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Colts Trending Up/Down – Cringeworthy Week Four Loss Edition

The Colts are back on life support following Week Four. Who impressed, and who regressed?

The Colts shocked absolutely no one in their Week Four, 24 – 17 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans. The Colts lost through an all-too-common combination of starting the game lifeless, digging a huge hole, and shooting themselves in the foot while trying to mount a comeback. There were obvious points of failure and a few bright spots. Let’s examine them.

Colts Trending Up: The Young Wide Receivers Corps

General Manager Chris Ballard has been heavily criticized for not bringing in a veteran wide receiver, instead insisting that the team was satisfied with its group of young, unproven receivers behind second-year starter Michael Pittman, Jr. If Week Four is any indication, the youngsters may yet prove Ballard right.

Since returning from the concussion protocol, rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce has done nothing but make catch after contested catch, giving quarterback Matt Ryan a legitimate threat for deep passes and one-one-one jump balls. Week Three, Pierce caught four passes for 80 yards on six targets, with a long of 44 yards, setting up a key, fourth-quarter drive.

Second-year Colts number one receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. caught three passes for 31 yards on six targets, while receiving most of the focus of the Tennessee defensive secondary. Fourth-year receiver Ashton Dulin caught two passes for 18 yards, both receptions converting third downs. Fellow fourth-year receiver Parris Campbell proved that he also can be a reliable option, converting four targets into four catches for 43 yards.

Quarterback Matt Ryan has quickly developed rapport with his young receivers and clearly has confidence in their ability to win match-ups and make critical catches. Continued production from this group will prevent teams from focusing on locking down Pittman and will open up more of the playbook for Ryan.

The positive performances from the Colts are mostly guys who should be role players: – Mo Alie-Cox – Alec Pierce – Kylen Granson – Parris Campbell – Rodney McLeod – Rodney Thomas II – Dayo Odeyingbo – Zaire Franklin Best players gotta make plays. Let these guys be the support. — Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) October 3, 2022

Colts Trending Up: The Young Tight Ends

The Colts tight ends – veteran Mo Alie-Cox, second-year Kylen Granson, and rookie Jelani Woods – dominated the passing game in Week Four. For the second week in a row, a tight end had a two-touchdown game. Jelani Woods accomplished the feat in Week Three. In Week Four, Mo Alie-Cox hauled in quarterback Matt Ryan’s only two touchdown passes. Combined, the tight ends accounted for 11 catches and 180 yards on 11 targets.

Quarterback Matt Ryan knows how to use pass-catching tight ends effectively. Especially when combined with the improved production of the young Colts wide receivers, this group of big, fast, strong tight ends gives Ryan a potent threat in the passing game. If the Week Four loss to the Titans had a bright spot, this is it.

Good luck tackling Mo — Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 2, 2022

Colts Trending Down: Offensive Line

There’s no way to sugar-coat the performance of the offensive line. It has been bad all season, and continued to be bad in Week Four.

The Titans entered Week Four with the 32nd rushing defense in the league. The Colts managed 1.7 yards per carry, and only 38 total rushing yards all game.

The Colts, with the highest-paid offensive line in the league and featuring the league’s best running back, were unable to generate any kind of run game. Running Back Jonathan Taylor could never get untracked, almost never had even the semblance of a running lane, and had to fight for every single yard gained past the line of scrimmage. What should have been an easy third-down pickup turned into a lost fumble and an injured ankle for Jonathan Taylor.

And while the pass protection appeared to be better, perhaps in part to moving Will Fries to starting right guard and moving Danny Pinter back to his natural role of backup center – along with a better job by the running backs of picking up blitzers – quarterback Matt Ryan again found himself harried most of the game. The line directly contributed to two Matt Ryan turnovers: a collapsed pocket that allowed a defensive lineman to swat down, and then intercept, an attempted pass, and a strip-sack by former Colts tackle Denico Autry.

As long as the offensive line continues to trend down, so will the Colts offense as a whole.

Big takeaway to start the game 💪🏽 📺: Watch #TENvsIND on @NFLonFOX — Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 2, 2022

Colts Trending Down: Quarterback Matt Ryan and Running Back Jonathan Taylor

While most of the blame for the issues exhibited by quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Jonathan Taylor lies squarely at the feet of the Colts offensive line, the fact remains that Matt Ryan now has nine fumbles on the season and Jonathan Taylor remains largely ineffective on the ground. As skill position players, they ultimately bear responsibility for their performance. Despite the inexcusably bad performance of the offensive line, both Ryan and Taylor must find a way to overcome, and to be the leaders that this Colts team absolutely needs them to be.

Jonathan Taylor has been abducted by aliens. This is some other dude. — Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) October 2, 2022

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