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 3 matchup against the New York Jets. What did Reich have to say about quarterback Philip Rivers' performance through the first two weeks, lots of familiarity on the Jets' sideline, T.Y. Hilton's mindset and more?
Here is that entire conversation, which you can also listen to above:
Going back to last Sunday against the Vikings, in what areas did you see the most growth out of your team from Week 1 to Week 2?
Reich: "You know, obviously defensively I just felt like we played really sharp last week, from start to finish, for 60 minutes, played consistently, good against the run and the pass; it was really a dominant defensive performance. And then offensively, just felt like we were able to run the ball better, which is obviously very key."
So far through two games, you've thrown it around a little, gotten a lot of different receivers involved, you've pounded the ball in the running game. How beneficial is it to know you can move the ball and score it in a variety of ways?
Reich: "Yeah, no, we like that, and want that to be our DNA. We want to have a good mix run and pass. Yes, we do wanna establish that we can run the ball, but when we say that, we're not trying to be a team that is only run, so we want explosive plays in the pass game … there are going to be some games, no matter how good you are running it, there's always a few games that you need to throw it 40, 45 times to win a game. So I think we can do that as well, but at the end of the day we want to have a good mix run and pass."
After two weeks, Philip Rivers is completing almost 80 percent of his passes and is over seven yards per attempt, which we know is a benchmark for your quarterback play. Is it safe to say you're getting what you wanted out of Rivers so far?
Reich: "Yeah, it is safe to say that. I think Philip's playing really well. I think as an offense, we're still just learning to hit our stride … and like other teams, right? We had no offseason, no preseason, so we're all facing the same thing, and even in practice, with every day we're out there on the practice field I feel like we're getting a little bit better, I think every day Philip's out there he's getting more and more used to our guys and what we're doing. So we just need to keep on that same trajectory."
If you go back to Week 6 of 2018 when you last played the Jets, that was the first time this starting offensive line unit was together — Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith. Since that time they've started 23 of 29 games together, including 18 in a row. What has it meant to the offense for those guys to get that much time together?
Reich: "I mean, it's huge. We have a lot of zone scheme runs, which that entails combination blocks, and so you're working side by side with the guy next to you. And the more that you work together, the better that you get, especially when you're smart, talented and tough like our guys are. So every rep that we get together, that those guys get together, is good for our team, and then when you factor in game reps, those are even weighted more heavily. So that's just good traction for us as an offense to build the right foundation to be able to have a good running game."
The Jets this week have 12 former Colts players either on the active roster or the practice squad. How does that play out in terms of an edge for one team or another?
Reich: "You know, it's a very interesting dynamic. I've never been in a situation like it where there's 12 guys — not even close. But it's kind of fun. I mean, I respect all these guys; most of them I know, and I know they're good players, so we've got a lot of respect for them. I think the way it plays out, I sometimes think that gets overplayed; I think they know the personnel — the DBs there, they know our receivers, so they know what routes they like to run, they know how they run their routes, but our receivers also know those guys and their weaknesses and their strengths. So I think it all balances itself out. Once the game starts, you're really just locked in to playing and doing what you do."
Darius Leonard got to the 300 career tackles in his 30th game last Sunday, becoming the first NFL player since at least 1987 to accomplish that feat. How impressive is that to you?
Reich: "It's incredible. When you start throwing out the term 'first time that that's been done in (the) NFL,' I mean, you're saying something right there. So that's a credit to Darius, it's a credit to his teammates, the whole defensive unit, but Darius is certainly a special player."
T.Y. Hilton this week received a little bit of a pep talk from his grandmother after having a few hiccups in the first couple games of the season. Do you sense a revitalized Hilton this week heading into the Jets game?
Reich: "Yeah, there's no question. T.Y. is the ultimate competitor. We have ultimate confidence in T.Y., and I think that's kind of cool that his grandmother had some encouraging and insightful words for him. And I know T.Y.; I know how important family is to him, so to have that kind of influence in your life is a great thing, and hopefully T.Y. goes out there and has a great game, and maybe grandmother gets a game ball."
The Jets' defense is guided by coordinator Gregg Williams, who routinely puts teams in the top 10 in total defense. What are the hallmarks of a Williams-led defense?
Reich: "Multiple. Multiple fronts, coverages, looks. He does a lot, so you've really got to be on your game. He can make you look bad for a play or two or a series or an entire game. I mean, he's a very good defensive mind, he does a great job, his players do a great job of buying into the system — a lot of responsibility with all those moving parts. So he certainly has had a very good career as a defensive coordinator."
FInal thing, keys to the game; in your eyes, what do you have to do well in order to win this game in Week 3?
Reich: "You know, I think on offense we've got to protect the football, we've got to get better in the red zone and then we need to be good on third down. I think on defense, it starts with stopping the run. I think that they'll wanna come in and try to take some of the pressure off the quarterback and get their run game going, and Adam Gase is a real smart offensive mind, so I'm sure he'll have some good things schemed up. So I think we've got to do a good job of stopping the run, and then go from there. And I think on special teams, I just think we've gotta play our game — play disciplined, make good decisions and the big plays will come to us."