INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (1-1) go into their first non-conference matchup and host their first home game this Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) come to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Both teams are coming off their first victory of the season last week, so they look to continue building momentum early on in the season. Here's the rundown on the Colts' Week 3 opponent from the NFC South.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan bounced back from a shaky Week 1 to lead the Falcons to victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, 24-20. Ryan went 27-of-43 passing (62.8 percent) for 320 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He was also sacked once.
His longtime playmaker, wide receiver Julio Jones, had a big day, catching 5-of-10 targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns, including an entertaining 54-yarder. Second-year receiver Calvin Ridley also continued the hot start to his season, catching 8-of-10 targets for 105 yards and a score. The trio of running back Devonta Freeman, tight end Austin Hooper and receiver Mohamed Sanu combined to catch 11-of-17 targets for 92 yards.
Freeman and fellow running back Ito Smith had a sluggish day running the ball, carrying it a combined 15 times for 56 yards (3.7 avg), much of which was gained on a 28-yard run by Smith.
On the flip side, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went 25-of-43 passing (58.1 percent) for 231 yards (5.4 avg), one touchdown, two interceptions (both by cornerback Desmond Trufant) and was sacked three times (Vic Beasley Jr., Adrian Clayborn and Grady Jarrett). Wentz was briefly knocked out of the game near the end of the first half and was replaced by Josh McCown, who went 3-of-5 passing for 24 yards (4.8 avg).
Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (8 receptions on 11 targets, 107 yards, one touchdown) and tight end Zach Ertz (8 receptions on 16 targets, 72 yards) led the way for Wentz and McCown.
Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined to carry the ball 18 times for 46 yards (2.6 avg).
Falcons' Passing Game
Ryan has one of the most loaded groups of pass-catchers in the league, as Jones is arguably the most reputable receiver in the league, Ridley is one of the top young wideouts, and Sanu is one of the more reliable possession receivers in the league. Hooper has developed nicely into one of the better tight ends in a shallow position group around the league, and both Freeman and Smith are able to tote the rock and catch it out of the backfield.
The Falcons appear to have a similar cavalry as the Colts' Week 1 opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, when it comes to an upper-echelon quarterback, a diverse group of pass catchers and a deep backfield of runners. It will be a big test for the Colts' front seven to answer the challenge when it comes to fundamentals and overall tackling. A couple of areas on which the Colts could capitalize is in the pass rush and taking advantage of errant throws, leading to interceptions. The Falcons have given up five sacks so far while the Colts are tied for second in the league with eight sacks. The Falcons are also near the bottom of the league in turnovers and specifically interceptions. It's a good time to have Malik Hooker in your corner.
Falcons' Run Game
The Falcons have really struggled to get the run game going, but in fairness they have faced two really tough defenses in the Minnesota Vikings and Eagles so far. The Colts haven't yet put the plug in the run game against the Chargers and Tennessee Titans, as they currently rank 20th (124.0 yards allowed per game) and have surrendered more than 120 yards in each contest. This matchup appears to be one that's got to give, but it's a great opportunity for the Colts, at home, to put the clamps down on an opponent's run game.
Colts' Passing Game
The Colts also have a deep passing repertoire, but in a different way. While the Falcons' offense is known for occasionally putting up gaudy statistics — especially in the passing game — the Colts have a very balanced attack with several players capable of making plays. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett has formed a nice rapport with receiver T.Y. Hilton (three touchdown connections in two games), but he's also got tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron by his side as well as some dependable chain-movers in slot receiver Chester Rogers and running back Nyheim Hines. The young guns, Deon Cain and Parris Campbell, are still working on hitting their stride as well, although Campbell did score his first-career touchdown last week. The Colts' pass protection hasn't quite come together yet like it did last year, as they've surrendered five sacks in two games, but that is to be expected as they work in a new quarterback. Another thing the Colts have in their corner is Brissett's care for the football, as he rarely throws an interception. In fact, he threw a pick last week for the first time in 167 pass attempts.
The Falcons have a nice pass defense to counter the Colts, led by Beasley Jr., Jarrett and Takk McKinley on the line, Deion Jones at linebacker, and Trufant and Keanu Neal in the secondary. Atlanta so far is tops in the league in receiving yards allowed per game, third in big pass plays allowed and fourth in passing yards per attempt, so things are going well there so far.
Colts' Run Game
What the Falcons' defense might really struggle with against the Colts is the run game. They rank near the bottom of the league in big run plays allowed while the Colts are tied for second in big run plays (20-plus yards) and tied for first in 40-plus-yard runs. Colts running back Marlon Mack is currently third in the NFL in rushing (225 yards) and ran for a career-high 174 yards in Week 1. Jordan Wilkins got into the action last week, running for a career-high 82 yards including a 55-yard run in the fourth quarter.
FALCONS' 2019 KEY STATS
- Tied-1st in fourth-down percentage (100%)
- Tied-4th pass attempts (44.5 avg)
- 9th in passing (291.0 YPG)
- 23rd in passer rating (82.8)
- 24th in time of possession (28:40)
- 25th in third-down percentage (28%)
- Tied-27th in rush attempts (17.0 avg)
- 28th in rushing (65.0 YPG)
- 30th in turnover differential (-3)
- 31st in interceptions (5)
- 1st in pass defense (167.0 YPG)
- 3rd in 20-plus-yard pass plays allowed (3)
- 3rd in overall defense (277.5 YPG)
- Tied-4th in passing yards per attempt (6.1)
- Tied-6th in pass attempts allowed (29.0 avg)
- 8th in rushing yards per carry (3.7 avg)
- 28th in third-down percentage (50%)
- Tied-29th in 20-plus-yard run plays allowed (3)