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Five Things Learned

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5 Things Learned, Colts vs. Eagles, Week 11

The Colts lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-16, in Week 11 to fall to 4-6-1 on the 2022 season. Here are five things we learned on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium:

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1. Negative plays and penalties proved too much for the Colts' offense to overcome.

The Colts' offense lost yardage on eight plays and was flagged for six penalties on Sunday, and they struggled to overcome those throughout Sunday afternoon.

Of those eight negative plays, five came on first and 10; one came on third and goal from the five-yard line and one came on third and nine on the Colts' last-ditch drive. The Colts had six drives on which they had a negative play; two ended in punts, three ended in field goal attempts and one ended in a game-sealing turnover on downs.

And those six penalties resulted in a total loss of 45 yards; the Colts scored just six total points on six drives on which they committed a penalty.

"Just too many mistakes," interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. "I mean, too many penalties, too many negative plays."

The Colts' 81 negative plays are the second-most in the NFL this season; only the Los Angeles Rams are averaging more yards lost per negative play than the Colts (-4.9 yards), per Pro Football Focus. Of those 81 plays, 40 have come inside their opponents' 40-yard line (most in NFL) and 17 have come in the red zone (tied for the most in the NFL).

"It's not one thing – I think throughout the course of the year, we've all taken our turns," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We just have to execute. It's boring, but we have to execute better than we have. And it's like, the devil's in the details. It's over and over and over and over. When the margin of error is small, when you're playing against really good football teams, the margin of error is small. And we've shown, you can go toe to toe with them, but you can't make the mistakes that we made today if you expect to win."

2. The Colts scored on their opening drive but struggled on offense after that.

The Colts opened the game with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a one-yard Jonathan Taylor touchdown – the first touchdown the Colts scored on their first drive of a game since Week 16 of the 2021 season. Ryan completed a 24-yard strike to Michael Pittman Jr. to convert on third down; on the next play, Taylor popped a 28-yard run to help spark the drive.

"To be able to punch it in and start the game the way you want to start, I thought that was great," Ryan said. "The energy was great. Honestly, the effort and the energy were there the entire day. And I'm proud of the guys for that, but we certainly have to execute better than we did."

But after averaging 7.5 yards per play on that opening drive, the Colts managed just 3.9 yards per play the rest of the game. And the Colts managed four field goal tries – three of which kicker Chase McLaughlin made – the rest of the game.

"Obviously, the first drive was awesome. Came out and just weren't able to kind of maintain that rhythm," Ryan said. "But it was just little things that kind of got us off schedule. I think at times, throughout the year, we haven't played as well as we would have liked. But we knew going into the game this was one of the better defenses we were going to face. And I thought, you know, physically we stepped up to that challenge. But you can't – you know, you can't continue to put yourselves in difficult situations to overcome, particularly when we had some short field opportunities. When you have those short field opportunities, I mean, you've got to come away with points, you've got to come away with touchdowns. Across the board, we have to make plays."

3. Jeff Saturday offered perspective Bernhard Raimann and Will Fries.

Rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann and second-year right guard Will Fries had up-and-down afternoons. Per Pro Football Focus, Raimann was charged with two sacks and four pressures, while Fries was tagged for a sack and four pressures. Raimann, too, was penalized twice while Fries was flagged three times.

"I just try to focus on the team," Raimann said, adding that he feels like he needs to execute better. "Even if I mess up, and obviously that hurts your pride, but you gotta set that aside because the next snap, it's for the team, it's not for yourself anymore. So you just gotta let it all out there and leave that behind and get back to it during film study tomorrow, fix up all the mistakes and be better for next week."

But Raimann also did well to clear out Eagles defensive tackle Milton Williams to open a hole for Taylor on his 28-yard run in the first quarter. And Fries anchored well against veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to help keep Ryan clean on a 31-yard completion to Parris Campbell in the fourth quarter.

Saturday provided some perspective on the development process that young offensive linemen like Raimann and Fries are going through – and he said he's planning on those two players staying in their roles as starters going forward.

