Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Nick Foles, Loss To Vikings, Fourth-And-One QB Sneak vs. Field Goal Attempt

The Colts Mailbag returns for Week 16 with questions on what Nick Foles will bring to the offense, how the team's responded to Saturday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings and what the future of the quarterback position may look like in Indianapolis. 

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The Colts Mailbag is back! Colts.com 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 Colts.com Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Shaun Williamson, Jacksonville, Fla.: Why go to Nick Foles now? I'd rather see Ehlinger play the last three to see what he can do. He wasn't given enough of a chance.

JJ Stankevitz: It's a pretty simple explanation: The Colts want to win these last three games, and believe Foles gives them the best chance to do so.

"Just didn't feel like we made enough plays offensively," interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. "It's no secret, we haven't converted in the red zone and ultimately, you've got to make plays in the NFL and we're not making nearly enough explosive plays and not making plays in the red zone. Again, I've said this before, this is not all on Matt (Ryan). This is us entirely on an offensive perspective but ultimately that leads into it. I feel like Nick (Foles) will give us a better chance to go win these last three games and that's why we're heading that way."

Dean Schultz, Boone, Iowa: After the loss to the Vikings can the team pick themselves up and forget this loss? What will Nick Foles bring that we have not had this season?

JJ Stankevitz: At this point in the season, players and coaches can lean heavily on their respective routines to move past Saturday's gutting loss. I think that goes for any team in Week 16, no matter if they're a Super Bowl contender or on the brink of playoff elimination.

As for what Foles could bring – one of the hopes, Saturday said, is that he can push the ball downfield more. The Colts enter Week 16 with the lowest average depth of target (6.7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) in the NFL, and their run game has been muted by opposing defenses being able to walk safeties down into the box without a consistent threat to be beat over the top.

"At the end of the day, we have to get teams out of playing their safeties as seven yards," Saturday said. "Everybody watches All-22. You can see it clear as day and at some point, you have to challenge people vertically."

Doug Bunch, Reynolds, Ind.: Can you believe it if you had a 33 pt lead at 1/2 time and blow it? There has been a minimum of 1300 times that a team has had a 30 pt lead.1 time a team lost. Guess who? Let alone you got ball on the 30 to kick a field goal and don't. If that would've been the case we would not be having this discussion now.

JJ Stankevitz: It's so easy to second-guess a decision that doesn't go right, isn't it? Here's the thing: the process Saturday followed to go for a fourth-and-one quarterback sneak instead of attempting a long field goal was sound. In 2022, kickers have made 68 percent of their field goals of 50 or more yards, while offenses have converted 70 percent of fourth-and-one rushing attempts into first downs. That's probably statistically a wash, but a missed field goal gives the ball back to the opponent in better field position than a failed fourth down try.

Also, while Chase McLaughlin has been fantastic on long field goals this year – he's made eight of 11 from 50 or more yards – Matt Ryan was three for three on fourth-and-one quarterback sneaks prior to Saturday. It was more than reasonable for Saturday to feel confident in his ability to pick up a yard, which would've given the Colts a fresh set of downs after the two-minute warning – when the Vikings were out of timeouts.

Lastly, don't take my word for it, take it from special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone.

"I was standing right next to Jeff whenever he made the decision to sneak it. If you would've asked me what to do, I would've snuck it as well," Ventrone said. "Fourth-and-an-inch, I'm sneaking the ball. A 54-yard field goal is not a gimme. I don't care the conditions, if you're inside or outside, whatever you want to call it."

John Frasure, Horseshoe Bay, Texas: As unpredictably poor as this season has gone, who are the highlight players of the season so far?

JJ Stankevitz: Quenton Nelson made his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl, and became the first player in franchise history to be selected to a Pro Bowl in each of his first five years in the NFL. A few other players to highlight:

  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been fantastic – he's been targeted the ninth-most times (80) of any cornerback, yet has allowed just a 79.2 passer rating when quarterbacks have thrown his way.
  • Linebacker Zaire Franklin has 140 tackles, and needs 24 to set a new franchise record for most tackles in a season.
  • The defensive tackle duo of DeForest Buckner (6 1/2 sacks, 44 total pressures) and Grover Stewart (15 tackles for a loss/no gain, second-most among defensive linemen) have anchored the Colts' defense all season.
  • Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is a half-sack away from becoming the first Colts player since Justin Houston (2019) to have 10+ sacks in a season.
  • Kicker Chase McLaughlin is 27/32 on field goals, including a team-record eight from 50 or more yards. He also hasn't missed a PAT and is averaging a career high 65.3 yards per kickoff.
  • Three players coming on strong as of late: Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo (2 sacks, 15 pressures in his last five games), cornerback Dallis Flowers (34.1 yards per kickoff average in his last three games) and left tackle Bernhard Raimann (PFF pass protection grade over 73 in four of his last five games).

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