INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich this week sat down with Colts.com’s Matt Taylor and discussed a multitude of topics as the Colts head into their bye week. What did he have to say about the big win over the Kansas City Chiefs, how the team will self-scout itself and much more?
Here’s that full conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety below:
How big of a win was that over the Chiefs, considering how seemingly everyone on the outside pegged the Colts as the underdog heading in?
Reich: “It was a real big win. I mean, going into the bye week, after dropping a game against the Raiders at home — which really hurt; I mean, that one stung — and so really important to get back on track. And to go into Arrowhead and do it in that environment, I think was a big statement and a big confidence booster to our team.”
How much did the game plan against the Chiefs end up panning out? As far as running the ball on offense and getting off the field on third down, it seemed like the Colts executed their end pretty well.
Reich: “Yeah, I mean, really give the coaches a lot of credit for the plans that were put together. ‘Flus (defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus) and his staff did a great job, Nick (Sirianni), Bubba (Ventrone), all the guys. Obviously the bulk of the credit goes to the players for the execution, but it did play out right. I mean, we’re not trying to play keep-away, but it’s no secret: we want to run the ball. And if you run it effectively, you’re going to end up playing a little keep-away. And we were able to do that, and that was a good statement for us.”
And going along with that, Marlon Mack has a career-high 29 carries against the Chiefs. He came into the game questionable — he was iffy to play, and then rolls out almost 30 carries. What can you say about his toughness and the mentality of, “If I can go, I’m all-in?”
Reich: “He is one tough dude, and that showed last night. And I think there’s something that when the mindset of the team is the way it is, everyone wants to be a part of it. I think that actually attributes and helps guys heal that much faster; I do think there’s something to that. And Marlon did a great job for us (Sunday) night, like you said, with all those carries, and he had some amazing runs.”
How impressed were you with the poise of the team in that environment at Arrowhead Stadium? That place was jumping from the start.
Reich: “Yeah, they did a great job. And a lot of that credit — it goes to the whole team, but Jacoby (Brissett), particularly, handled it well from the quarterback position. You know, all the noise and all the communication up front — you know, I don’t think we had any pre-snap penalties. I think our preparation during the week was great, where we turned the noise up really loud here at our practice facility and did it all week as loud as we could, so the guys prepared very well.”
How important is it to not overthink the run game on offense? You see some “offensive gurus” trying to out-scheme defenses with all kinds of gadgets and perceived innovations, but there’s something about simply sticking to the run game that just works.
Reich: “Well, you know, it comes from a few factors. One of the factors is experience in not doing it earlier in my career when you’re calling plays, and then looking back and saying, ‘Ah, I wish I would’ve stayed with the run more.’ And then, secondly, it’s belief in the players. It’s belief in the players just to keep calling it, and what’s best for the team. And, thirdly, it’s a belief in the plan. You know, like you said, it’s really a collaborative effort with the offensive staff. Obviously Nick (Sirianni) is the coordinator, but (Chris) Strausser as the offensive line coach plays an instrumental (role) — really, the whole staff is involved in it. And that’s one of the things that’s really cool; it’s a collaborative effort. You know, Nick heads that up as the offensive coordinator, and he does a phenomenal job.”
On the defensive side of the ball, what did you make of the play of the secondary against the Chiefs? There were plenty of guys banged up and it was all hands on deck, even during the game, but it seemed like no matter who was in there, they got the job done.
Reich: “It was incredible the way they played. With the injuries we had early on — with Kenny Moore going down and Pierre (Desir) going down, Shak Taylor going down for a little bit — I mean, it was crazy, and with Rolan Milligan getting hurt on Friday in practice. So I give those guys a lot of credit. Kenny came back into the game and toughed it out, Pierre came back in — all three of those guys (Moore II, Desir and Taylor) came back in and toughed it out. We really needed them.”
How happy were you for a guy like Justin Houston to have a big performance against his former team in the Chiefs? He had some big moments for you Sunday night.
Reich: “No doubt. He obviously had the sack and then the big fourth-down stop at the end. And what was really cool was you could just tell the whole team was really happy for him. They know the quality of player and person he is, and probably most of the guys — or at least a good portion of the guys and coaches — have had an experience of going back and playing against a team that you played for, so we all kind of know what that feels like. And for Justin to have been such a significant part of the success that they’ve had at their place, now to come back in here with the win that was pretty special for him, and we’re all happy for him.”
