The Indianapolis Colts were trailing by multiple scores. After a brilliant first-quarter their offense had wilted and it was desperation time. Only Philip Rivers didn't seem to know it. Or, perhaps, couldn't do anything about it.
It was somewhat painful to watch the 38-year old attempt to matriculate the ball down the field through the air in three and five-yard clumps. There was no downfield thrust. There was nothing going on to remotely threaten the Ravens' defense. There was no semblance of a comeback. It was mostly dink with a splash of dunk and it landed with a thud. It does not portend well for the Colts.
Indianapolis has a QB crisis. For as great as the defense is -- and it is quite formidable with perhaps the fastest linebackers in the league and a defensive MVP-type in tackle DeForest Buckner -- the Colts seem like an outfit destined to be stuck in neutral. They are a playoff team, but, given the current limitations at quarterback, not a true contender. As said here long ago I never would have signed Rivers in the first place, and Jacoby Brissett got a raw deal; getting a more mobile, stronger armed, faster QB out there ASAP would be the way I go. Before it's too late.
Rivers began that game 6-for-6 for 68 yards as the Colts held the ball for almost 9:30 and Indy established a punchy run game that would go on to average over five yards per carry -- gaudy stuff for anyone, let alone them with the ground struggles -- against of the better defenses in football. He was picking on reserve corners and slicing up the Ravens with screens and horizontal passes ... but things quickly collapsed and constricted.
Rivers finished the game completing just 19 of his final 37 passes for a mere 159 yards (um, yeah, that's 4.30 yards per attempt), doing so despite the Ravens surging ahead, 24-10, early in the fourth quarter on consecutive scores. The Colts responded in troubling fashion; a 12 play, 59 yard drive that took 5:30 off the clock and ended with them stuffed on fourth down, and then a bizarre 10-play, 73 yard exercise in futility to end the game.
Yeah, the Colts have limitations at receiver with T.Y. Hilton no longer a thing, but come on. They ran 30 plays in the second half and amassed just 138 yards. All they do is throw to the tight ends or running backs. Yeah, Rivers has cut down on his picks, but he's also cut down on doing anything that might actually create a spark or move the ball in spurts.
We are halfway through a season, and Rivers sports an ugly rating of 76.9 when throwing to his wide receivers, completing just 63 percent of his passes (well below his overall average) with two touchdowns and five picks. That's a problem. This passing game has no verve and it's hard to envision that changing the deeper into this season we go.
A glimmer of hope for the Texans' future?
The Texans situation is very bleak. Their next general manager will inherit a most difficult proposition. That's a reality.
But someone much smarter than me pointed something out to me over the weekend, which really stuck with me. Perhaps. Maybe. Just maybe. This ends up being like what went down when the Eagles finally defrocked their overmatched dictator -- Chip Kelly -- and then quickly repositioned the franchise. After all, Bill O'Brien certainly fits that description, too, and he did just as much damage to the roster as O'Brien did -- Kelly chased off Shady McCoy and DeSean Jackson the way O'Brien ran off Jadaveon Clowney and Duane Brown and DeAndre Hopkins -- and there is a big cleanup to be done.
But the Eagles and Howie Roseman did it. And maybe the Texans' next GM can, too Of course, problem is the Texans are going to be sending two of the top 38 picks in the draft to Miami after that misguided Laremy Tunsil trade, but if the next GM can pull off anything close to what Roseman did -- quickly trading Kelly favorites like Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks and shedding the contracts of guys Kelly grossly overpaid like DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell and then he topping it off by getting a first-round pick for Sam Bradford -- there will be hope in Houston.
Let's be real, the Texans will be hard pressed to come close to this. But it's also not impossible and the need to absorb salary to shed veterans like J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus and Bradley Roby and Brandin Cooks and many others is very real. The Texans would be wise to find an aggressive, forward-thinking exec to lead them out of the abyss. Someone diametrically opposed to the Kelly/O'Brien way of decision making (i.e.: all individual and not building a consensus). But there is a blueprint from just a few years ago.
More insider notes
- Cam Newton, through half a season, is 9-for-15 for 114 yards when targeting tight ends. Yeah, you read that correctly. No wonder the Pats are finally signing tight ends and promoting guys off their practice squad. That is unfathomable in the year 2020 with the state of the modern passing game. Gronk could match that in one half against any given AFC East team on any given Sunday back in the day. We are talking eight games here, people. Good grief. New England doesn't have players ...
- Not sure that Kyler Murray has surpassed Lamar Jackson as the best rushing QB on the planet, but it is a conversation worth having. They have carried the ball almost the same number of times, but Murray leads in yards per carry (7.14 - 5.94), 10-plus yard runs (23-15) and touchdowns (8-3), while Murray has been tackled for a loss half as many times (8-16). They are in different offenses and Jackson lacks the kind of weapons Murray has to force defenses to respect pass catchers, and it's worth noting that the NFL's Net Yards Above Average/Rush stat has Jackson above Murray (1.05 - .90), but Murray is on pace for about 1,100 yards, within shouting distance of Jackson's record total from a year ago ...
- Call me crazy, but I think the Eagles are about to go on a little run here and run away with that division.