1. Russell Wilson, the Broncos offense is starting over. The majority of rational people knew it would take time for Wilson to adjust to his new receivers, play-caller, offensive line, and others in Denver. Even the most pessimistic observer, particularly with regard to Wilson himself, couldn’t have expected some of the challenges we’ve witnessed thus far. Even though the team lost against the Raiders on Sunday, some of the worry appeared to subside after some assured throws and strong scrambles. The Broncos offense, though, took a step backwards on Thursday as Wilson only averaged six yards per pass attempt and was intercepted twice (one in the end zone late in the game that all but cost them the game). Certainly, Javonte Williams’ absence cannot be held responsible. In the game, the distances of the Broncos’ first six third-down attempts were 17, 16, 15, 12, 10, and 7. Denver has been in some difficult situations as a result of too many early-down mistakes, which the defense shouldn’t constantly be forced to correct. Although the offensive woes are not entirely Nathaniel Hackett’s fault, the Broncos do not pay him a quarter of a billion dollars. In a tie game late in regulation, why were so many Denver supporters leaving? They are not naive. They are aware of how terrible what they are seeing is.
2. Alec Pierce’s breakout performance. Without Jonathan Taylor, the Colts were obviously depleted and in desperate need of an offensive playmaker for this game. Picking offensive heroes in a game with just 21 points and an overtime lead for the Colts is undoubtedly a difficult task. Chase McLaughlin, who replaced Taylor for this game, did fantastic work, completing all four of his field goal attempts (three from 48 yards or more), while Deon Jackson, who filled in for Taylor, had a significant effect with 91 yards from scrimmage. But Pierce’s eight receptions (on nine targets) for 81 yards turned out to be very important, both for this game and the future. Patrick Surtain II, the Broncos’ top corner, was late transferred from Michael Pittman to Pierce in a significant show of respect for the second-round pick. Pierce might give the Colts the second receiving option they sorely need if he can perform like this on a regular basis.
3. Is Matt Ryan halfway done? It’s difficult to give a fair response to that issue because Ryan is facing a lot of opposition from outside groups during his first season in Indianapolis (see below). He and the Colts had absolutely no idea that the offensive game plan for this season would have him running for his life in the first half. But Ryan has a lot of influence over some of the reasons why he’s struggling. In a game where points were scarce, both of his interceptions in this one were comparatively unforced mistakes that cost the Colts points. We must not overlook the fact that Ryan finished the upset victory over the Chiefs in Week 3 with a great final drive or that throughout the previous two games, he has completed approximately 73% of his throws. However, the fumbles—11 in five games—aren’t going away, and the interceptions (seven already) aren’t far behind (he had another two Thursday). Ryan made a valiant attempt and served as the captain of two important late scoring drives. He’s a far way from his MVP form, though.
4. Before becoming hurt, Baron Browning makes a heroic effort. The smart money would be on a player from the defensive side of the ball if there was ever going to be a breakout player from Thursday’s game. The Broncos were aware going into this game that they would be without a significant supply of pass-rush energy with Randy Gregory on injured reserve. Here comes Browning, who seized the chance and put on a commanding performance. He started the game by applying a number of pressures before finishing with six tackles, a sack that temporarily put the Colts out of field-goal range, and six quarterback hits on a beaten Ryan. Browning was more of an off-the-ball linebacker in college, but he consistently demonstrated pass-rush ability, so the decision to play him in this position this season made perfect sense. Even though he left the game with a wrist injury, we saw the results of that switch against the Colts. After he departed the game, the Broncos’ defense clearly made a turn for the worse.
5. The Colts’ overhauled offensive line has a difficult night. The Colts made significant OL adjustments versus Denver over a short week with little practice time, as revealed by a Prime graphic during the pregame program. The first three games of the season saw them start much the same unit, with Will Fries filling in for Danny Pinter (starting for Weeks 1-3) at right guard. On Thursday, they switched Matt Pryor from left to right tackle, Braden Smith from right tackle to right guard, and rookie Bernhard Raimann from left to right tackle. Ryan Kelly and Pryor were beaten for sacks early in the game, and Raimann was penalised twice for holding (although both rulings felt questionable) and once for a false start. The unit struggled early. Then, after a Ryan interception, Kelly (hip) was hurt and Pinter took over. Got it all? The end effect was the same: dissatisfaction from a highly compensated team that had underperformed for virtually the whole season.
Russell Wilson went 2 of 14 for 88 yards and two interceptions on throws with 10 or more air yards or more on Thursday.
NFL Research: The Colts’ 12-9 victory marked the first time since the Colts defeated the Browns in Week 1 of the 2003 season when QBs Peyton Manning and Kelly Holcomb each had two interceptions in a 9-6 final that there were no touchdowns and four or more interceptions.
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