INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich estimates the Indianapolis Colts left about 50 rushing yards on the field last week against the Chicago Bears.
The missed opportunities fell into several categories – among them flawed play calls or design, poor execution and just plain bad luck.
The same was true in the passing game where at least one potential deep completion to veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was derailed when he was temporarily slowed and thrown off his route after bumping legs on a crossing pattern with teammate Marcus Johnson.
All of which helps explain why an offense that ranks 17th in scoring (25.8 points per game) and 21st in total yards (360.3) believes it’s close to a breakout game.
“Yes, we need to be better and we can be better and we will be better, but we’re 3-1, so you have to have the maturity to say, ‘OK, we need to be better than this. We have to be better in the red zone. We have to be better on third down. We have to run the ball a little bit better,’” Reich said. “But you also have to have the maturity to understand context and situations and see the good things that you’re doing and have confidence in what you’re doing and a conviction about what you’re doing, which we do.
“So, in that respect, I’m not worried. In that respect, I know we’re going to get better, and when we need to score more points, I trust we’ll be able to do that because we have the right people.”
Evidence the glass is half full? Indianapolis ranks fourth in the NFL with just three turnovers, sixth with an average of 7.6 yards per pass attempt and ninth with a 47.5% scoring rate on its 40 offensive possessions.
Evidence it’s half empty? The Colts are last with an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, 25th with four touchdown passes and 22nd with an average of 2.13 points per possession.
One of the most glaring areas of improvement is the red zone.
Indianapolis is scoring a touchdown just 46.7% of the time when it reaches the opponent’s 20-yard line. That’s down from 64.3% last year and ranks 28th in the league. The four teams with lower percentages than the Colts have a combined record of 2-13-1.
Maximizing opportunities could be at a premium Sunday when Indianapolis (3-1) visits the Cleveland Browns (3-1).
The Browns are coming off a 49-point outing in a win against the Dallas Cowboys and have scored at least 34 points in each game of their current three-game winning streak. The Colts counter with the league’s top-ranked scoring defense that has allowed a total of 29 points during its own three-game winning streak.
“We have to find a way to score one more point than our D (allows) always,” Indianapolis quarterback Philip Rivers said. “So far, that hasn’t been very many (points). But we are prepared to do whatever we need to do.”
And, as the head coach suggested, the Colts have the confidence the personnel is in place to do that when necessary.
The silver lining with all the room for improvement is simple. Indianapolis is winning games while it sorts things out on offense.
That makes it a lot easier to come to work each Monday and focus on moving forward.
“Finding a way to win, do the things necessary to win, I think those are all good traits of a team that has a chance to improve and do something special,” Rivers said. “We have a long way to go, but I like the direction we’re headed.”
Three starters sat out the first practice of the week Wednesday, and it’s a situation that will bear watching all the way up to game day.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (rib) could be the most important of the three. If he can’t play Sunday, it will break a string of 19 consecutive regular-season starts by the five members of this offensive line. It also likely will mean fewer pass routes for tight end Jack Doyle, who will need to stay home and help neutralize red-hot Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett.
The news on defense isn’t much better with linebackers Darius Leonard (groin) and Bobby Okreke (thumb) sitting out ahead of a matchup against the league’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense.
Cornerback T.J. Carrie (hamstring) and linebacker E.J. Speed (elbow) did practice on a limited basis.
The Colts signed linebacker Jonas Griffith to the practice squad Wednesday.
A two-time all-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defender had 382 tackles, 14 sacks and three interceptions at Indiana State. His six All-American honors tied the program record, and he was the leading tackler in the MVFC in each of his final two seasons.
Griffith spent time during the offseason and training camp with the San Francisco 49ers.