What We Saw: Colts at Broncos

Warning, do not watch on Gamepass! Save your soul. Yes, the lead image is a kicker. And rightly so!

Colts @ Broncos

Final Score: Colts 12, Broncos 9

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

Thursday Night Football was an uninspiring prospect with the stuttering Russell Wilson trying to kickstart the Denver Broncos offense against a staggering Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts, who were without star running back Jonathan Taylor with their season was effectively on the line. The Broncos were also without Javonte Williams, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. A key matchup between two veteran quarterbacks undermanned on offense was a recipe for disaster.

Disaster struck almost immediately for the Colts with Nyheim Hines being knocked out of the game on the opening drive after suffering a concussion after taking a hit on third down. It was yet another worrying sight on a football field after the events of the last two weeks. That left third-string back Deon Jackson and former Bronco Phillip Lindsay as the only rushers available.

A dismal first half was not surprising but expected as the two teams shared seven punts and consistently failed to move the chains on third down. Wilson at least managed to move the Broncos into the red zone once – however, he failed to connect with Jerry Jeudy on a third down throw to the back of the end zone. Ryan had one positive drive where he connected with Michael Pittman Jr. and rookie Alec Pierce for big gains before a dreadful throw into triple coverage resulted in the first turnover of the game with just five minutes remaining in the half.

 

But…the Broncos couldn’t make anything happen and they punted…again. The Colts got the ball back and engineered their best drive of the game to that point – a tedious 12-play, 52-yard effort that involved two bad sacks on Ryan that lost them 27 yards and sent them backwards from the Denver 15-yard line. They settled for a field goal. If it sounds bad, it was worse to watch.

The second half was much of the same with the crowd in Denver booing after a miserly first possession went nowhere. Just when we thought a spark was provided by a big Wilson throw to Courtland Sutton for a 51-yard gain in the third quarter, it was quickly extinguished. Or was it Montrell Washington? They fought for it, despite being on the same team, and Sutton came down with it.

 

Wilson then had three chances from the Indianapolis 9-yard line and he went backwards, taking a sack on second down before failing to complete on third and long. The resulting field goal was then blocked. This game!

 

On the next possession, Ryan threw his second interception of the day on an ill-advised throw down the middle on third and long. Caden Stearns, playing in place of the excellent Justin Simmons, notched his second turnover of the night.

 

The Broncos once again had the chance to punish the Colts but again they failed to deliver when it counted the most. If you thought Ryan’s pick was bad, Wilson said “hold my beer” and threw this up for nobody. Making matters worse, he tried to tackle linebacker Zaire Franklin on the return and spent some time in the medical tent for what was labelled a head injury. Luckily he was cleared to return.

 

As the game fizzled into a dull ending the thought of overtime filled everyone with dread. And, guess what…Wilson threw an interception in the end zone and gave the Colts the chance to go down the field and square it up. Which is exactly what happened. Overtime…great!

The Colts kicked a field goal, the Broncos did not. Game over! Wilson failing to convert a 4th down inside the 5-yard line summed up a truly terrible game of football.

 

“What. A. Game.” indeed! Look, this was just about as bad as it gets at this level of football. It also helps nobody out in terms of fantasy unless you had the Broncos or Colts DST. In this defensive showcase, it’s only fair we leave you with a griddy from DeForest Buckner.

 

Indianapolis Colts

 

Quarterback

 

Matt Ryan: 26/41, 251 Yards, 2 INT | 1 Carry, -1 Yard, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

 

It’s hard to make a case for Matt Ryan as a fantasy quarterback this season, and this performance only strengthened that notion. Ryan was horrendous in all aspects. He failed to spot simple coverages, he had limited awareness of the pass rush and often chose to check down on deep dropbacks meaning most completions were around or behind the line of scrimmage.

The two interceptions were both forced throws into coverage and deserved to be picked. On a free play in the fourth quarter, Ryan had plenty of time behind his line but still threw a sideline throw a good few yards before the line to gain. It was a hapless, hopeless performance. Even Al and Kirk were struggling to make sense of how bad it was.

 

Still, somehow Ryan managed to orchestrate a final 10-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in a game-tying field goal. Imagine that! Then, imagine if you will, another moribund drive that resulted in a field goal in overtime after Ryan failed to scramble for the first down on a third and four situation. That was enough for the Colts to win the game. Football will always surprise you!

 

Running Backs

 

Deon Jackson: 13 Carries, 62 Yards | 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 29 Yards

Phillip Lindsay: 11 Carries, 40 Yards | 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 14 Yards

Nyheim Hines: 1 Carry, 3 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 5 Yards

 

If it was already going to be a struggle to run the ball without Jonathan Taylor, the task became almost impossible once Nyheim Hines was knocked out of the game with concussion on the very first drive. Deon Jackson and Phillip Lindsay could not find any sort of breakthrough when it counted and had limited options due to so many third and long plays. Jackson did have a few highlights worth showing, including this nice spin move for the biggest Colts gain of the first half.

 

Jackson was then key on the Colts’ final drive, his 17-yard run with under a minute to play setting his team up for the field goal to take it to overtime. So irrelevant for fantasy, so crucial for real football with the Colts going on to win the game in overtime.

 

Lindsay’s return to Denver didn’t throw up any fireworks. He was limited to 3.6 yards per carry and looked rusty when given the opportunity to run on the outside. It was Jackson given the ball with the game on the line, which is worth noting for once Taylor returns. Still, there is little fantasy value here.

