
— 2nd in yards per pass attempt (10.4)
— Tied-4th in scoring (34.0 PPG)
— 6th in passer rating (118.6)
— 6th in completion percentage (76.0%)
— 10th in offense (382.0 YPG)
— Tied-22nd in turnover differential (-1)
— Tied-25th in rush attempts (22)
— Tied-23rd in opponent yards per carry (4.9)
— Tied-26th in yards per pass attempt (8.3)
— Tied-27th in pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed (5)
— 29th in rush defense (158.0 YPG)
— 29th in opponent passer rating (127.5)
— Tied-30th in sacks (0)
— Tied-30th in third down conversions (54.6%)
— 31st in pass defense (364.0 YPG)
— 32nd in defense (522.0 YPG)
— 32nd in scoring (43.0 PPG)
(Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for nearly a decade and is a contributor for the team's official website, Colts.com. He’s on Twitter and Facebook @JakeArthurNFL, and his email is email@example.com.)