Do you have an update on Kemoko Turay with his injury Sunday night? And who do you think will step up in his absence?
Reich: “Yeah, he did fracture and dislocate his ankle. And so he’ll be put on IR and, and obviously be put down for the season. And that hurts. Kemoko was really playing well, and we were excited about the year he was having and (was) just getting better all the time. But he’ll recover — he’ll recover, and we’re excited about his long-term future. But this will be an opportunity for some of the younger guys to step up, like Ben Banogu. And the rest of the guys have already been playing quite a bit, so we’re pretty deep there and feel good about the guys that will step up.”
Do you have any other updates on injured players heading into the bye week, or is it really too early to tell?
Reich: “Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really too early to tell. You know, we don’t have a deadline this week, so we’re not interested in trying to come to any conclusions. So it’s just take full advantage of this week, get guys healthy — they’ll be in here getting rehab — and then as we get into next week we’ll get a more clear status on where they’re at.”
Do you think the Colts looked past the Raiders at all with the Chiefs game looming? If that’s the case, what do you do to avoid that later this season?
Reich: “I mean, I don’t know what happened (against) Oakland, besides the fact that Oakland’s a good football team. I don’t think we were looking past Oakland — I wouldn’t think that — but you never know. So, you’ve just gotta learn from it and move on. I think Oakland went out and obviously beat a really good Chicago team, so I knew all along watching Oakland on film that they were a good football team, a well-coached team, so those games are past and we’ll learn from them, and just glad to be back on track against Kansas City.”
What do you think is the biggest strength of the Colts through five games?
Reich: “You know, I think it’s the quality of the players that we have. Not just of how good of football players they are, but just the football character of them — that we are a team. And when we step out on the field, that’s our aim: we want to be the best team. And, for us, that starts with up front on both sides; obviously we have a very strong offensive line, and we want that to be a strength for us offensively, and defensively the same thing. No doubt about it that we have skill players all over the place as well, but we do think it starts up front.”
How much more man-to-man defense did the Colts play against the Chiefs than usual, and how did that help you win the game?
Reich: “We played a fair amount. You know, we played a fair amount; just trying to play some tight coverage and not give them too much space. And thought the guys did a very good job.”
What would you have done at cornerback had Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore II not been able to return against the Chiefs, and how do you handle that kind of challenge in-game?
Reich: “It was a wild scenario. And ‘Flus was sitting there talking to the defensive coaches on the phone about, OK, if these guys aren’t back, what are we gonna do? And what it does is it really limits what you can do. You know, you have all this gameplan, all these different packages that you have and pressures and coverages that you’re gonna run with certain players, and then all of a sudden you don’t have enough guys to be in those personnel groups. So, really, what would have happened is you end up going into some really base generic package and you just keep it really simple. Thankfully we didn’t have to do that.”
What are some things from a self-scouting standpoint that you want to focus on during the bye week?
Reich: “We’ll look at that hard in the couple days here in the bye week — you know, what our tendencies are … really, what the main thing is, like, for instance, for our offense, we’ll look at what are defenses looking at, when they study our offense, what tendencies do they have on us? And then how do we balance those out? Defense will do the same thing; special teams. And then you also look at your own self-scout as far as, where are we having our production? What run plays, what pass plays, and how do we make them better? How do we run them more often? How do we get in different personnel groups and different formations to run the same stuff at things we’re really good at?”
Got a statement from a fan: with the success converting fourth downs by the Colts this season, Coach, we should never punt again. Keep the foot on the gas pedal.
Reich: “Well, you know, that’s really funny. There is a college program, I think, that goes by that philosophy. I forget where it is, but this guy, I think, is pretty famous; I’ve heard of guys talk about it before, and they win a lot of games. But they literally never punt. I don’t know how well that would go over in the NFL.”
But your 7-for-7 conversion rate so far on fourth down is certainly indicative that you have the utmost confidence in your players in those situations.
Reich: “Yeah we do. And, like you said, every situation is different. And you don’t want to overuse that — you don’t want to overplay that — card. You’ve gotta pull that card at the right times. And when we’ve pulled it, our players have played it very well.”
Any time off for you during the bye week? Can you enjoy a day or two?
Reich: “Yeah, we do get some rest during the week. As a coaching staff, we work at the beginning of the week, and then have a long weekend. And I’m usually heading out of town, but actually this year I’m just staying in town.”