INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers spoke to local reporters today via conference call. What did he have to say about the offense's takeaways from its self-scouting opportunity during the bye week, what contributes to being the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL, why the Colts have been successful utilizing a no-huddle attack and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Rivers and the Colts' offense got a lot out of their "self-scout" opportunity today before getting a few days off for the bye week: The Colts' players are set to have Thursday through Sunday off to recharge their batteries — but still stay dialed in mentally and physically, as head coach Frank Reich would expect.
Tuesday was spent mostly pouring over the game film from last Sunday's dramatic win over the Bengals, while the team used Wednesday as a rare opportunity to go back and look at the first six weeks of the season and evaluate what's gone right, and then what needs some more work.
Rivers said the quarterbacks really honed in on situational football, which includes third downs and red zone opportunities. The Colts took a major step forward in both areas against the Bengals, converting 7-of-11 third downs (64 percent) and putting the ball in the end zone in all four red zone trips, but still rank 24th in the league in overall third down conversion percentage (39.2) and 27th in red zone touchdown scoring percentage (52.2).
"I think the biggest thing – and I know we always say it – is just execution," Rivers said. "You look at a lot of those third downs and we've been pretty good four to six and seven to 10. We've been over 50 percent. Then the two to three was really our worst area, which you think, 'Golly, that's not acceptable.' But it's really just a lack of execution. There weren't many where you go, 'They got us. The defense just got us.' There were a few, but it's only our own self-inflicted wounds whether it be a bad throw – four of the six interceptions I think came on third down. We're not going to get to end those drives with a punt or a field goal."
Rivers was glad to have the chance to take a step back and really dig into those trends to try to make improvements moving forward, starting with the team's Week 8 road matchup against the Detroit Lions.
"We certainly look at it and go, 'Shoot, what do we want to run different in these situations?' It was good today," Rivers said. "I think anytime you're coming off a win going into a bye, it certainly feels a little bit better looking at some of those. Get some rest now and start gearing our eyes towards Detroit as the week goes and through the weekend, and get ready to go."
» Rivers has been the least-sacked NFL quarterback through six weeks, and attributes that to a couple different factors: The Colts' sack percentage — which is the rate at which their quarterbacks are sacked per pass attempt — is at just 2.88, which leads the league by a pretty significant margin over the second-ranked Kansas City Chiefs (3.10 percent). Rounding out the top five are the Tennessee Titans (3.35 percent), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3.45 percent) and the Los Angeles Rams (3.55 percent).
Perhaps not coincidentally, the combined winning percentage of those five teams is 22-7.
Rivers sees two contributing factors to that kind of success. First and foremost is the play of the offensive line, and Rivers on Wednesday gushed about that groups ability to deliver a solid pocket play after play.
"I think the combination of our tackles' ability to handle both the bull rush and the speed guy and then our interior guys really being able to anchor down and not allow too much penetration really creates that cup right there, that pocket, to step up in there to be able to see and find lanes to throw," Rivers said. "Our guys have done a heck of a job with that. I think as you mentioned, some of the numbers support that and again, just watching it and both being out there doing it – a couple games where we've thrown it over 40 times, and it's been unbelievable protection. Especially when you're down 21-0 and the other team knows you're going to throw it, that can be a challenge, but our guys did a heck of a job."
The other factor is pretty simple: Reich's offense is designed to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand as soon as possible. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Rivers' average time to throw — which measures the amount of time elapsed from the time of the snap to the throw on every pass attempt — is 2.52 seconds, which is the fifth-fastest in the league.
"I do think that getting the ball out of my hand on time or accelerating your progression based on what the coverage plays, based on what our reads are from a quarterback position – I've always thought that was very important," Rivers said. "I think the role that the quarterback plays in conjunction with the protection and also the quicker you can get it to our guys' hands before guys are breaking on it or give them a chance to catch and run – I've always thought those things were important.
"I never think it's one of those things where, 'Shoot, I'm going to hand on to it a little longer,'" Rivers continued. "Are there times that you do? Yeah, on some shot plays and things that you have to and thankfully we have a group that can hold up in those situations but at the same time you want to get it out on time both to help pass protection and I think it helps the efficiency of the yards after catch as well."
» The Colts' offense has had success with a no-huddle approach, and will continue to employ it when needed: This was particularly apparent during last Sunday's win against the Bengals. According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts ran 10 no-huddle plays in that matchup — seven of which occurred during Indy's highly-successful second quarter, when the team went on a 21-3 run to erase a 21-0 deficit and go into halftime trailing by just three, 24-21.
On those 10 no-huddle plays, the Colts combined to complete 4-of-6 passes for 84 yards (21 yards per completion) and ran the ball four times for 34 yards (8.5 yards per rush).
The Colts certainly haven't been shy about utilizing a no-huddle approach at times throughout the first six weeks of the season, as their 47 total no-huddle plays are the eighth most in the league.
For Rivers, it's important to find the right balance when speeding things up; Reich, he said, has a great feel for when that needs to happen.
"I think it's the ability to mix it up. I think it's really what makes it most effective. If you're always huddling or always no huddling – then again, it doesn't matter unless you're getting first downs. I don't care if you're huddling or going no-huddle," Rivers said. "I do like that mode, and I think as we have this year and we'll probably continue to use it as a change up and mix it in at times.
"I think Coach has a great feel for that and he and I in communicating throughout the week, week-by-week, will know if there is a time to go on a spurt of no-huddle or use it more regularly, or 'You know what, this game we're going to huddle up and change personnel every other play,'" Rivers continued. "I think that just kind of depends week-to-week."