INDIANAPOLIS – Each week, readers of Colts.com can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Wednesday or Saturday mailbag.
Here is the collection of Wednesday questions:Kyle M. (Midland, TX)
While it was nice to finally see the Colts be competitive with New England, it is still a bit frustrating that we haven't overcome this hurdle yet. We could argue all day about the outcome were it not for the failed onside kick and fake punt, but at the end of the day all that matters is what the scoreboard reads.
My question is, why do the Colts not commit more to the running game? Frank Gore finished the day averaging 6 yards per carry, and yet he only had 5 second half carries against New England. The offensive line has really played well since switching players around after week 2 and does a good job opening lanes for Gore. Not to take anything away from Luck and the passing game, but it seems that a more committed run game could've helped us early in the second half when we had a few three and out drives. Any thoughts?
Bowen: This was a question that Chuck Pagano addressed after the game on Sunday. Gore finished Sunday with 13 carries for 78 yards (like you said, 6.0 yards per carry). Gore's last carry on Sunday came at the 2:32 mark of the third quarter, right before the fake punt led to the Colts trailing by 13 points. Pagano said on Monday that the Colts should have leaned on the run a little more: "We could have stayed maybe with the run game a little bit longer," Pagano said on Monday. "But there was a point where I told Pep (Hamilton), 'We've got to go up-tempo and we got to get this thing down the field in a hurry.' Probably could have ran it a few times there, but that's on me." Gore is averaging right around 15 carries a game this season which is a little less than the numbers he averaged in his days with San Francisco. If the Colts stay ahead of schedule, I could see him right around 16-18 carries per game going forward.
Stan C. (Minneapolis, MN)
Kevin, I imagine a whole lot of your questions this week will revolve around that fake punt play from the game Sunday night. Rather than just moan about it, though, I just want to try and understand where it all went wrong.
The Patriots had several players in the vicinity of Whalen and Anderson, to the point that it was clear they wouldn't get the 3 yards needed to convert.
Upon seeing that, whose responsibility is it to recognize that and check out to a different formation (proper punt or otherwise)? Is it the responsibility of one of the players on the field, is it the special teams coordinator, or does that fall upon Pagano himself?
Bowen: This week, the fake punt topic was far and away the subject winner for most mailbag questions. On Tuesday, Pat McAfee explained what went wrong with the fake punt so make sure and read that to get a better understanding of what happened. Basically, the injury to Clayton Geathers forced Griff Whalen on the field and from there miscommunication is what ultimately led to the ball being snapped.
Patrick B. (Evansville, IN)
Hi Kevin, I just wanted to start off saying I'm a huge colts fan and I really enjoy reading these articles online. I would also like to say that even though no one else seems to want to point it out; it was nice to see that we could compete with a team like the patriots on Sunday night football! I didn't really think it was a good idea for an onside kick in the early stages of the game but I do agree with the coaches that it looked like a clear recovery by our special teams. when will we see more of Robert Mathis in games? I know the staff wants to keep him fresh but it seems like when facing an offense like New England using your best pass rusher is a no brainier. The times that he did appear on the field looked as though he spent the most time covering zones/people.
Bowen: Patrick, Chuck Pagano touched on his subject last week. The Colts are going to stick to the 25-30 snap count total for Mathis. At the age of 34 and coming off a serious injury like an Achilles, Mathis' workload appears to be staying right around the "pass rushing role" in 2015. The Colts do need to create a more consistent pass rush, but I would not expect Mathis to all of a sudden log 40-50 snaps a game. The Colts want him to be able to still be productive in the latter weeks of the season so that seems to be the main reason to keep him on a pitch count.
Isak H. (Mexico City)
Omitting any questions about whether Tom McMahon works for the Patriots, I would like to know why Dwight Lowery is starting at FS. Yesterday, he looked like a traffic cone, while Colt Anderson seemed very good playing Safety. I get Adams and Geathers went down, but seriously, why can't Anderson start?
Bowen: Personally, I think Dwight Lowery has played very solid this season. Lowery was the main reason why the Colts pulled off that comeback against the Titans back in Week Three. He's been a durable/reliable presence next to Mike Adams.
Rob E. (Tampa, FL)
Now that were known as the laughing stock of the NFL with that fake punt, will colts look for a new special teams coach? Our kick off coverage has been abysmal all season and punt coverage doesn't look much better.
Also will the colts look at putting Luck on the 6 game IR to heal his shoulder and start hassleback? I actually think hassleback has looked better than luck this season.
