1. The Colts needed to help their cornerbacks out up front.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner gave a straightforward answer when asked if there was anything different the Colts' front seven could've done to help out a depleted secondary in Week 8.
"We gotta apply more pressure," Buckner said. "Even if it's max protection, we got guys that are still getting one-on-one opportunities so we have to win those one-on-one opportunities, especially when they're down in the secondary. We can't leave those guys out to dry."
Per Pro Football Focus, Saints quarterback Derek Carr was pressured on four of his 28 dropbacks on Sunday. Carr was pressured on 100 dropbacks in Weeks 1-7, the fourth-highest total in the NFL.
"Defensively we didn't get it done," Buckner said. "It's a team sport and we gotta play better complementary football. The offense is scoring points — to me, 27 points is enough points for us to come out with a (win). Crunch time moments, we gotta be on our details, be in our fits. Defensively we didn't get it done today."
Cornerback Tony Brown, though, took ownership for Saints wide receiver Rashid Shaheed's three explosive catches, including a 59-yard touchdown and a game-sealing 51-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
"As a competitor and as, I feel like I am, a leader on this team, I take full responsibility for the plays that occurred," Brown said. "Great game by the Saints, they had great play calls, Derek Carr, great throws. We gotta get better, I gotta get better as a player."
The point here – no one player or unit is at fault when a defense allows 38 points and 511 yards of offense.
"Defensively, we know we're better than that," Buckner said. "We think we're better than that. Three weeks in a row, I just think it's the little details are beating us. It's nothing special. It's things we prepare for and those moments we're just dropping the ball."
2. Why Jonathan Taylor only had one carry after halftime.
Taylor had 94 yards on 11 carries at halftime but finished Sunday's game with 95 yards on 12 rushing attempts. While head coach Shane Steichen said Monday he could've given Taylor another opportunity to run the ball as the second half went on, there ultimately weren't many opportunities.
A look at how things broke down:
- Taylor rushed for one yard on the Colts' first possession in the third quarter. Wide receiver Josh Downs was flagged for a false start on second and nine, backing the Colts up into two obvious passing situations on second-and-14 and then third-and-14.
- The Colts went to Zack Moss on their next possession, and he carried five times for 53 yards on it. After Moss ripped off a 41-yard run on third-and-1, the Colts went hurry-up to keep the Saints' defensive personnel on the field, so Moss didn't get subbed off. Minshew threw an interception two plays later.
- After the Saints turned that interception into a touchdown, the Colts took over down by eight points. On first-and-10, the Saints loaded the box by dropping a safety down pre-snap, and the Colts called for a six-man protection play-action shot play. Minshew, though, wasn't able to get a deep ball off for Michael Pittman Jr. before defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon forced an incompletion. The Colts elected to pass on second-and-10 and third-and-six.
- By the time the Colts got the ball back, they were down 15, and Steichen had Minshew throw the ball to try to come back, finishing with a 33-yard touchdown to tight end Drew Ogletree.
- The Colts took over possession with 5:22 left in the game down by eight, but a false start on guard Will Fries quickly backed up the offense into a first-and-15. Minshew wound up converting on third-and-18 with a 19-yard strike to wide receiver Alec Pierce, then threw incomplete on the next three plays with just over four minutes left, leading to a punt.
Quibble all you want with Steichen's playcalling but it's not like there were all that many chances for Taylor to get the ball in the second half. Maybe there were one or two here or there, like Steichen said, but probably not more than that.
And Taylor after the game wasn't miffed with his lack of usage in the second half.
"I wasn't shocked but there also wasn't a discussion – we put points on the board so whatever Shane calls, I'm with it," Taylor said. "You guys can see, we're able to score points."
3. Michael Pittman Jr. took ownership of Gardner Minshew II's interception.
The Colts fell to 0-5 on the season when committing a turnover despite having just one against the Saints – an ill-fated deep ball by Minshew intended for Pittman in the third quarter.
Pittman ran an out-and-up double move on cornerback Paulson Adebo with the ball on the Saints' 33-yard line. He looked to have leverage on Adebo's inside shoulder when he cut upfield and went to bend his route toward the numbers instead of the sideline. Minshew threw toward the sideline, and Adebo was able to come down with an uncontested interception.
"I felt space and bent it in but I'm not supposed to do that," Pittman said. "I'm supposed to run my route and he gave me a chance and I just wasn't there for him. I just gotta do a better job protecting him, protecting the team. So that one was on me."
Adebo returned the interception 27 yards, and Alvin Kamara finished off a seven-play scoring drive with a 16-yard rushing touchdown to put the Saints up, 28-20. That pick proved to be a major swing in the game, as instead of getting points off a possession inside the Saints' 40-yard line, the Colts came away with nothing – and New Orleans turned the interception into seven points.
"Turnovers are really what kills us," Pittman said. "Defense got one and I gave up one. Just gotta clean that up and who knows — butterfly effect, maybe the outcome's different off of that."
4. Drew Ogletree's touchdown was another marker in an encouraging season.
Ogletree's 2023 season might be flying under the radar nationally – he has eight catches in eight games – but he's doing some important things and growing his role in the Colts' offense.
Ogletree topped Colts tight ends with 38 snaps against the Saints, and in addition to his 33-yard touchdown he was on the field for two of the Colts' four explosive running plays. Tight end run blocking isn't always pretty but Ogletree has shown a physical willingness to battle long enough to keep the guy across from him from making a play.
The Colts have always believed in Ogletree's pass catching upside, even after a torn ACL sidelined him for his rookie season. But this is maybe more encouraging, and will allow the Colts to keep getting Ogletree on the field – opening up more opportunities for him to catch the ball:
|Top run blocking TEs, minimum 200 snaps|
|Player||Team||PFF run block grade|
5. The Gardner Minshew-to-Josh-Downs connection stayed strong.
Over the six games in which Minshew has either started or played a majority of offensive snaps, Downs is averaging:
- 7.7 targets
- 5.8 receptions
- 68.2 yards
- 0.3 touchdowns
If those averages hold for the rest of the season, it'd put Downs on pace for 125 targets, 92 receptions, 1,087 yards and five touchdowns. Only one receiver in Colts history has gone over 1,000 yards as a rookie (Bill Brooks in 1986). Only four rookie Colts receivers have gone over 800 yards (Brooks, T.Y. Hilton, Marvin Harrison and Andre Rison).
Downs and Anthony Richardson developed a good rapport before, during and after training camp this year, starting with the two rookies rooming together in the spring. That connection should be strong in 2024 – but for now, Minshew continues to funnel the ball to Downs. And that's because Downs keeps getting open.
View the best photos from the Colts matchup versus the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium.