INDIANAPOLIS – Occasionally, the Xs and Os that are drawn up in early-week Indianapolis Colts coaches’ meetings and given life on the practice field jump off the iPad and, you know, work.
Exactly as planned.
And “occasionally” might be overselling the frequency when everything – everything – unfolds as expected and everybody does what he’s supposed to do.
“Yeah,” Colts offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said with a smile, “When life’s good. When life’s good, twice a game.
“It’s hard, man. It’s hard in this world. Every now and then, you hit it just right.”
When all the moving parts align, the defense counters with the hoped-for look and a touchdown or game-altering play materializes, there are few better feelings on a chaotic NFL playing field.
“It doesn’t happen that often,” wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said, “but when it does, it’s sweet.”
And this, from offensive lineman Will Fries.
“It definitely feels good when you have a play that you practiced and your work on it and it comes to fruition on the field and you score some points. It’s a pretty damned good feeling.”
The Colts realized that rare occurrence not once, but twice in Sunday’s win at Houston. Each was designed to tap into Anthony Richardson’s 4.43 speed and mobility.
“His ability to extend plays and make plays and his athleticism is pretty special,” said Fries. “It’s fun to have him on our team.”
First-and-10 at the Houston 18 on the Colts’ game-opening 10-play drive; 10:49 mark of the first quarter.
- The result:
- An 18-yard touchdown run by Richardson.
- How it was drawn up:
- Richardson is in the shotgun with running back Zack Moss to his left. Spread formation with Pittman split out wide left, tight end Kylen Granson in the left slot, Josh Downs in the right slot and Alec Pierce wide right.
- How it was executed:
- Pre-snap, Moss went in motion to the right, which caught the attention of the defense.
- Richardson gave Moss a quick glance, but had no intention of flipping the football to him.
- Center Ryan Kelly sealed Ali Gaye to the right, left guard Quenton Nelson guided Maliek Collins behind the play and left tackle Bernhard Raimann got a good piece of Jonathan Greenard.
- Right guard Fries pulled through the middle of the line and neutralized Henry To’oTo’o.
- Pittman and Granson took the DBs out of the play with short ‘out’ routes.
- Richardson had a nice alley to the end zone. If a diving Greenard touched him, it was with the tip of a finger.
- The reaction:
- “That’s exactly how they drew it up, and it worked,” Pittman said.
- Fries’ assignment wasn’t necessarily To’oTo’o: “Just go out there and look for color,” he said with a smile. “I know someone’s gonna be there. Just go out there and look for color and let Anthony do the rest.”
First-and-10 at the Houston 15; one play after the defense generated a strip-sack-fumble by C.J. Stroud, and 1 minute, 31 seconds after Richardson gave the Colts a 7-0 lead with his first TD of the first quarter.
- The result:
- A 15-yard TD by Richardson. He became the first Colt since Edgerrin James in 1999 to notch two rushing TDs in the first quarter.
- How it was drawn up:
- Richardson in the shotgun with Moss again to his left. Pierce was wide left, Granson a yard off the left side of the line, Pittman to the right with Downs stacked behind him.
- How it was executed:
- At the snap, everything flowed to the left. That included the offensive line and Downs. Richardson faked a handoff to Downs and kept his back to the defense.
- While that was going on, Granson slid to the right to serve as Richardson’s escort.
- What made it work was Pittman taking a couple of steps to his left and giving Richardson the right edge by knocking Denzel Perryman off his feet.
- That allowed Granson to head upfield and take care of Derek Stingley Jr. at the 5.
- Touchdown Richardson.
Results and reactions
The only downside on the play, albeit a significant one, was Richardson sustaining a concussion when he was hit by M.J. Stewart as he was crossing the goal line.
The injury might keep Richardson out of Sunday’s game at Baltimore.
Otherwise, it was clockwork, with Pittman as the catalyst.
“There are a bunch of key blocks, but the key block on this play was Pitt getting that thing sealed off,” Cooter said. “Pitt sort of making sure he was where he needed to be right when he needed to be there, and he did it just perfectly, which enabled that whole thing to go.
“Sometimes we put all these plays on the sheet and certain guys always like certain plays more than others and that was one we all kind of knew had a shot to be pretty good. I think Shane [Steichen], most of all, was excited to see that thing go. We broke the huddle and the look was just right and we said, ‘Shoot, we might have it’.”
On one hand, Pittman was proud of his role.
“It definitely was a decent block,” he admitted.
But he stopped short of classifying it as a classic “pancake,” even though Perryman watched Richardson turn the corner from the ground.
“I don’t think it was as good a block as everybody thinks it was,” he said. “I mean, the guy really wasn’t looking. I actually was trying to keep him up because (the officials) are likely to throw flags when that guy falls down like that.”
The success of the play, Pittman added, “was probably a credit to the play design.”
“All I had to do was block somebody who wasn’t looking,” he said.
Granson said he initially thought he might have to engage Perryman.
“I was running and I saw the linebacker and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to block him’,” Granson explained. “Then he just disappeared. Pitt laid an absolute monster of a block. I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to block the corner’.”
The crisp executions on Richardson’s two TDs were, according to Granson, an example of practice making perfect.
“It actually didn’t look like that all week,” he said with a laugh. “We practiced it and we’re like, ‘It’ll probably look better at full speed’.”
You can follow Mike Chappell on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @mchappell51.