Business trip a success

Team gets the job done, but leaves some questions for fans to puzzle over

Four games into the season, the Indianapolis Colts finally did what was expected of them.

They throttled the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars 37-3 on Sunday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, where plenty of good seats are still available. I felt a connection to Jaguars fans, since I was also watching from home.

So the Colts sit 3-1 heading into a major three-game stretch: at home vs. unbeaten Seattle next Sunday, then on the road to unpredictable San Diego and back home for the Bittersweet Reunion Bowl vs. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

This is a good place for the Colts to be, even so, sitting atop the AFC South and carrying a sense of the type of team they’re becoming.

That’s not to say the Colts don’t have some ongoing intrigue. Here’s a few curiosity pieces from the Jacksonville game that generated Twitter discussion from those who stayed awake:

<br><center> When exactly is it power-running time? </center><br>

Early in the Jacksonville game, the Colts sat with a first-and-goal at the Jaguars’ 4 after a punishing Andrew Luck run. (You have to love Luck’s love of physicality, but he needs to step out of bounds at the 5. It’s Week 4, not the playoffs.) The offense then tried three straight passes, with Luck throwing one away on purpose, missing Coby Fleener on the second and hitting Reggie Wayne half-a-foot too deep on the third. Result: field goal.

Ahmad Bradshaw was injured, but why wouldn’t offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton call for at least one run with Trent Richardson. That’s why the Colts traded for him, isn’t it? And it was so early in the game, a rout wasn’t assured.

Figuring out Hamilton and the Colts’ offensive style remains beyond my grasp on occasion.

<br><center> What’s Richardson’s deal? </center><br>

I agree with those who feel it’s too early to judge what Richardson will become as a back with the Colts, but 20 carries for 60 yards raises some eyebrows about his ability to churn out yards. The good news is he shows flashes of the toughness and power running that has to be his calling card. That was evident on his touchdown run that pushed the lead to 17-3 and a later 12-yard carry that included power, lateral movement and vision.

Let’s give him a couple more weeks to reach the point where he’s playing without his mind churning through the playbook prior to every snap.

<br><center> If Donald Brown reels off a 50-yard run, why give him only 3 carries?</center> <br>

Brown saw a huge hole – thanks, offensive line – and capitalized with his ample speed to set up field position that resulted in Richardson’s touchdown. He finished with three carries for 63 yards.

Brown is the third back behind Richardson and Bradshaw, or maybe it’s Bradshaw and Richardson, so he’s going to get fewer carries. But Colts coach Chuck Pagano has said more than once the Colts will ride the “hot hand” at running back. That didn’t happen when Brown was on fire Sunday.

<br><center> Why weren’t Luck and T.Y. Hilton on the same page? </center><br>

That worked itself out as the game went on, with Luck spreading the ball to all his receivers (Wayne 5-100, Fleener 5-77, Hilton 5-48 and Darrius Heyward-Bey 3-33), but it was odd seeing Luck so far out of sync with Hilton early.

The key point to take out of that is that Luck worked out the kinks. He finished 22-of-36 passing for 260 yards, with touchdown passes to Fleener and Wayne and one interception.

That’s one of Luck’s skills – fighting through turbulence and smoothing things out.

<br><center> Does stopping Maurice Jones-Drew mean anything since Jags are awful? </center><br>

In this case, the overall strength of the Jags – which I should probably describe as the overall weakness of the Jags – doesn’t overshadow the fact the Colts finally found a way to contain Jones-Drew. He entered the game averaging 106.8 yards per game against the Colts. He finished with 13 carries, 23 yards (1.8 per carry).

This was a win for the Colts any way you look at it. Maybe it was more for the fans’ state of mind than the players, since most of the defense doesn’t have the Colts’ history vs. Jones-Drew. But it was another indication that this defense is for real.

<br><center> How good can the secondary be if LaRon Landry gets healthy? </center><br>

The Colts intercepted three Blaine Gabbert passes, with Vontae Davis hauling in a nifty tip-toeing-the-line pass early, Darius Butler returning a pick-six and Josh Gordy adding a late exclamation point.

Landry has missed two games, but tweeted late last week that his ankle is feeling better. The Colts secondary is decent without him, but can be elite with him. (Side note: Greg Toler can cut out the extracurricular reactions/celebrations that caused him a taunting penalty. That can hurt in a close game.)

<br><center> Did the Seahawks’ comeback win help or hurt the Colts? </center><br>

This is easy. It was a huge help on two fronts: First, Seattle’s overtime win over Houston gave the Texans their second loss and put them behind the Colts in the standings. Secondly, the Seattle win keeps the Seahawks unbeaten. Having Seattle 4-0 and the Colts 3-1 heightens the intensity of the game, but more importantly keeps the Seahawks from having the extra dose of incentive coming off a loss.

It’s questionable how much carryover there is from game to game in the NFL, but had Seattle lost to Houston, a road win at Indianapolis would have seemed much more urgent. There’s going to be a sense to some Seahawks that they can handle a loss at Indianapolis without hurting the season as a whole. It’s a subtle difference, but subtle differences might tip the Colts’ next big game in a more favorable direction.

Bottom line: The Colts beat down the Jaguars to maintain momentum. That’s what they needed to do. No more, no less.

<br> <center>Online </center> <br>

For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at reggiehayes1.

<br><i> This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com. </i><br>


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