"I told Bernie early, the holding call down the field, when a guy's spinning away from a play you've got to let go and push and transition," Saturday said. "And, again, that's just teaching. And we just got to continue to teach him. Like you said, you kind of grunt and bear it with some of that, just because of the age of the players and how little they've actually played.

"Again, those are just details we got to continue to fine tune and train, teach things for Fries. And, you know, staying tight in there, thinking about they're going to do – they're going to shift late, they're going to do things to try to get you to jump or move. And you just got to settle in.

"But a lot going on. I thought the guys battled and fought. I thought effort was great in all three phases. But, again, I talked about it on day one. I told the guys in the locker room – execution is what defines this game. And that means you have to – in the moments that matter, you've got to execute and we just didn't do enough of it."

4. Zaire Franklin broke down his pass interference penalty.

On a third-and-2 on the Eagles' 33-yard line late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jalen Hurts fired a deep ball on a wheel route to running back Miles Sanders. Linebacker Zaire Franklin sprinted back in coverage and hit Sanders before the ball got there, leading to a 39-yard pass interference penalty that put Philadelphia at the Colts' 28-yard line.

Franklin explained his thought process on the play, on which his assignment was to pick up Sanders:

"(Hurts) was looking for (Devonta) Smith on the hitch route and I jumped it and he didn't see it," Franklin said. "He scrambled out right, I saw the back flare, I'm gonna turn up so then I start chasing him. I saw his eyes getting big, so I knew the ball was coming.

"I was just thinking go make a play on the ball. As it was coming — best-case scenario, I break it up, worst-case, if it was a flag, it's not a touchdown and at least we'll able to line up and play. I loved us in the red zone.

"Looking back on it now I wish I would've turned back and looked for the ball, but in the moment, high RPMs when you're caught out of position. Just running and trying to make sure I didn't give up a touchdown.

"... Worst-case scenario I liked us being able to line up and play against them anywhere, and knowing that we had to defend a touchdown, we had already stopped them before, I felt good about it."

Franklin's game, though, was hardly defined by that one pass interference penalty. He led the Colts with 12 tackles, split a sack and forced a fumble – and Franklin's 108 tackles this season lead the NFL.

View the game action unfold as the Colts take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium during Week 11.

5. DeForest Buckner and others broke down Jalen Hurts' game-winning touchdown.

On third and goal from the seven-yard line with just under a minute and a half left, Hurts lined up in shotgun with running back Boston Scott to his right. The play the Eagles ran from there was a major tendency-breaker, as multiple Colts players explained after the game.

Usually, when the Eagles ran a quarterback draw with Hurts, they did out of empty (with nobody next to Hurts in the backfield). According to Pro Football Focus, nine of Hurts' 11 runs on draw plays came have been out of empty this year. So with Scott lined up in the backfield, the Eagles disguised any tell that they might be running a draw on the play.

"Alerting for the quarterback draw was really an empty (thing)," defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said. "And then they had a running back right there. So, it was a good play call by the offensive coordinator (Shane Steichen), but we still have to make those plays."

Franklin, who was defending tight end Jack Stoll on the play, said he was aware of Hurts throwing a jump pass on a fake quarterback draw against the Houston Texans in Week 9, so he didn't want to leave his assignment to pursue the quarterback. With Franklin defending Stoll to the near side, and center Jason Kelce pulling to block linebacker Bobby Okereke, a hole opened up in the middle of the field and Hurts darted into the end zone, untouched, for the game-winning touchdown.

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, though, felt like he could've done more on the play. On the play, he was matched up one-on-one against guard Landon Dickerson and tried to hit a swim move into the B-gap, to Dickerson's outside shoulder.

"They were setting a certain way on a draw play all day," Buckner said. "Finally I got a one-on-one pass (rush). Guy drops back a little bit, I take it up the B (gap). As soon as I hit the move – everybody and their mama knew it was a draw except for me.

"That moment, I should've — looking back on it — I should've been stab rushing, maybe I could've fallen back inside and made a play and then we would've had a chance on fourth down. That's the way I look at the play and I gotta be better."

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