INDIANAPOLIS – Frustration roamed the hallways and meeting rooms at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center Monday.
Another season-opening loss – it’s eight and counting for the Indianapolis Colts after Sunday’s 28-16 misstep against the Seattle Seahawks – tends to be a major mood breaker.
Too much hit-and-miss by the offense. Same for the defense.
“Feast or famine,’’ Frank Reich said Monday afternoon.
As he met with players Monday morning, Reich offered advice for the days leading up to Sunday’s bounce-back opportunity against the Los Angeles Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“There’s a feeling of frustration,’’ he said, “but what we talked about this morning was the frustration should fuel our focus. We walk through these mistakes, we meet on the film with these guys (and) I felt a good sense from these guys, ‘Hey, we’re ready to go.’
“Put this one behind us, learn from it, digest it, and use it as preparation for this next game.’’
The next game offers a two-pronged threat.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford boasts an NFL-best 156.1 passer rating – a tick better than the 152.3 Russell Wilson compiled against the Colts’ defense Sunday – while tackle Aaron Donald is the unquestioned catalyst of a defense that was the league’s best last season. Donald has been the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in three of the last four seasons.
Donald versus three-time first-team All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson figures to be one of those Clash of the Titans moments, regardless how often the two actually square off.
“I think it’s going to be a great week, not only for Quenton but for the whole o-line,’’ Reich said. “You go up against a player like Aaron Donald . . . I know he’s a one-man show, but that whole defense is an excellent defense.
“He’s obviously the key and (cornerback Jalen) Ramsey’s a great player. Last year they had the No. 1 defense in the NFL . . . it starts with Aaron Donald up front.
“My experience is especially with these guys and these players is that kind of brings something (out) in you, like ‘Hey, I’ve got to step up here. I’ve got to rise to the occasion.’ I’ve got to rise to the challenge.’’
Tackle issues; Braden Smith ailing
As if the offensive line enduring one of its worst games in recent memory wasn’t bad enough, right tackle Braden Smith is dealing with a foot injury. He met with the training staff Monday morning to determine the nature and severity of the injury.
“We’ll monitor that and see the significance of that as we go,’’ Reich said, adding the injury is not the same type that forced Wentz and Nelson to undergo surgery in early August.
According to Pro Football Focus, Smith gave up one sack and five pressures on 44 pass-blocking opportunities. Left tackle Julién Davenport yielded two sacks and eight pressures.
Only Nelson was pressure-free against Seattle. Right guard Mark Glowinski gave up three pressures, according to PFF, and center Ryan Kelly two.
“Overall the protection aspect was probably not up to our standards,’’ Reich said. “We need to be better. We have very high standards.’’
Reich said Davenport “did fine’’ even though he gave up the two sacks. Davenport was supposed to get chip-help from a running back on one of the sacks, but the Seahawks “fooled us’’ and forced the back to pick up pressure elsewhere.
It’s uncertain whether the Colts’ early tackle issues can be addressed by Eric Fisher making his first start against the Rams. The veteran left tackle still is in rehab mode after tearing his Achilles in late January.
Fisher was close to being ready for Seattle but lacked enough practice time after spending time on the COVID-19 list. He was a limited participant in three practices last week.
“I’m encouraged from last week, that would be the only update,’’ Reich said.
If Smith is out and Fisher not cleared to play against the Rams, the Colts’ only healthy tackles would be Davenport, Matt Pryor, rookie Will Fries and Carter O’Donnell, who’s on the practice squad.
Bothered by one hit to Wentz
Wentz was sacked three times and hit another seven times, according to the NFL’s official box score. Reich took exception to one of the hits and plans on turning it into the league for review.
“I thought it was a body-weight shot,’’ he said. “Guy lands on him, and I know (the officials) must have just missed it because we’re trying to eliminate that stuff.
“He took a few good hits, but he’s got that reputation of being a tough guy . . . there were a couple of pretty vicious hits in there.
“But that’s not all bad as a quarterback. It kind of wakes you up, and you’re back in it. It’s a strange feeling. It’s hard to explain, but it brings out something in you, and I think it brings that out in Carson as well.’’
‘Feast or famine’
The up-and-down flow of Sunday’s loss disappointed Reich.
The Wentz-led offense mounted three scoring drives of at least 68 yards and another that chewed up 59 yards before a failed fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter when Wentz’s protection failed him. But there were four three-and-outs.
“Those three-and-outs, I take that personally,’’ Reich said, “meaning that’s my fault. One or two three-and-outs in a game is common for most any offense. But four three-and-outs is too many, and as the playcaller and with the role I have with the offense, I have to do a better job.’’
The defense followed a similar script. It had no answers in the first half as the Seahawks piled up 257 yards and averaged 9.9 yards per snap and Wilson pierced the secondary for a perfect 158.3 passer rating on the strength of three touchdown passes, two to Tyler Lockett.
Coordinator Matt Eberflus made adjustments at the half and Seattle’s first four second half possessions resulted in three punts and a lost fumble. But the real damage already had been done.
“When we were good, we were really good,’’ Reich said of the defense.
But Seattle thrived with six plays that gained at least 20 yards, and the four touchdown drives covered 81, 61, 83 and 73 yards.
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