Colts: Offensive Line Improvement Key to Win Streak



The Indianapolis Colts are riding a three-game winning streak back home to face off against the New England Patriots on October 18th. The game widely considered to be the game of the year.

The Colts are 3-2 after starting the season 0-2. What is the cause of their win streak? It’s not because Matt Hasselbeck has out-performed Andrew Luck. Let’s address that first, it’s not because of any moronic concept of a quarterback controversy. Instead, it’s as simple as a restructured offensive line that has improved overall as a unit.

–= Related: Luck is Hurt So Who’s to Blame? =–

Now, that might come to a surprise to many of you as I have been extremely critical of the offensive line. That changed once the Colts line-up changed. Then the players decided to take their poor performance and much of the blame of Luck’s injured shoulder personal. Now they are playing like a unit and quite well I might add.

One might ask how I can say that  as bad as they have been all season. It’s a fair point, however looking at the success of Matt Hasselbeck and the way they shut down J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney was impressive. The offensive line nearly achieved a long-awaited goal of their first 100-yard rusher in 45 games. Frank Gore finished the Thursday night game with 98 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.

Oct 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Gore could easily have surpassed the century mark if not for a pivotal decision by Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter. The Colts leading 27-20, with just over a minute remaining in the game. They faced a critical third down conversion that, if  successful, would allow the Colts to run out the clock. The Texans had only one timeout remaining and needed a stop to force the Colts to punt. Expecting the run, which likely would have put Gore over yards, the Texans loaded the box. Making the read, Hasselbeck saw the loaded box and audibled to a pass that went 43-yards down the sideline to T.Y. Hilton sealing the game.

The transformation of the offensive line as a unit began in Nashville when the Colts rallied from a 13-point deficit. Trailing 27-14, Andrew Luck described the moment they huddled up to start the 4th quarter. “It just clicked,” Luck said after the game. “We all just said, ‘We need to get this one.'”

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The ‘click’ that Luck referred to was with a starting unit that was changed in Tennessee. They have continued to improve over past three weeks but was truly refined in the past two weeks with Hasselbeck under center for the Colts.

Now, before we get started, let’s end all moronic talks of a QB controversy in Indianapolis. Anyone who knows the Colts knows that Luck is the better of the two quarterbacks, but there are dissenters and haters out there who want to stir the pot. I will not name any names but…

Now, we all know that guy’s motives, he’s still upset that Robert Griffin III was drafted second behind Luck in 2012. Plus, he’s even more upset that he was so wrong now that RG3 is no longer the starter in Washington.

Hasselbeck’s stat line is better than Luck’s at the moment, but looking at it by just the numbers can be easily become misconstrued. Hasselbeck is not better than Luck. He’s played better, but that is because of better playcalling and an offensive line that is not leaking like a sieve.

With offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton calling shorter routes for the wide receivers, the offensive line has not had to block as long and Hasselbeck has been able to get the ball out quickly. When more than a quick drop is needed the Colts have moved the pocket or called screen plays to keep the defense honest.

Hasselbeck is a true west coast quarterback. Once his back foot hits, he has already made his read and knows where the ball is going. Hasselbeck does not hold onto the ball. That is the only difference between Luck and Hasselbeck’s success as quarterbacks.

Luck held onto the ball longer because waiting for receivers 15 yards down field to break on their routes.  Hasselbeck’s receivers were running shorter routes  as Hamilton dialed back the deep ball game. This allowed Hasselbeck to get the ball out of his hands in under two seconds. With less time required to block, this has kept the offensive line fresher and kept the back of the quarterback’s jersey clean.  With these tweaks to the offensive scheme, suddenly the Colts have a with a pocket for their quarterbacks to throw in and a running game that can relieve the QBs and punish the defense.

Against Houston, the offensive line was superb. Against New England, they will have to play just as well – if not better – if the Colts want to win the biggest game of their season. Expect New England to Blitz early and often on the Colts. No matter who is under center, that offensive line will have to be ready and the receivers will have to get open quickly. Essentially the Colts need to beat the Patriots at their own game. If the Line plays this well, they very well might achieve their first win over New England since 2009.

Be sure to check back for more Colts coverage here at Ink on Indy all season long!

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