Remember, the Indianapolis Colts wanted to hire Josh McDaniels.
They thought they had him. McDaniels agreed to become their coach, then never got on the plane to formally accept the job. He stayed with the New England Patriots as their offensive coordinator. The Colts started the search again, and landed on then-Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
The Colts should be sending McDaniels thank you cards.
Reich and his staff are excellent and they’re the main reason the Colts are 6-3 and tied for first place in the AFC South after a strong 34-17 win at the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. The win was a coaching clinic, with every phase clicking and making huge plays in the win.
The Colts tried to hire McDaniels. They instead ended up with one of the NFL’s best head coaches.
Colts dominate Titans in key win
The Colts’ aggression had the Titans on their heels. From mixing in no-huddle offense, going for it on fourth down without a second thought or sending rushers at the Titans’ vulnerable punt team, the Colts were ready to attack and take the win.
Aggression doesn’t always work out, or everyone would do it. The Colts had it backfire when they went for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and Jordan Wilkins was stopped cold. It was the fifth time the Colts went for it, and it was only the third quarter. The Colts were the first team in the past 20 seasons to go for it on fourth down five times in the first three quarters of a game, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Part of going for it on fourth down deep in opposing territory instead of kicking 19-yard field goals is that the opposing offense is backed up if you don’t get it. The Colts got a stop, a strong rush led to a shanked punt, and that led to a short Indy scoring drive capped by Nyheim Hines’ touchdown. That gave Indianapolis a 20-17 lead.
Then the punt return team made the play of the game. They send the punt rush, linebacker E.J. Speed got a block and T.J. Carrie scooped it up in the end zone for a score.
The Colts got a bit weird to put the game away. They took out Philip Rivers, who never sneaks it, on a third-and-1 near the end zone. Jacoby Brissett took the snap and lunged ahead for the touchdown.
Indianapolis had all the answers on Thursday night. Well-coached teams usually do.
Colts made plays in all phases
The Colts are a good, balanced team. They lost Andrew Luck to a surprise retirement before last season, which would destroy most teams. After a rough 2019, the Colts grabbed Rivers in free agency and while Rivers has had some rough games, he has been mostly effective. He was again on Thursday night. Rivers had 308 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
Indianapolis has built one of the league’s best defenses led by coordinator Matt Eberflus, who will again get some head-coaching interviews next offseason. The Titans were stymied most of the night. Derrick Henry still got his 100 yards, but there was nothing available downfield in the passing game. By the time the Colts took a 34-17 lead on Brissett’s sneak, Ryan Tannehill had just 110 yards passing.
The Colts got a strong game on offense, especially from Hines off the bench for a big night. The defense took away the Titans’ play-action game down the field, which can be more devastating than Henry on the ground. The special teams came up big too. Everything clicked.
Reich has put together a great staff. He is a fantastic head coach. If the Colts keep this up, Reich might get his first Coach of the Year award in a few months. Indianapolis might have hated McDaniels when he stood them up, but the Colts’ next choice has worked out quite well. Reich has always been comfortable as a backup anyway.
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