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Colts Trending Up/Down – Week Five Pyrrhic Victory Edition

The Colts escaped Denver with a win in Week Five. The game provided ample fodder for players trending down. Did anyone trend up last week?

The Colts’ underwhelming performance was somehow eclipsed by the Broncos’ underwhelming performance, leading to a shocking 12 – 9 overtime win. Were there any bright spots in a largely unwatchable game? Let’s take a look.

Colts Honorable Mention: Defense

The defense has plenty of room for improvement, particularly in terms of generating turnovers, and sometimes makes average quarterbacks look much better than they usually are (Davis Mills and Trevor Lawrence). The former is certainly influenced by the absence of the “Maniac”, middle linebacker Shaquille Leonard, and the latter is likely a function of a defensive secondary still adjusting to a new scheme from defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

That said, the pass rush generated by the defensive front has steadily improved week to week, and the defense has quietly been consistently stingy against the run and at the goalline. On the whole, the defense has kept the Colts in games even as the offense continues to sputter well into the second half. Almost half of the points given up by the defense have come off of turnovers committed by the offense, as the Colts continually shoot themselves in the foot offensively.

Given the continued absense of superstar Leonard, the defense has proven to be success-by-committee, from linemen Kwity Paye, Grover Stewart, and DeForest Buckner, to defensive backs Stephon Gilmore, Rodney McLeod, and Rodney Thomas II. Accordingly, the unit collectively continues to trend up.

And the @Colts walk away with the W in OT. #INDvsDEN on Prime Video Also available on NFL+ — NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2022

Colts Trending Up: Wide Receiver Alec Pierce

Aside from leaving Week One early after taking an illegal head shot and subsequently missing Week Two while in the concussion protocol, rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce has demonstrated himself to be a reliable target for quarterback Matt Ryan and a legitimate threat to haul in contested catches in man coverage. Matt Ryan appears to be developing a real rapport with the rookie in several routes and situations: post routes, slot routes, third-and-long, and late-game/hurry-up situations.

Alec Pierce’s emergence as a legitimate threat and safety blanket for Matt Ryan will continue to draw pressure off of the other Colts receivers, including number one wide receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. and the stable of tight ends.

What a catch by Alec Pierce 😳 (via @SourceIndiana) — NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 7, 2022

Colts Trending Up: Place Kicker Chase McLaughlin

Special Teams have been a challenge for the Colts in 2022, losing Pro Bowl punter Rigoberto Sanchez to injury in the off-season, and releasing place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship following a disastrous Week One performance. Following that Week One game, the Colts signed place kickers Chase McLaughlin and Lucas Havrisik to the practice squad.

Each week since then, the Colts elevated Chase McLaughlin from the practice squad, eventually signing him to the active roster prior to their Week Five game. In the four games he has played, McLaughlin has been solid, reliably making field goals, including multiple attempts from beyond 50 yards.

Week Three, McLaughlin went two-for-two in point-after attempts (PATs) and two-for-two in field goal attempts, with a long of 51 yards. Week Four, McLaughlin again went two-for-two in PATs and was one-for-two in field goal attempts, missing from 51 yards. Week Five, McLaughlin was responsible for all 12 Colts points, going four-for-four in field goal attempts, including attempts from 52, 51, and 48 yards, the latter being the eventual game-winner.

Week after week thus far, McLaughlin has answered when called upon.

POINTS 👏 @Colts#INDvsDEN on Prime Video Also available on NFL+ — NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2022

Colts Trending Down: Left Tackle Bernhard Raimann

Rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann was named the starter for Week Five, as erstwhile left tackle Matt Pryor moved to right tackle in a major offensive line readjustment. Raimann had an unfortunately difficult debut as a starter, giving up constant pressure on quarterback Mat Ryan and getting penalized twice for offensive holding and once for a false start. A third offensive holding call was declined due to a failed third-down conversion.

Raimann’s performance isn’t entirely unexpected, since he was drafted in 2022 as a developmental prospect. While Raimann show’s clear potential, he should be developing behind a legitimate starter at left tackle. The Colts don’t have a legitimate starter at left tackle, which resulted in Raimann being thrust into the role on a short week, while facing a brutal pass rusher in second-year Baron Browning.

While there is every reason to believe Raimann will develop as starter, based on Week Five (see below), he did not deliver.

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Colts Trending Down: Quarterback Matt Ryan

For the second week in a row, quarterback Matt Ryan lands in the trending down list. Ryan once again faced continual pressure from opposing pass rushers, and again lost a fumble in a multiple-player strip-sack.

But what lands Ryan here again this week is not the lost fumble, but rather his two interceptions. In both cases, Ryan stared down receivers and failed to see a spying defensive back. A veteran quarterback must be counted on to make good decisions with the ball and to read defenses accurately.

In a close, ugly game such as the one played in Week Five, such bad decisions by the quarterback are particularly devastating. In the end, quarterback Matt Ryan atoned for his prior interceptions, driving the team for a late, fourth-quarter, game-tying field goal and then driving the team for the eventual, game-winning field goal in overtime. But the game might not have required overtime if Ryan doesn’t throw two interceptions to begin with.

Broncos pick off Matt Ryan 🙌 (via @Broncos) — NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 7, 2022

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