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Colts-Panthers preview: A reunion with Frank Reich, then a pivotal Week 9 game

Colts players and coaches this week talked about what Frank Reich meant to them during his time in Indianapolis. But once the reunion is over pre-game, the implications of Week 9 for both teams will come into focus. 


The impact Frank Reich made on the Colts – both on and off the field – is still felt across the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. This is one of those weeks where a storyline that doesn't impact the game actually matters.

"He is one of the greatest men I have ever met," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "I always use this moment because that's the moment that really solidified my relationship with Frank – back in 2020 when I got baptized, I wasn't expecting any coaches or anybody to be there besides really my family. I had a bunch of teammates that showed up and a bunch of coaches. Frank was one of them.

"It just showed me there was a lot more beyond football. My head coach took the time out of his day during the bye week to come watch me get baptized and had some really encouraging words. It just meant a lot to me."

Reich's Carolina Panthers will host the Colts on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, and before the game you'll certainly see the former Colts head coach chatting and smiling with several of his former players, coaches and staff members. One of those staffers – though not in Indianapolis – is Shane Steichen, who was an offensive quality control coach with the San Diego Chargers from 2014-2015 when Reich was offensive coordinator.

"I've got a ton of respect for Frank," Steichen said. "Very intelligent football coach, understands the game, but even a better human being. The two years I was with him out there in San Diego, just the wisdom he brought being a former player, his leadership abilities. I've got a ton of respect for him and looking forward to seeing him on Sunday."

Reich led the Colts to two playoff appearances during his four and a half seasons as head coach. He was fired halfway through the 2022 season, though he said this week Sunday is not a revenge game for him. In fact, he deflected Steichen's praise right back at the first-year Colts head coach.

"I mean, Shane's a phenomenal coach and a great human being, a great person," Reich said, via "I think back in San Diego when I was there as the offensive coordinator, it was me and Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen sitting in those meetings, game planning, and a lot of stuff. So, obviously, that was a pretty dynamic group. You could tell right away both of those guys. I knew Nick right away, and same thing with Shane; those super-bright, super-brilliant football minds, hard workers, understand every aspect of the game.

"And you know, Shane's success is no surprise. I mean, he's been successful at every stop everywhere he's been; he's made a big impact. So super happy for Shane."

The Colts' return to face Reich will matter until it doesn't – when the switch flips and it's all about 60 minutes of football, no matter who's on the opposing sideline.

And the Colts know that while the Panthers have just one win – coming last week against the Houston Texans – Week 9 carries massive implications for both teams.

For the Panthers, they're looking to dig out of an early 0-6 hole – one which leaves little margin for error going forward. And for the Colts, they're looking to end a three-game losing streak and hop on a plane to Germany next week with a shot at being .500 heading into their Week 11 bye.

"I think the whole purpose and the point is look, one week at a time," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "Let's focus on Carolina first. When you're losing, it hurts, it feels like the world is gloomy. It just takes one peak of sunshine to turn our day around. Just one win, just 1-0 this week. Let's focus on this and get back to the details. Let's lock in and let's just get after it this weekend."

Table inside Article
Stat Panthers NFL rank Colts NFL rank
Points/game 18.1 25th 25.6 6th
Points allowed/game 28.4 30th 28.6 32nd
Yards/play 4.3 31st 5.4 12th
Yards/play allowed 5.5 22nd 5.3 20th
Turnover margin -2 T-18th -2 T-18th
Table inside Article
QB Comparison Completion% Yards/attempt TDs/INTs Passer rating Sacks tacken
Gardner Minshew II 63.4% 6.9 7/5 85.0 14
Bryce Young 64.3% 5.6 7/4 82.3 22

"We should have a lot of reasons why we should feel good about ourselves right now and the opportunities that we have looking forward," quarterback Gardner Minshew said. "There's obviously been games in the past that didn't go our way, didn't go the way we like, but we still have everything in front of us and a good opportunity this week."

Still, there's genuine excitement for so many Colts players, coaches and staffers about getting to give Reich a hug and steal a minute or two with a man who meant to much to them. None of those moments will have an impact on the reason why the Colts are in Charlotte – to win – but that shouldn't diminish the importance of them. 

"It's going to be really nice just to go see coach Frank," running back Jonathan Taylor said. "Of course, we have business to handle, but you just talk about a great person – that's coach Frank."

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