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The Shane Steichen offense on paper is quite predictable. 


If you were to look at some basic numbers you’d almost be surprised at how defenses struggled to get a beat on this team.


Per Sports Info Solutions, the Colts were 3rd in the league in 11 personnel looks at 77% (11 personnel means 1RB-1TE-3WRs on the field). Even more shockingly, they were 2nd in the league (only behind Philly) at plays run from the shotgun at a whopping 90% rate.


There’s nothing in the rules that says you CAN’T be in the shotgun from the same personnel group over and over… but that should make defensive coaches excited to play Indianapolis, right? 




To understand the Colts offensive philosophy, you have to dig deeper than just these basic numbers. Because when Shane Stiechen and co. were at their schematic best in 2023, it was when they could use their predictability to torture defenses.


This is a look at how the Colts did just that. And there’s no better place to start than the QB run game.




The moment the Texans traded up for Will Anderson Jr., the Colts officially had their identity on offense. Anthony Richardson, before even playing a snap in the NFL, would already be among the most physically gifted at the position. You often hear “When Anthony was in the game, defenses defend us differently…”, well the threat of the QB run game was the primary reason for that. 


The QB run game fundamentally changes the math. To illustrate it the best I can, let’s take a look at this play from the Week 1 game vs. JAX. The Colts are facing an 8 man box and in theory, only have 7 guys to block those 8. Every guy would have to execute their block and then Deon Jackson would have to make that extra guy miss. But when Anthony Richardson is in the game, it changes everything.


By leaving JAX’s best defensive player unblocked and “reading him”, he’s one less guy the Colts have to account for in the run-blocking unit. He’s essentially out of the play because the Colts will make him wrong no matter what. If he can tackle the back, Richardson will pull it and run. If he can’t, then Richardson hands it off. Now it’s 7 on 7.




What makes Shane Steichen great is that he knows how defenses are going to react and then how he can’t use it to their advantage the following play, series, matchup, etc. 


In the same Week 1 game vs. JAX, the Colts found out quickly how aggressive the Jacksonville front was to make plays in the backfield. The Jaguars put their premiere pass rusher Josh Allen in a wide alignment with one goal in mind: to wreak havoc.


You can see on the first snap of the game that Josh Allen is not reading the mesh or trying to fit this run, he’s coming from width and getting aggressively upfield with one goal: blow up any QB run and force the handoff.




This was not just a one-off, either. On Indy’s second drive of the game, in a backed-up & clear run situation, Josh Allen and LB Devin Lloyd are executing what defenses call a “scrape exchange” as a part of a run-blitz. To counter any potential +1 QB run, both defenders will read the EMOL (End Man On The Line Of Scrimmage). If he down blocks, leaving the DE unblocked, Josh Allen will take the RB (in this case attack the block from the TE) while Lloyd will aggressively get over the top to hunt down any potential QB run.



The Jaguars were not scared of Deon Jackson OR Indy’s offensive line, which vastly underperformed the year prior. 


So what do you do if you’re Shane Stiechen? You have a game wrecker forcing the handoff on all my QB runs, you’re struggling to get movement on the OL to open up a crease for your third-string RB, and your drop-back pass hasn’t gotten into a rhythm. 


You build off the looks you already gave them.


He waits until a got-to-have-it short-yardage situation where JAX is forced to honor the run. In short-yardage situations, especially on TV, we usually just see this massive cluster of bodies and miss the actual formation. If you look closely, you’ll see they’ve moved LT Bernhard Raimann to the right side of the line. The Colts have an “unbalanced” or “Tackle Over” formation. Teams get into this formation because it forces the defense to adjust to a four-man surface either with the front or the secondary.  


After the ball is snapped you can see everybody on alert for the inside run, just like they were in the earlier run situation. The safety comes flying down into his gap, and Josh Allen goes to “box” the block from the TE (attack the block with his outside shoulder to force the ball inside). Except the Colts aren’t trying to block him like last time. Kylen Granson bluffs the block and is wide open in the flat to move the chains.



At this point, JAX had to honor the threat of Anthony Richardson’s legs, but also any potential play-action or RPOs if they got too aggressive stopping the run. 


2024 Outlook


Now obviously the Colts were unable to secure the win, but there were real flashes of how dynamic this offense could be, and how much stress it puts on a defense. And when you add in a healthy Jonathan Taylor it takes this offense to a whole new level.


No disrespect to Deon Jackson, but when JT is on the field, defenses have to be sound in their run support. You can’t afford to just play the QB run and force the handoff, because a back with his vision and athleticism WILL break one free. 


And even if you think you found answers to aggressively play the +1 QB run designs….


Well, the Colts have you right where they want you. 

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