INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indianapolis Colts now officially eliminated from postseason contention, might the team consider any drastic changes over its last two games of the season?
The short answer to that question, head coach Frank Reich said Tuesday, is no. And that extends to the quarterback position, where Jacoby Brissett will get the opportunity to finish out the year as the team's starter both on Sunday at home against the Carolina Panthers, and then in the team's Week 17 finale on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Jacoby's our quarterback," Reich said Tuesday in his weekly conference call with local reporters. "We're still fighting to get better, and not only to win these games, but to get better for next year."
In 13 starts this season, Brissett has completed 246-of-395 passes (62.3 percent) for 2,661 yards with 18 touchdowns to six interceptions, good enough for a passer rating of 90.9. He's had a couple top-notch performances — he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the team's Week 7 home win over the Houston Texans — and then he's battled through some inconsistencies, as well, especially since suffering a sprained MCL in the Colts' Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In Monday night's 34-7 road loss to the New Orleans Saints, Brissett and the Colts' offense struggled to get in any sort of a rhythm; he ended up completing 18-of-34 pass attempts (52.3 percent) for 165 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Reich reiterated that Brissett's knee, to his knowledge, has been 100 percent over the past few weeks, and said several factors go into a quarterback's successes and rough stretches over the course of a game and a season, which was a major topic of conversation between the head coach and quarterback during a lengthy meeting on Tuesday.
These last two games, meanwhile, will provide Brissett and the Colts a chance to start building some positive momentum heading into the offseason. Reich said there might be some subtle changes here or there against the Panthers and Jaguars as the coaching staff and the quarterback work to find a more consistent level of success.
"We got two games — that's really an opportunity for him to work to get better," Reich continued. "And really, for, like, Nick (Sirianni) and I and the rest of the offensive staff, (it's), 'Hey, we got two games. Should we try a couple things? Might we try a couple things?' Especially with one or two things. Let us learn. Maybe there's something with Jacoby that we haven't been doing that is good for him.
"So we'll look at alternative schemes, to introduce one or two new thoughts in the next two weeks," Reich said. "Not major things. You're probably not going to notice it by the eye, but it could be a philosophical thing, little small subtle things that we do in the way we call our plays, the way we check to plays, check in and out of plays. We need to continue to get better, and he's our quarterback, so we need him in there to work through those things."
Reich also announced Tuesday that starting defensive tackle/end Denico Autry started feeling concussion-like symptoms after Monday's game against the Saints, and has been placed in the league's concussion protocol.
Autry this season has played in all 14 games and has 32 total tackles (four for a loss) with 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble and four passes defensed.
Reich did not have immediate injury updates for safety Rolan Milligan (foot) and Quincy Wilson (shoulder) or linebacker Anthony Walker (hamstring), all of whom left Monday night's game and did not return.
All systems go
Colts top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was able to return to game action Monday night after missing two straight games, and five of his last six, with a nagging calf injury suffered in practice Oct. 30.
Reich had said that Hilton would only be deemed ready to go if he was at 100 percent; he ended up playing 52 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps against the Saints and finishing with four receptions for 25 yards on the night. Reich said the plan was to get Hilton involved early — he had nine targets in all — but that just didn't end up working out.
But now that the Colts are officially eliminated from postseason contention, might the team consider shutting Hilton down for the final two games of the season?
Not a chance, Reich told Colts.com's Matt Taylor tonight.
"No, we get paid to play. We get paid to play," Reich said. "So we'll play it out, and we're trying to win every game."