INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich recently sat down with Colts.com's Matt Taylor to give his final thoughts on Sunday's 2020 Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. What did Reich have to say about Mo Alie-Cox and Noah Togiai's opportunity at tight end, correcting the mistakes from Week 1, Jonathan Taylor's first start and more?
Here is that entire conversation, which you can also listen to above:
How ready is the team to bounce back and get back onto the field after the loss in Week 1?
Reich: "Yeah, the guys are ready to go. It's been a good week of practice. That's the great thing about the NFL: win or lose, that next game gets here pretty quick. And especially after a tough loss; as players and coaches, we look forward to that, for redemption, try to get back on the right track. So looking forward (to it), and especially playing in our home stadium and getting things turned around."
You're going to be without Jack Doyle in this game, which essentially leaves you with two starting tight ends in Mo Alie-Cox and Noah Togiai. When you factor in Trey Burton starting the season on IR, do you have to tweak anything on the offense to accommodate for all the changes at tight end?
Reich: "No — well, minor tweaks, but nothing substantial. And that's all normal stuff. So, yeah, those guys will be ready to go. Mo's ready. You know, Mo's been getting better every year since we've been here; we've got a lot of confidence in him and I trust Mo will have a good game. And Noah has done a great job of learning the system very quickly and giving us confidence to have him in there."
Also on offense, Jonathan Taylor makes his first NFL start in this game. What are some of the indications that he's ready to be the lead back in this offense?
Reich: "I mean, he's just shown it from Day 1, just the maturity and then obviously the talent that he has — it just shows up. But, you know, you've gotta be able to handle all the pass protection stuff, you've got to be able to understand (that) to play every down, you've got to know what you're doing, and he's done a very good job. He's studied very hard — Coach (Tom) Rathman has done a good job getting him ready — but Jonathan has really worked hard at it. So I'm excited for him, and looking forward to seeing how he responds and get him going a little bit."
Another guy that's going to be in the mix more now on offense at the running back spot is Jordan Wilkins. He's at more than five yards per carry in his career; he's obviously not new to this team, but what does he add to this offense when he's out there?
Reich: "Jordan will be a good chance of pace. I mean, he's a very talented runner; he's just a very talented runner. He's explosive, he's got good vision, he's got good patience, he can accelerate through the hole. We've got a lot of confidence in Jordan. I mean, he just never really has had an opportunity to get a ton of carries. He's had a couple injuries here and there that have kind of hampered that a little bit. But we're excited for Jordan (and) feel a lot of confidence in him, so between he and Nyheim (Hines) and Jonathan (Taylor), (we) feel like the backfield is in good hands."
Last week against the Jaguars the offense generated eight "chunk" plays (16 or more yards) through the air. Were you happy with that result?
Reich: "Yeah, it wasn't bad. You know, we want to always get more, but our yards per pass attempt was up there in an acceptable range. (I) feel like we did make a number of chunk plays, so we want to continue to build off that and feel like that could even get better; as we start running the ball more and more, hopefully we'll be able to get even more explosive chunk plays off the play action stuff."
After having a week to reflect on last week's game, where are there some areas that need to be shored up a little bit on defense heading into the second game?
Reich: "There were flashes last week of good defense in the second half; we did a good job of shutting down the run game. So we just need to be more consistent there. (I) like the way we played in the second half against the run; we need to come out in the first half and play like that. And then, obviously, we want to tighten up the coverage a little bit. That doesn't mean necessarily playing man coverage; it just means we need to play a little bit better pass defense than we played last week. And I'm confident that our guys are going to do that. Regardless, in all three phases, plus coaching and every aspect, you look every week and you're never happy with (the result); it's never good enough. That's almost the mindset you have. You always want to find ways to get better. So hopefully if we can each do that for this game, we'll be in good shape."
The Vikings put up 34 points in Week 1, and they had the ball for only 18 minutes. What stands out to you about the Minnesota offense that allows it to score points in a hurry?
Reich: "Well, they've got explosive players. Kirk Cousins is a big-play quarterback. He's proven that his whole life; if you make a mistake on him, he's going to make you pay. And they've got, obviously, Dalvin Cook, one of the better runners in the league. I mean, this guy's an explosive back. They have a great run game. Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison do a great job of scheming up that run game, so you've gotta be able to stop their run. And then Adam Thielen, his career speaks for itself; that guy is legit one of the best receivers in the league. So they are explosive on offense. We've gotta play great team defense and we've gotta hustle, we've got to tackle well, we've got to put pressure on the quarterback, and then come up with some turnovers. And if we get after them up front, I think we can do that."
You mentioned Kirk Cousins, who statistically is one of the better quarterbacks in the game, especially with the play action. As a former QB yourself, what stands out about his game?
Reich: "Just that — I mean, he does a good job with the play action. Well, what does that mean? Well, first of all, they've got a good running game that makes the play action good. But he does a good job with the fakes, he does a good job being able to read high to low very quickly; when you're in that play action game and you're trying to get the ball down the field with chunks, he does a good job that, boom, when it's there, you take it, when it's not there, you're checking it down. So that's really the keys, that's why he's been so effective and their offense has been so good. It's a good challenge for our defense, but I think our defense will have a very good game on Sunday."
The Vikings' defense gave up a lot of points, a lot of yards in Week 1, but they're still led by head coach Mike Zimmer, who's still a great defensive mind. What do you have to be prepared for in this game going up against that Vikings defense?
Reich: "Well, Coach Zimmer always has a good package of exotic blitzes, so you never know what you're gonna see there. But we prepared well in that area. I feel like with Ryan Kelly and Philip Rivers really directing the show in our protection world — how to get the right calls against all the different exotic stuff they do — we're in good hands there. But Coach Zimmer does a great job, and you know his defenses year in and year out are good almost in every way. So it'll be a good challenge for us. We want to be balanced on offense; we do want to throw the ball, but our running game needs to be better than it was last week."
Final thing — your keys to this game. What are some areas you think are going to be big against the Vikings?
Reich: "Well, for us, we want to get the running game going a little bit. Not that we're going to be a grind-it-out run game, but we want to have a more effective run game. We want to protect the football, and then we need to be good situationally; we need to be better (on) third down and (in) the red zone than what we showed last week. And then on defense, same thing: we've got to stop the run, because that's where it all starts for them. We've got to stop the run. And then also we need to get some turnovers. If we can stop their run and get them in passing situations, they're going to make some plays — like you said, they're talented, they have a talented quarterback, they've got good skill — so they'll make a few plays, but we've gotta make our share of plays and then we've got to have good red zone defense. They're going to move the ball some; they're too good on offense to not move the ball. But we've got to limit them to field goals when they get down there."