INDIANAPOLIS – However a season chockfull of controversy and disappointment concludes, the Indianapolis Colts will follow Matt Ryan’s lead.
That was the conclusion of interim head coach Jeff Saturday after he and his staff used the bye week to evaluate various personnel issues and consider possible changes.
“Yeah, Matt is going to be our guy going in Saturday,’’ he said Monday. “So, I’m planning on him going, practicing well this week and going in to play a good game against the Vikings.’’
Against the Minnesota Vikings and for the remainder of a season that’s in serious free fall. The Colts have lost six of their last seven and take a 4-8-1 record to Minneapolis.
Saturday “sure hopes’’ Ryan remains under center for the final four games.
“That’s why he’s here,’’ he said. “As few changes you can make to go win and like I told everybody, the focus of this is to win games. We’ve all got to play better.
“Matt’s no different. He has to play better than he did last week if we have any shot to win. You hope that he goes and answers that call and meets that expectation and goes and plays as well as he can and we as a football team do.
“Winning cures a lot of ails, but we ain’t been doing much winning. So, we’ve got to get that thing fixed and go find ways to win.’’
Saturday used the bye week to determine whether any on-field changes were warranted, and that included sticking with Ryan or turning to backup Nick Foles or Sam Ehlinger. The decision: Ryan is the starter, Foles the backup and Ehlinger No. 3.
A change would have been understandable considering Ryan and the Colts were coming off yet another error-filled loss – a 54-19 collapse at Dallas that featured five more turnovers which fueled the Cowboys’ 33-point fourth quarter. Ryan matched a season high with three interceptions and lost a fumble on one of the three sacks he absorbed.
That pushed his season totals to 13 interceptions and 18 total turnovers, both league highs. His 14 total fumbles already are a franchise record and the most in his 15-year career.
Saturday insisted Ryan’s rising turnovers can’t be solely blamed on him. They’ve been a collaborative effort among the quarterback making poor decisions or poor throws, receivers not being in the proper place and pass protection allowing 46 sacks, tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the most in the league.
“From the outside looking in, you want to attribute all those to one guy and if I could, that would be an easy position to change and all of a sudden . . . now we’ve kind of got no warts. But that’s not the case,’’ Saturday said.
“I feel like Matt has continued to give us the best chance and unfortunately, we keep turning the ball over, but it’s not just on him. Everybody has had their share of screw-ups.’’
Ehlinger suffered one interception in his two starts, and it was returned for a touchdown in the 26-3 loss at New England. The Colts lead the league with 30 total fumbles – Chicago is next with 26; the league average is 15.7 – and 12 players have at least one. Running back Jonathan Taylor has three – four if you fault him for the bungled goal-line exchange with Ryan against Pittsburgh – as does Keke Coutee.
Ryan’s culpability, though, is undeniable. He’s had one turnover in eight of his 11 starts, two seven times and at least three on two occasions.
The Colts are a league-worst minus-14 in the turnover differential and their league-high 26 turnovers have led to 93 points.
Everything starts with the quarterback. Matt Ryan. The 13 interceptions are his most since 14 in 2019 and four shy of matching his career high (17 in 2013).
“It’s obviously been a difficult year for him and a lot of us,’’ said playcaller Parks Frazier. “But I think to how he’s handled it. I think he’s handled it just like I think we’ve said a lot of times – as professional and about as good as you can handle the situation given.
“Obviously he’d be the first one to tell you that there are a lot of areas that he wants to do better and play better. We’ve got to do some things around him to help him as well. We all know that. We all embrace that.’’
Ryan suffered a Grade 2 separation of his right (throwing) shoulder in the 19-10 loss at Tennessee in week 4, and some of his passes against the Cowboys seemed to lack the necessary zip. Is the injury lingering?
“I believe you’re physically 100% if you’re going out there and playing,’’ Saturday said. “If you’re not, you need to let me know so I can make an adjustment or at least help you in the best way I can.
“No one is full-on healthy at this point in the season. You and I both know that. Everyone’s playing with something, but if I feel like it’s going to hurt the team, you have to give me the opportunity to make that adjustment.
“When he and I have had that discussion, he told me he feels good, him arm feels fresh, no fatigue, no issue from the injury and no play is being affected because of it.’’
Fair or not, Ryan will remain the focal point of a season gone wrong.
“I hate to pinpoint one guy or one position, but obviously that’s the quarterback position in the NFL,’’ Saturday said. “You get way too much credit and you get way too much blame.
“There’s part of his game that has to improve and we talked about that with a number of different guys. We’ve got to play our best. If we’re going to win, we need Matt playing his ‘A’ game. That’s my expectation for him.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.