The Colts lost to the Patriots 26 – 3 on the road in Week Nine, falling to 3 – 5 – 1 in a historically bad offensive performance that resulted in Head Coach Frank Reich being fired the day after the game. Who trended up, who trended down, and, in an addition to our weekly assessment, how is newly appointed interim head coach Jeff Saturday trending?
Colts Trending Up: Defensive End Kwity Paye
In his return from injury, defensive end Kwity Paye had something a little extra to play for: his mother was in attendance in Foxborough. Perhaps due to that motivation, Paye played spectacularly after missing two games due to a knee injury. Paye led the defense with eight tackles (seven solo, one tackle for loss). Paye successfully got to quarterback Mac Jones with one sack, and one quarterback hit.
If not for an equally impressive performance by defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (seven tackles, four solo, one tackle for loss, one sack, and three quarterback hits), Paye would be the undisputed choice for defensive player of the game.
Colts Trending Down: Offensive Lineman Matt Pryor
It seems that the experiment with offensive lineman Matt Pryor as a starter may have finally come to an end. The Colts tried Pryor basically everywhere on the line – first at left tackle (replaced by rookie Bernhard Raimann), then at right tackle (replaced by Braden Smith), and finally at right guard. During the game in Week Nine, the Colts finally benched the lineman, perhaps for good as a starter, when he was replaced by backup guard Will Fries.
Colts have tried Pryor at three different spots on the line this year — left tackle, right tackle and right guard — and have now benched him at all three. https://t.co/RVJU2keFd3 — Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) November 6, 2022
The repeated failure of Matt Pryor as a starting offensive lineman remains perhaps the biggest indictment of Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who has built an offensive line that is paid the highest in the league while performing the worst in the league.
Colts Trending Down: (Former) Head Coach Frank Reich
What more can be said that hasn’t already been said? Unfortunately, the Colts’ offense looked in Week Nine exactly the same as the offense has looked the entire season, and the team’s slow start was true to form for most of now-fired head coach Frank Reich’s tenure. Despite – or, perhaps more likely, because of – replacing the starting quarterback, firing the offensive coordinator, continually shuffling the offensive line, and trading the team’s most versatile running back, the Colts’ offense looked incompetent and utterly uninspired against the Patriots.
Even the opposing Patriots players treaded lightly when discussing how the team prepared to face the Colts – one assumes in an attempt to thread the needle between articulating an honest assessment of film and coming across as sounding like trash talk.
This is such a damning quote from Patriots QB Mac Jones, even if he didn’t intend it to be: “We kind of knew our defense was going to control the game, given the circumstance with the other team.” The “circumstance” presumably being that the Colts couldn’t score. — Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) November 7, 2022
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones need not worry; the only thing trash was the Colts’ offense. The Colts managed a paltry 121 yards of total offense, averaging barely more than 2.0 yards per play, and getting shut out on third-down conversions, going zero for 14. The offensive line gave up nine sacks of starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
It seemed apparent in the post-game press conference that Frank Reich knew what was coming. Even while saying the same things he has said ad nauseum after losses, he appeared utterly lost and shell-shocked. The team confirmed the inevitable the day after the game, announcing that, for the first time in almost 30 years, Colts owner Jim Irsay had fired a head coach mid-season.
Colts Interim Head Coach Trend Tracker: Jeff Saturday
This week features a new segment of the weekly analysis of Colts trending up/down, thanks to the unexpected move by Colts owner Jim Irsay to hire the fan-beloved but NFL coaching-inexperienced Jeff Saturday as the team’s interim head coach. Each week, Indy Intercept will assess the performance of Saturday in his rookie role as an NFL head coach, and track his trends, up or down.
For Week Nine, interim head coach Jeff Saturday is trending up by virtue of being named interim head coach. Additionally, Saturday handled himself with composure and grace during his introductory press conference – a stark contrast, according to many, to the manner in which Colts owner Jim Irsay and General Manager Chris Ballard comported themselves during the press conference.