After years of disappointment and everyone in Indy closing their eyes every time Andrew Luck took a hit, the Indianapolis Colts are finally built to win it all. Flashing back to the 2018 NFL Draft, the Colts had five picks in the top 100 selections of the draft. Their first three picks have paid off big time for them, and they’ve led to a resurgence of Andrew Luck.
In the first round, the Colts traded back and acquired multiple picks from the New York Jets. Luckily, Quenton Nelson was available with the sixth overall pick of the draft. The rookie All-Pro looks like one of the best picks in the draft and the steal of the first round, but it’s tough to say because the Colts drafted so well that all of their picks look like steals. After they selected Nelson, they approached the second round with back-to-back picks and took two players they felt were best for their franchise.
The way it looks right now, both of those players look to be on the right track to be part of the franchise for a long time. Darius Leonard has also become an All-Pro with his 163 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and Braden Smith has transitioned to a quality right tackle and will see himself playing for the Colts in the foreseeable future. But beyond just making the most out of their draft picks, the defense has played really well as a unit over the last few weeks.
Over the last five weeks, the Colts defense has allowed an average of 14.4 points per game. They’ve tallied 11 sacks and six interceptions, but this week it’s a different story. Regardless of how talented Leonard is and how well Denico Autry has played, the Colts have their work cut out for them in the AFC Divisional Round.
They play the top offense in the NFL in the Kansas City Chiefs, an offense that scores 35.3 points per game. This Colts offense would have to play a perfect game to beat the Chiefs, so let’s be realistic. We all know that if the Colts are going to win, it’s going to come down to Andrew Luck. Let’s take a look at some of the things that the Colts did last week, and I’ll show you why they’re not just able to beat the Chiefs, but why they have a realistic shot to win it all.
Superb Offensive Line Play
Don’t look now, but the Colts gave up a league-low 18 sacks during the regular season. It certainly beats the days when Andrew Luck was on his back 100-plus times in two seasons, am I right? We all know that an offense starts with the big uglies up front, and that’s what’s led to the success for this Colts team. Giving Luck the time to throw has given him plenty of opportunities to the field apart.
Against the Texans, this is a prime example of Luck having enough time in the pocket to shave his beard. There’s a four-man rush, the Colts match up man-on-man, and the protection is perfect. There’s also a shot from Eric Ebron (TE 85) on J.J. Watt (DE 99), which is enough to slow Watt down on his pass rush.
The play above features fantastic pass protection from the Colts’ offensive line. Starting with the offensive tackles, there are chop blocks from Anthony Castonzo (LT 74) and Braden Smith (RT 72). This slows up the pass rushers off the edge and, translating it to the matchup against the Chiefs, that would be Justin Houston and Dee Ford. Meanwhile, check out All-Pro Quenton Nelson (LG 56). He mauls the defensive tackle and then pounces on him as he hits the ground. Will he have this success one-on-one against Chris Jones? We’ll see, but I expect plenty of combo blocks on him from Ryan Kelly (C 78) and Quenton Nelson.
The Secrets to Success
It might sound crazy, but wide receiver Dontrelle Inman is going to have a role against the Chiefs. He’s going to be one of the secrets to the offensive success for the Colts. Everyone should expect Eric Ebron in the red-zone and that T.Y. Hilton can have a big game during any week of the season. As for Inman, he’s been consistent and really good over the last few weeks. Let’s start with one play that stood out against the Texans before going into recent statistics.
The Colts come out in ’12’ personnel (one running back and two tight ends). Before the snap, T.Y. Hilton goes in motion from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen. At the top, you’ll see Dontrelle Inman. As for the Texans, they’ve got man coverage on Inman with a single high safety in the middle of the field. Hilton will run a corner route to the short side of the field, and Inman will run a post-corner route to the wide side of the field.
At the top of the screen, you can see Inman running hard out of his release. He plants inside to show the post route before breaking outside with the corner route. Luck clearly sees him and has plenty of time to step up into the pocket and, most importantly, into the throw. This leads to a 21-yard gain and offensive momentum. These types of plays have become more frequent for Inman and the Colts. Over the last three weeks, he has posted 13 receptions for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He’s scored a touchdown in three straight weeks, and he’ll look to keep that streak alive this week.
Lastly, it’s important for the Colts to win the time of possession battle. They can’t snap the ball until the very last second on the play clock. What’s the objective behind this? Keep Patrick Mahomes and the dynamic weapons the Chiefs have off the field. Running the football like the play above will help win that battle and obtain that objective.
Take a look at Mark Glowinski (RG 64) on the play above. He absolutely dominates the three-technique (Duke Ejiofor, OLB 53). During the play, Braden Smith (RT 72) helps before chipping off to the second level and attacking a linebacker. This creates a huge opening for Marlon Mack, which allows him to pick up nine yards. Meanwhile, take a look at Ryan Kelly (C 78) taking a great angle to Zach Cunningham (LB 41) and sealing him off to help with a great run for the Colts. These types of runs will be so important, and having a consistent ground game will help make for a successful offensive attack
The Last Word
It’s really interesting to think about how this game is going to play out. The Colts gave up a league-low 18 sacks, but the Chiefs’ defense was ranked first in the league with 52 sacks on the season. This will be a must-watch game in the trenches. Chris Jones is certainly the player on the Chiefs defense that’s going to attract the most attention, but don’t be surprised when Justin Houston and Dee Ford generate pressure off the edge.
Despite having one of the best pass rushes in the league, the Chiefs have been the second-worst pass defense in the league. On the season, they allowed 405.5 passing yards and 26.3 points per game. They’re starting to see better play in their secondary, though. Rookie Charvarius Ward at cornerback has come on late in the season, and they’ve had Eric Berry back for two games. However, his status should be monitored, as he’s been bothered by a calf injury. Regardless, the Chiefs’ pass defense can be exploited, and with how fast they can get out to a big lead, you never know what can happen.
Speaking of big leads, do you remember the 2013 season? Andrew Luck led the Colts back from a 28-point deficit against these Kansas City Chiefs. Certainly, this Chiefs team is much different, but so is this Colts team. They’re a lot more balanced and have been playing much better football over the second half of the season than when they started the season with a 1-5 record.
As I’ve shown, the Indianapolis Colts have what it takes to win it all this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. If they don’t win it all, don’t be disappointed. They’ve got the recipe for long-term success and will continue to find it with the great coaching from Frank Reich and his staff, but also through the NFL Draft.