INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles in Lucas Oil Stadium:
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Spread: Eagles by 6½
History lesson, Part I:
The Colts lead the overall series 10-9, and it’s a 5-all stalemate since their relocation in 1984. The Eagles have won three straight, including 20-16 in Philly in ’18 when Carson Wentz directed a fourth-quarter comeback. Andrew Luck took the Colts to a fourth-and-3 at the Eagles 4 with 1:19 remaining, but Derek Barnett’s sack snuffed out the threat.
History lesson, Part II:
There’s not a ton of history to share because of the every-four-years conference rotation, but we enjoy this weekly segment. So we’ll go with this: week 10 of 2002.
So much went on in the 35-13 blowout of the Eagles. First-round draft pick Dwight Freeney responded to his first start by getting to Donovan McNabb for one sack and three forced fumbles. Edgerrin James and Ricky Williams were out with injuries, so James Mungro stepped in and shocked Philly with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Peyton Manning tossed a perfect game – a 158.3 rating – by completing 18-of-23 passes for 319 yards and three TDs. Marvin Harrison had six catches, 137 yards and two TDs. Reggie Wayne added six catches, 121 yards and one TD.
So many have congratulated the Washington Commanders for sharing the blueprint on how to deal with Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ high-powered offense Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field. They ran the heck out of the football (49 attempts, 152 yards), dominated time of possession (40:24-19:36), limited Hurts’ opportunities (10 possessions, just one in the third quarter) and handed Philly its first loss of the season (32-21).
Well, the Colts rolled out that blueprint in week 5 of 2019 at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium to deal with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ high-powered offense. They ran the heck out of the football (45 attempts, 180 yards, including 132 from Marlon Mack), dominated time of possession (37:15-22:45), limited Mahomes’ opportunities (nine possessions) and upset a 4-0 Chiefs bunch that would win the Super Bowl.
While we’re expecting interim coach Jeff Saturday and playcaller Parks Frazier to do everything within their power to replicate that approach, the overriding objective should be replicating last Sunday’s game plan in the win at Las Vegas.
The Colts finally were able to rely on the offensive approach they envisioned when acquiring Matt Ryan in the offseason trade. They protected Ryan (one sack, and that was on the QB), ran effectively (30 attempts, 207 yards, including 147 and a 66-yard TD from Jonathan Taylor), Ryan was efficient (21-of-28, 222 yards, one TD, no interceptions) and the defense made plays when necessary.
So, do it again.
Let’s be honest. The Colts were efficient in Saturday’s first game as interim coach in part because they faced a Raiders defense that was among the NFL’s worst, especially up front. Now they’re dealing with an Eagles’ defense that is among the NFL’s best, especially against the pass. Philly is 3rd overall, 2nd against the pass and 5th in sacks per pass play. The Eagles are allowing just 177.7 passing yards per game. They’ve held opposing QBs to less than 200 yards in six of nine games, including the last four. They’re tied for 1st with 18 takeaways and tied-2nd with 12 interceptions.
There is no lack of playmakers. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson leads the NFL with six interceptions – the Colts have four – while cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry have three each and have combined for 20 passes defended. Tackle Javon Hargrave has a team-best 7 sacks and linebacker Haason Reddick 6.5.
Ryan’s protection was nearly air-tight in Vegas. Can that group do it again? Against a much more disruptive defensive front?
It’s no secret why the Colts must play an effective game of keepaway against the Eagles. There’s Hurts (14 TDs, three interceptions, 354 rushing yards), running back Miles Sanders (710 yards, six TDs), and wideouts DeVonta Smith (46 receptions, 481 yards, three TDs) and A.J. Brown (44 receptions, 725 yards, six TDs). Hurts frequently tests the perimeter of a defense with his RPO expertise.
Philly’s offense ranks 4th overall (376.9 yards per game), 6th in rushing (142.7) and 3rd in scoring (27.3).
Gus Bradley’s defense has been a season-long strength, but the task Sunday was made a tad more difficult when end Kwity Paye aggravated an injury to his right ankle and will miss the game.
And the winner is: Eagles 27, Colts 20. We’re expecting Ryan and the offense to have a modicum of success. They’ll give Taylor every opportunity to control the game. But Philly just has too much of everything. The Eagles also figure to be just a bit angry coming off their first loss of the season.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.