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Week 11 Q&A: Philip Rivers giving Colts stability at quarterback

We check in with Stampede Blue for a look at the Colts offense.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts offense is not what it once was. The team is somehow already in its third year of the post-Andrew Luck era, and it’s been a decade since Peyton Manning threw a pass in blue and white.

But even so, the Green Bay Packers shouldn’t discount what the Colts can do moving the ball. Indianapolis has scored 30+ in three of its last four games, and with Mike Pettine’s permissive tendencies on full display this season, there’s little reason to think the Colts couldn’t have a big output on Sunday.

To get a brief idea of what the Packers are up against, we spoke with Chris Blystone of Stampede Blue. He’ll be back tomorrow with a look at the Colts defense.

Acme Packing Company: The Colts have seen some turmoil at quarterback after Andrew Luck’s untimely retirement, but Philip Rivers seems to have brought some stability there at the very least, even if his stats haven’t been overwhelming. What’s your review of the 39-year-old’s effort so far this year?

Chris Blystone: Rivers has taken a lot of grief from Colts fans, who’ve gotten pretty accustomed to stellar quarterback play, something perhaps only Packers fans can appreciate. Realistically, Rivers has done absolutely everything he was brought in to do. He gave the Colts a passionate leader who came into the building from the jump familiar with Frank Reich’s offense. In a year where we’ve had COVID-19 to deal with, that was huge.

The areas where Rivers has struggled have been largely the fault of other factors. You don’t bring in a 39-year-old QB and ask him to carry the team’s offensive attack, but unfortunately, with the loss of starting running back Marlon Mack and WR Parris Campbell, that was what the Colts asked of him early.

Rivers has always been and will always be the guy who likes to take chances, and he’s had some costly mistakes downfield because of that. However, he has also put them in position to win games because of being smarter and quicker than opposing defenses. As the season has gone on, he has gotten stronger as a signal-caller, and as some of the young weapons on offense have gotten their footing, he has been able to recede into his role as the field general rather than the guy leading the charge.

APC: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is of special interest to many Packers fans, given his Wisconsin roots. From afar, he looks like he’s having a bit of an underwhelming rookie season. Is that the case?

CB: That is an accurate assessment. Taylor is another guy getting a lot of (perhaps unfair) scrutiny. He has the most talent by far of the running backs, but right now he just isn’t making the most of what is there. Taylor wasn’t slated to be the starting back, but when Marlon Mack tore his Achilles, that plan changed. He has shown himself to be somewhat indecisive and struggles to hit holes opened by the line. He isn’t patient when he needs to be and often leaves quite a few yards on the field.

The good news is that this doesn’t track with anything he put on film at Wisconsin. Additionally, he’s got a great running back coach in Tom Rathman and a very supportive cast of backs around him. The coaching staff has raved about his work ethic and humility as well, so personally, I don’t worry that he won’t get it figured out eventually.

The one area Packers fans will want to watch for him is in the passing game. While he’s struggled to make things happen in the running game, he is still an explosive athlete, and if he gets the ball in space, he could be a problem.

APC: The Colts seem to have one of the best offensive lines in the league. What makes them tick?

CB: There are several unique things about the Colts offensive line that make them as good as they are. First, they hold protection meetings differently than most offenses do. In a normal protection plan meeting, you’ll have the quarterback, center, and coach. For the Colts, it includes the entire offensive staff, the whole offensive line, and the running backs. Frank Reich personally sits in on these meetings too. This gives their pass protection a much more cohesive understanding come game day.

The second part of their success has been that this unit has stayed largely healthy. Everyone knows Quenton Nelson’s name, but his draft class also included Braden Smith who has been the Colts’ right tackle and has become one of the better tackles in the league since 2018. This unit has played nearly every snap together since the midpoint of that 2018 season, and that definitely matters.

Finally, this is a group that just takes pride in their jobs. They take it personally when the quarterback gets hit, and they’re looking to demoralize defenses. With three first-round picks and a 2nd round pick making up the group, they have the pedigree to do just that.