Bowen: Rob, I'm not sure what stats you are looking at. The Colts rank No. 1 in the NFL in both punt return yardage allowed and kick return yardage allowed. Their coverage units have been spectacular in 2015 and Pat McAfee leads the way. And then as far as Luck, he isn't going on injured reserve. He returned to the lineup on Sunday and played his best game of 2015. The Colts already used their "designated to return" injured reserve tag this year on rookie cornerback D'Joun Smith (each team gets one of those a season). Smith won't be eligible to return until the Colts play Atlanta in Week 11.
Tom P. (Elwood, IN)
I have nothing against Tipton, but now that we brought Bradshaw back, which is a good receiving and blocking back, why are we using Tipton on 3rd down?
Bowen: On Sunday night, we saw Ahmad Bradshaw play 19 snaps and Zurlon Tipton get 16 snaps of action behind Frank Gore. I'm not too surprised at those numbers when you consider Bradshaw had just two days of practice. Teams typically employ their third-down packages on Wednesday's of practice week and Bradshaw didn't hit the field with the Colts until Thursday. I would guess that's why he didn't see more/most of the third-down action against New England.
Wayne W. (Boston)
Longtime fan here. I've been watching every game via Sunday Ticket for over 15 years now (pretty much since Sunday Ticket became a thing). I'm an Indiana native who left to join the Navy and have since settled in the Boston area (which is really no fun for a Colts fan, heh).
It was a valiant effort last night, though I think we sort of fell apart in the second half. I will not comment on the strange trick play, though I do believe that the call on the on-side kick was a game changer. My question is this. For as long as I've been watching this team, I've seen them give up 3rd and 10 almost every time they've faced that situation. Is there any recorded stats on which teams have been least effective against 3rd and 10 yards? I would guess we are somewhere near the top.
Bowen: So this took a little research, but here is the information on the Colts third-down defense since 2012. In that time span, when faced with third-and-11 or longer, the Colts have allowed 23 first downs in 104 situations. The 23 first downs is tied for 22nd in the NFL, for the most allowed in that time frame. It's an unusual stat considering the Colts are sixth in the NFL in allowing just 38.2 percent of all third-downs since 2012.
Kinder B. (Logansport, IN)
What improvement has been made to the O line? Luck can't keep getting hit like he has been.
Bowen: Kinder, I think the offensive line has played much, much better in the recent weeks. Obviously, the run game has taken off and Frank Gore is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, which is a mark even he hasn't reached in recent years. The line gave up three sacks on Sunday night in 50 pass attempts. That percentage was actually much lower than what teams had been allowing against the Patriots this season. This five is the group the Colts are going to win/lose with in 2015. The protection and the open lanes for Gore have certainly improved. If the unit can clean up the penalties, we should see this offense begin to reach its lofty potential.
Paul M. (Pittson, PA)
Hey Kevin,how do you see the D-line holding up after the 2 rookies hit the rookie wall
Bowen: I think it's unfair to Henry Anderson or David Parry to just assume they will hit the rookie wall. Some rookies play even better in the second half of a season (Donte Moncrief and Jonathan Newsome from last year). Now, the reps for Anderson and Parry should continue to be very high, so we will see if they can handle the physical toll. I see no reason why those two won't be able to "survive" through the year and continue to play at a high level.
Charles S. (Miami)
What happen to Vick Ballard
Bowen: Charles,* *the team waived/injured Ballard following the season opener in Buffalo. The Colts needed Ballard's roster spot as he wasn't able to practice/play due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the preseason finale. The Colts and Ballard agreed on an injury settlement a week later, thus releasing him from the team's control. No team has picked up Ballard since and he remains a free agent.
Guramrit V. (San Jose, CA)
Will phillip dorsett ever be the punt returner again this season?
Bowen: For now, I don't see Dorsett being put back there in a regular role, unless something happens to Griff Whalen. The Colts did put Dorsett on kick return at the end of the first half on Sunday to try and get a quick chunk. I think that's where you will see Dorsett used on special teams this season. If the Colts desperately need a big return, then Dorsett is your guy back there.
Dashawn J. (Fort Stewart, GA)
Hi Kevin I'll start out by saying i love my colts and am so happy to finally be able to watch this season because last season I was deployed....my question is that even though offensive line and pass rusher is a big need for us do you think we should try to draft a running back higher next year to replace frank gore seeing as how Father Time is undefeated?
Bowen: To be honest, I haven't really thought too much about draft needs for next year. I am very interested to see how many more years Frank Gore can keep this play up. It's remarkable what he's still doing at the age of 32. Gore looks like a guy who could keep running like this for several more years. However, we know at that position, the end is typically quicker than at other spots (although Gore isn't your normal back). I do see running back being a need really in every draft with the turnover that happens there every year. If Gore returns in 2016 and the Colts feel comfortable with what they have behind him, then I don't see running back being a major, major need next offseason.