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Colts Mailbag: Fourth quarter defense, Shane Steichen going for it on 4th down, Anthony Richardson's outlook for Week 2

The Colts mailbag is back for Week 2 with questions on Anthony Richardson, Shane Steichen, the NFL landscape and what to expect from Gus Bradley's defense late in games. 

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The Colts Mailbag is back! 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 the next Colts Mailbag by clicking here. I'll also be checking the comments on our Official Colts Podcast YouTube page and will answer some listener questions in here, too.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Colt McNamara, San Diego, Calif.: Is Anthony Richardson starting week 2?

JJ Stankevitz: Richardson was not listed on the Colts' practice report on Wednesday, so barring something unexpected he's in line to start on Sunday against the Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Richardson said he bruised his knee in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and was "a little sore" on Monday, but it wasn't anything atypical.

"I woke up with some feelings that I've never felt before," Richardson said. "Some of the vets were like, 'Welcome to the league, rook. That's how it's going to be.' Just get in the training room early, taking care of my body – that's the main part."

Trey Blanks, Fort Wayne, Ind.: Even with league rules that encourage parity, perennial contender describes a handful of teams in the league. I'm wondering what common factors those teams have and how the Colts as an organization will stack up in the years to come?

JJ Stankevitz: It starts with the quarterback, right? The Kansas City Chiefs have reached at least the AFC Championship every season Patrick Mahomes has started. The Cincinnati Bengals have reached at least the AFC Championship in each of Joe Burrow's two full seasons as starter. The Buffalo Bills have made the playoffs every year since Josh Allen's rookie season. The Philadelphia Eagles have made the playoffs in each of Jalen Hurts' two full seasons as QB1.

Those are just a few examples, but you can see the trend – all of those teams drafted and developed their quarterback. Richardson is a long way off from being those guys; there's a lot of developing still to be done in the coming weeks, months and years. But if he grows into being one of The Guys in the NFL, the Colts will have a shot at sustained success.

"I talked to (Richardson) when he first got here," linebacker Zaire Franklin said, "I told him, you're gonna be compared to Bryce (Young) and C.J. (Stroud) your whole career, no matter what. But at the end of the day, those aren't the guys you're competing against. You're competing against Pat (Mahomes), you're competing against Josh Allen. You're competing against the big dogs."

William Kane, Lafayette, Ind.: Does the defense plan to play the 4th quarter this week, or just let Houston take over like they did for Jacksonville?

JJ Stankevitz: Finishing games is certainly an emphasis for the Colts this week, but there were a few mitigating factors when looking at charging the defense with losing a four-point fourth quarter lead.

The Jaguars took over what wound up being their go-ahead possession at the Colts' 48-yard line after a 46-yard punt return by Jacksonville's Jamal Agnew – a play special teams coordinator Brian Mason said should've been downed inside the 10-yard line. The short field played a role in the Jaguars taking the lead, though so did Jacksonville turning a third-and-12 on the Colts' 25-yard line into a first down.

Then after Jacksonville took the lead, Richardson was intercepted at the Colts' 44-yard line; three plays later, running back Travis Etienne Jr. rushed 26 yards for a touchdown.

While the Colts' defense played well for most of the game – and played with an attacking physicality, too – there were plays that group wanted back toward the end of Week 1.

"We felt like we had a great game last week, but we just didn't see it all the way though," Franklin said. "I feel like – that's something I take personally, going into the fourth quarter with a lead. That's something defensively, that I want to come away with. Just finish and details, just keep that going and get this win on the road."

Steve Francis, Port Orange, Fla.: I heard Anthony Richardson bought every player on the team headphones is this true?

JJ Stankevitz: See for yourself, Steve:

Troy Church, Linton, Ind.: I don't agree with going for it on fourth down when you are in a high percentage field goal range. I realize that it was early in the game but I feel that when you get your points it would change the play calling from the opposition. Our defense is doing a heck of a job keeping us in the game but you could tell they were pretty gassed towards the end.

JJ Stankevitz: More and more teams are going the route of being aggressive on fourth down around the NFL – it's hardly just the Colts. But let's look at those three specific situations where the Colts went for it on fourth down before that last two-minute, hurry-up drive in the fourth quarter.

  1. Fourth and inches, ball on the Jaguars' 16-yard line, 11:58 left in the second quarter: Head coach Shane Steichen called for the quarterback sneak play the Eagles made famous last season, with Richardson taking the snap and being pushed from behind. The Jaguars were able to stop Richardson short of the line to gain, which Steichen said surprised him a little bit – Hurts converted all but one of his tries on that play last year. "It wasn't a yard, it was like inches or like half a yard," Steichen said. "We've got to be better there. We've got to keep getting better at it and go from there."
  2. Fourth and four, ball on the Jaguars' 42-yard line, 8:55 left in the second quarter: Richardson threw an incomplete pass to Michael Pittman Jr. for a turnover on downs. While it's not a hard-and-fast rule, punting from your own territory is generally not advised.
  3. Fourth and 1, ball on the Jaguars' 42-yard line, 3:19 left in the third quarter: The Colts ran a toss to running back Deon Jackson, who was stopped short of the sticks and fumbled. For Steichen, the same line of thinking applied here as it did for the second opportunity: "We were at the 42 on both of those and you're either looking at a 61-yard field goal, 60-yard field goal there, which is a long field goal," Steichen said. "Or obviously punting there in that situation in the plus territory – are there times you can punt? Yeah, absolutely. I'll look through those things and always evaluate those things going into every week."

The one you probably have more of an issue with here is not taking the field goal inside the Jaguars' 20-yard line. But consider the flip side here: Steichen is working on establishing an aggressive mentality in his offense, and players will tell you things like this instill a certain belief in them. It didn't work in Week 1, but for a young team, there's a benefit here beyond just taking the points.

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