The Indianapolis Colts extended its winless streak in Jacksonville on Sunday with a convincing 37-20 loss. Backup and now interim starting QB Gardner Minshew was feeling like Santa Claus in mid-October as he was gifting the Jaguars in abundance.
Anthony Richardson is out anywhere from the next 3 weeks to this injury being season-ending, so the Gardner Minshew era is here to stay. Instead of accepting a doom-and-gloom outlook, Colts fans should understand Minshew is still a top-tier backup quarterback who can put together some wins in the meantime. Offensive sustainability however will likely stray from this Colts offense until Richardson returns, or normalcy within a Minshew-led offense is found.
Turnovers and Short Fields
Gardner Minshew was completing passes to Jaguars defenders with such consistency, it was as if he still thought he himself was donning the Jaguar colors. He threw 3 INTs and lost a fumble as he was sacked 3 times and finished with a 22.8 QBR. To add to the madness, Minshew also had 2-3 incompletions that were dropped interceptions. Overall, it wasn’t Minshew’s day and the Jaguars took full advantage of that.
Two of Minshew’s interceptions came while the Colts were deep in Jacksonville territory, putting any possibility of keeping it a game on halt. Seventeen points were scored off the 4 aforementioned Minshew turnovers, and with the Colts losing by 17 points on the nose, it makes those missed points all the more costly.
The Colts by contrast were oddly explosive on Sunday, all things considered. Indy’s offense produced 3 plays of 40+ yard gains (Michael Pittman Jr., Kylen Granson, and Jonathan Taylor), something it hadn’t accomplished since 2016. Minshew’s 329 yards through the air is a season-high for a Colts QB, though this offensive output was more or less forced upon Indy due to falling in a big deficit early.
The Run Game
The Colts offense went down 14-3 in the 1st quarter and was down by as many as 25 in the 3rd quarter. This was never a ringing endorsement to try and establish the run game, though it became reality mainly thanks to the Colts offense putting the defense in bad spots.
Shane Steichen actually came into this game with an opening script of nickeling and diming the Jags’ defense, as it was check-down galore to Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor on the offense’s first drive of the game. It would result in 3 points, but it was on their ensuing offensive possession that the run game woes would present itself.
The run game never found its footing on Sunday, and Minshew and Co. struggled immensely because of it. When Minshew has a run game to run on and can dink and dunk down the field with play-action sprinkled in, the offenses he leads often prevails thanks to his efficiency in these ideal situations.
The offensive line was great on the ground when they were called upon as all five starters fared better in this area of their game. The pass blocking amongst the starting unit was not a poor performance by any means, but rather, playing from so far behind caused for Minshew to play a little hero ball at times which is simply not something he’s capable of doing sustainably.
Defense Did What It Could
Despite multiple short fields and massive deficits to work with, the Colts’ defense actually put up a performance against the explosive Jags offense that served as a winnable one. They held the Jaguars offense to season-lows in net yards and passing yards while getting to Trevor Lawrence on multiple occasions, sacking him 3 times and providing 5 QB hits.
Calvin Ridley lit the Colts’ defense on fire in their first matchup in Week 1 but was quiet in his second matchup against Indy. Ridley, who faced a different Colts cornerback tandem this time around in rookies JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones, was held to just 4 receptions for 30 yards. The defense allowed 2 passing touchdowns on the day but held every Jaguar pass catcher under 50 yards receiving.
It wasn’t a winning performance, but a winnable one by the Colts defense. The Colts offense just shot itself in the foot too many times to come back from and now the Colts remain 2nd in the division after getting swept by the Jaguars in their season series. The Cleveland Browns are up next for the Colts, who are coming off a gutty performance in Week 5, besting the undefeated 49ers with a backup QB. Indy’s offense must be efficient and limit turnovers if they want any shot against this Jim Schwartz-led Browns defense.
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