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Colts Trending Up/Down: Week Three Surprise Win Edition

The Colts showed signs of life in Week Three. Who shined? Who declined?

The Colts seemingly shocked the entire football world (except for Indy Intercept Managing Editor Meghan Hall) by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 20 – 17 in Week Three. The Colts won as a result of the play of some key players, and despite the atrocious play of some others. The defensive scheme that kept pressure on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes all game, solid special teams play, and the emergence of the tight ends as offensive weapons for quarterback Matt Ryan all played a major role in the victory. Here, we take a look at a couple of the lesser-sung heroes and shine a well-deserved spotlight on the contributors to the biggest, glaring issue for the team through three weeks.

Colts Trending Up: Kwity Paye and Rodney McLeod

Week Three proved to be a coming-out party for Colts rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce, rookie tight end Jelani Woods, and second-year tight end Kylen Granson. While quarterback Matt Ryan must be ecstatic to realize the potential of his young receiving corps, only time will prove if their play in Week Three becomes a trend. Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart has garnered attention due to his standout performance through three weeks. (We at Indy Intercept stan Grover Stewart and could acknowledge him every week.) However, today, we highlight two players who have clearly, if quietly, trended up: defensive end Kwity Paye and strong safety Rodney McLeod.

Paye started the season off with the defensive highlights of Week One, sacking Houston quarterback Davis Mills twice in three plays in overtime and setting up the Colts with an opportunity for a game-winning drive. Until Week Three, the Colts saw little else in terms of a pass rush, getting little other pressure on Mills in Week One and no pressure whatsoever on Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Led by Kwity Paye with five quarterback pressures in 24 pass rush attempts, the Colts kept Mahomes harried all game long. Paye has consistently found the backfield through three games, and is tied for third in the league with four tackles for loss. The Colts may finally be showing signs of the pass rush the team anticipated from its defensive front.

The Chiefs are not letting Yannick Ngakoue get to Patrick Mahomes early, but that's creating a push from DeForest Buckner and sharp reaction from Kwity Paye. This is how this pass rush has gotta come together. — Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) September 25, 2022

Entering week three, McLeod remained listed behind rookie strong safety Nick Cross on the unofficial depth chart, but has slowly overtaken Cross in snap count through three games:

Colts Strong Safety snap counts, 2022 weeks one through three

With 11 tackles (eight solo) at strong safety, McLeod has helped solidify a Colts run defense that ranks first in the league in yards per carry (2.6) and third in the league in rushing yards allowed (231 total, 77 yards per game). McLeod is also a key contributor on special teams, contributing 38 snaps (51%).

Colts Trending Up (Honorable Mention): Bubba Ventrone

Week Three was more a revenge game for the Colts special teams unit – a return to norm rather than a change in trend. The team has benefited from consistently solid special teams play under coordinator Bubba Ventrone. However, special teams play contributed directly to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the Colts’ Week One tie at Houston.

Ventrone has been forced to deal with significant upheaval on his unit, including star punter Rigoberto Sanchez being placed on IR during the preseason and starting place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship being cut after Week One. Nevertheless, in week three, the Colts special teams unit dominated their opponents, forcing and recovering a muffed punt, downing another punt inside the one yard line, converting field goals, and snuffing out a Chiefs fake field goal attempt.

Colts Trending Down: Danny Pinter

While there is room for improvement in many areas, any critique of individual performance of Colts players in Week Three can reasonably begin and end with the offensive line, and in particular, the play of right guard Danny Pinter. There is simply no way to sugar-coat the situation: Pinter has been an abject disaster at right guard. Pinter is naturally a center and admirably filled in for Ryan Kelly for several games in 2021. However, it is clear that Pinter has not adapted well to the guard position. Case in point:

what a play from Frank Clark — alex (@highlghtheaven) September 25, 2022

Many Colts fans may be excused for considering a post-game statement made by head coach Frank Reich that the team sees no need for major changes on the offensive line as malpractice. Pinter is failing so badly that he is bringing down the play of both center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Braden Smith. At times, Pinter looks so lost trying to block that he appears to be channeling his inner Samson Satele.

Largely due to pressure from the right side of the line, Matt Ryan has been sacked twelve times in three games, which has resulted in four strip-sack fumbles and puts the 37-year-old quarterback on pace to be sacked 68 times through seventeen games. The pressure Ryan has sustained behind the offensive line simply cannot continue if the Colts have any hope of success in 2022.

Legit the very next play after the previous video. Danny Pinter…whew… Idk how they don’t look to make a change after the first 3 games. Sometimes asking guys to play foreign positions doesn’t work out. Much better a center. RG doesn’t look like a match. #Colts — Landon Oliver (@Landon3MR) September 26, 2022

Colts Trending Down: Jonathan Taylor

The second name on the trending-down list may surprise some Colts fans: running back Jonathan Taylor. In Week Three, Taylor exhibited some uncharacteristic vision issues in choosing running lanes, which combined with the poor performance of the Colts offensive line likely led to his unusually low, 3.4 yards per carry (71 yards on 21 carries). Week One, Taylor averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and in Week Two, Taylor averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Taylor has not found the end zone, either on the ground or through the air, since week one.

Additionally, given the pass protection issues on the offensive line, the running backs play a more significant role in keeping Matt Ryan upright. At least twice against the Chiefs, Taylor egregiously missed unblocked blitzers.

Taylor remains the best running back in the league and a critical component in the Colts offense. Unlike the issues with Pinter (which potentially may only be resolved through a reshuffling of the offensive line), Taylor’s issues in game three are almost certainly minor and correctable. Fans, and the team, should have every reason to believe that Taylor will reverse these trends.

#Chiefs LBs Nick Bolton & Darius Harris stop #Colts RB Jonathan Taylor behind the LOS for a turnover on downs. #ChiefsKingdom — Devon Clements (@DevclemNFL) September 25, 2022

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