 

Wide Receivers

 

Alec Pierce: 9 Targets, 8 Receptions, 81 Yards

Michael Pittman Jr.: 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 59 Yards

Parris Campbell: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 22 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Ashton Dulin: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 18 Yards

Kylen Granson: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 16 Yards

Mo Alie-Cox: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 7 Yards

Jelani Woods: 1 Target

 

A grim night for receivers on both teams but rookie Alec Pierce did show a few nice things to continue his promising start to his NFL career. Pierce excelled in contested situations and showed nice hands on a number of occasions. He also showed intelligence late in the fourth quarter by coming back to the ball, catching it and rolling out of bounds to stop the clock as the Colts were trying to get into field goal range. An impressive showing from Pierce, who is a player who could be fantasy useful through the bye rounds based on this volume.

 

Michael Pittman Jr. is starting to become the new Allen Robinson of the NFL – good receiver, bad quarterbacks. After making things happen with Carson Wentz last year, the skilled wideout must be feeling deja vu after seeing what Ryan has thrown his way so far in 2022. Pittman was shown extra attention from the Broncos with Patrick Surtain II tailing him for most of the contest, another reason why his production was limited. His explosive ability to make plays downfield was wasted with this style of offense, his longest grab being 15 yards on five catches. It was an important grab, however, as it came on third down with the Colts down six and desperate to score before the half. Pittman found space in a busy secondary and made a nice grab.

 

With 13 targets going to Pierce and Pittman and another eight to the running backs, that left just five targets for the rest of this receiving room. No wonder the offense was so predictable and unproductive. Parris Campbell, remember him? He had a nice catch and run in overtime to get the ball into Broncos territory, just his second grab of the night.

 

Denver Broncos

 

Quarterback

 

Russell Wilson: 21/39, 274 Yards, 2 INT | 4 Carries, 22 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

 

Another difficult night for Russell Wilson when it came to chemistry with his receivers, especially on deep balls down the sideline. The first half featured a gluttony of throws landing 15 yards away from intended receivers as miscommunication and confusion impaired Wilson and his offense. The second half was the same but those throws ended up in the arms of the Colts defense. Wilson threw two second half picks and essentially gave the Colts a chance to tie it up after this throw approaching the two-minute warning.

 

It was a poor play call and an even worse execution from Wilson. He was 2-for-14 on third downs all night, ouch. He is a fantasy dud at the position right now and it might be time to look at streaming options if he is your fantasy QB1. He couldn’t convert on fourth down despite a wide open KJ Hamler down the middle to win the game. The pressure is on in Denver.

 

Running Backs

 

Melvin Gordon III: 15 Carries, 54 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 49 Yards

Mike Boone: 7 Carries, 38 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 47 Yards

Montrell Washington: 1 Carry, 9 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Devine Ozigbo: 1 Carry, 2 Yards

 

As promised, Melvin Gordon III was the feature back for the Broncos in the absence of Javonte Williams. Gordon got 15 carries and averaged a meagre 3.6 yards per carry, also getting away with yet another fumble in the third quarter after the play was called back due to penalty. Playing behind a disappointing offensive line, Gordon struggled to get away from Buckner and the Colts defensive front. His biggest play was a 24-yard catch and run in overtime that salvaged his fantasy day as respectable.

 

Mike Boone saw significantly more time in the second half after Gordon failed to make an impact. He rewarded his coaches with a 5.8 yards per carry stat line, and a big chunk play on a screen that Boone took for 34 yards deep into Colts territory. Wilson turned the ball over just a few plays later. Go figure!

 

He is in line for a fantasy relevant role if the offense figures things out. But that’s a big if right now based on this performance.

 

Wide Receivers

 

Courtland Sutton: 11 Targets, 5 Receptions, 74 Yards

Jerry Jeudy: 8 Targets, 3 Receptions, 53 Yards

Eric Saubert: 7 Targets, 5 Receptions, 36 Yards

KJ Hamler: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 10 Yards

Albert Okwuegbunam: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 5 Yards

Eric Tomlinson: 1 Target

Andrew Beck: 1 Target

Tyrie Cleveland: 1 Target

 

I actually feel sorry for this receiving group after Wilson put up another mediocre display in which he missed reads, failed to see open receivers and did no favors for his receivers with some of his ball placement. Courtland Sutton led the team in targets, catches and yards, with 51 of his 74 yards coming on that deep ball from Wilson that he wrestled away from KJ Hamler. The rest of his targets were short throws and Sutton had to battle for extra yards for most of the night. He was targeted twice on sideline throws near the red zone in the first half but he didn’t have a chance on either pass. He was also the target for the final play of the game. Sutton is the most talented receiver in the group and needs to become Wilson’s DK Metcalf in Denver.

 

Poor Jerry Jeudy! The speedster saw the bulk of his yardage in overtime, with this 34-yard grab off a blown coverage only his third catch of the night. There wasn’t much opportunity for the playmaker to run at the defense from out of the slot as tight ends were preferred on those short passes over the middle. Urgh, not a good sign for Jeudy.

 

Denver’s four tight ends were limited in both opportunities and targeted only in plays that had the chance to gain no more than 6-7 yards. It was grim. There is no fantasy tight end option in this group right now.

 

Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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