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Colts Mailbag: End Of Eagles Game, Run Play Schemes And More

The Colts Mailbag returns for Week 12 with plenty of questions on how the Colts can get their run game going again and what happened at the end of their Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

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The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Dave Weir, Middletown, Ind.: Obviously the way the game ended against the Eagles was disappointing. Granted, we missed a valuable field goal. But was a 50+ yarder, so not that big big of a disappointment that it was missed. There were at least 2 missed penalties against Philly that could have swayed the outcome. One being a late hit out of bounds and the other was a face mask on our QB (that in the replays, the ref was looking right at it). I know we are supposed to play well enough to not leave it in the hands of the referees.

Finally the question...... Our defense played well all game. So what happened with the walk-in touchdown at the end of the game? Hurts had been pretty much running at will. So no reason the QB shouldn't have been picked up on all plays at the end of the game. But it looked like the parting of the Red Sea!!!

JJ Stankevitz: Credit the Eagles with an extremely well-schemed and well-executed play to get Hurts in the end zone there. To re-rack it: The Eagles had third-and-goal from the seven-yard line with just under a minute and a half left, and the Colts led, 16-10.

Hurts lined up out of the shotgun with running back Boston Scott to his right. The Colts' defense was on alert for Hurts to run a quarterback draw if he was lined up in empty. But they also knew Hurts, six days earlier, faked a draw against the Washington Commanders and threw a jump pass touchdown. So even if Hurts started to run a draw, linebacker Zaire Franklin said he didn't want to fall off the player he was covering (tight end Jack Stoll) knowing the Eagles quarterback could still drop a pass into the end zone before he crossed the line of scrimmage.

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner took responsibility for how he played it – he tried to hit his signature swim pass rushing move into the B-gap, and defensive tackle Grover Stewart wound up in the B-gap, too. That opened up plenty of green grass for Hurts right up the middle.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Tuesday also took responsibility for the breakdown.

"It was really a situation where we had a check on with the line movement," Bradley said. "We put it in during the game once they starting getting more and more with the quarterback draws. We just didn't get it communicated. I think Grove tried to overplay it because he felt like it could be a possibility. We just didn't do a good job fitting it up based on the call that I made.

"You always look back at it and everybody goes back and looks at it and says, 'What would you have done differently?' But we'd like to have that one back. I think we were basing on third-and-eight in that situation and everything that we've had, it wasn't a quarterback draw. They spread you out and they try to isolate you, work pick routes and things like that. That one was just unfortunate. It looked really bad when a guy walks in clean like that. But put that one on me as a play-caller."

Still, you're right – the Colts' defense did a good job for the most part against Philadelphia's offense. The Eagles' running backs – Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell – carried 17 times for 55 yards (3.1 yards/carry), and the Colts' secondary kept a lid on Philadelphia's downfield passing attack, too. And that performance came with a handful of players – Kenny Moore II, Isaiah Rodgers and Franklin – missing practice(s) last week with an illness.

"To hold Philly to 17 points the way that they did, I mean that to me, is a winning performance by those guys," interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. "They played lights out. Did a really good job, had a great plan, they executed and to top it all off, we had three of the guys who were sick throughout the whole week who basically couldn't practice. Not only did they overcome the illness, but the way they played man, I told Gus I thought they had a heck of a performance, they gave us plenty of opportunities to win.

"They're like any defense – when you have the lead, they want to close the game out and you get that but when I look at it in totality, we had plenty of opportunities to get it done whether it was offense or special teams and we didn't quite get it done. That's the facts of the game and we have to play better, we've got to execute more if we want to beat teams like Philly."

Lyn Whitesell, Indianapolis: Why is almost every running play up the middle?

JJ Stankevitz: The Colts' bread-and-butter of their run game is inside zone, and that's not a bad thing. According to Pro Football Focus, Jonathan Taylor has carried 62 times for 332 yards (5.4 yards/carry) on inside zone plays this season; he has 151 carries for 693 yards (4.6 yards/carry) in total this season.

Scott Beaver, Bakersfield, Calif.: Every first down the Colts run the ball. I've seen 1 or 2 play action passes a game. Don't you think a little more play action would actually help the run game?

JJ Stankevitz: Interestingly, the Colts are 24th in the NFL in run rate on first down (45.8 percent). They're 27th in play action percentage on first down (31.7 percent), but are also averaging 6.9 yards per play action pass on first down, which is 26th in the NFL. It's not a bad thought, Scott, but improvements on offense really do just come down to better execution.

"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."

View the top photos from the Colts versus the Philadelphia Eagles on November 20 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Stephen Reilly, Indianapolis, Ind.: I like Sam Ehlinger's progression from last year to this year. I was happy to see him get the starting nod a few weeks back. I thought he played well against the Commanders in a game I thought they should have won. But then the perfect storm happened against the Pats; Sam going up against one of the best defensive minds in history. Well he and the offense fell apart to say the least, but I almost expected it because Sam is still young. Then Matt Ryan started in a win against the Raiders. The talk I hear is criticism against Sam Ehlinger, saying he will probably be a back up, and I believe he could still be the guy. So question: will Sam Ehlinger get another shot and why do people say he will probably be a back up?

JJ Stankevitz: Good questions here, Stephen. The answer to the first part is probably a little unsatisfying, but we really don't know right now. What we do know is the Colts are still intrigued by Ehlinger and value his "it" factor. So I wouldn't rule anything out with Ehlinger going forward.

But the second part of your question is interesting – I think it's probably because quarterbacks picked in the sixth round usually wind up as career backups. Only seven of the 57 quarterbacks drafted in the sixth round over the last 30 years have started 25 or more games: Jim Miller, Derek Anderson, Tyrod Taylor, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck and, of course, Tom Brady.

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