The defense of the Indianapolis Colts wasn’t as dominant against the Steelers as they had been and it’s because Gus Bradley changed something up.
All year, the Indianapolis Colts have been really good defensively. They’ve had a few late-game mishaps but overall, they’ve been one of the best units in the league and have kept Indy competitive. Unfortunately, Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t one of Indy’s best nights defensively. The Colts struggled to stop the run and they also allowed a huge touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
During that drive, it became clear that Indy’s defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, was doing something outside of his norm: calling blitz. Anyone who is familiar with Bradley as a defensive coordinator can tell you one thing about him: he doesn’t blitz. It’s well known that Gus Bradley usually runs a cover 3 scheme and he doesn’t call a lot of blitzes. That’s been the case during his career and even this year, his first season with Indy.
Through 12 games, the Colts have blitzed 57 times and have a 13.9 blitz percentage. The total blitz is the second lowest in the NFL and the percentage is the absolute lowest in the league. However, that didn’t stop Bradley from blitzing the rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Unfortunately, Pickett made Bradley and Indianapolis pay whenever they sent an extra rusher his way.
Colts made a mistake by blitzing Kenny Pickett
While watching the game, fans probably started to realize that whenever the Steelers faced a third down, Indianapolis would send a man blitz, with very little success. Indy wasn’t able to get to the quarterback or defend one-on-one very well, and it resulted in Pittsburgh converting 7-of-14 third downs and Kenny Pickett having one of the best games of his young career.
Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports highlighted that “In Monday’s win over the Colts, Pickett went 7 of 9 for 69 yards with a 98.6 passer rating, playing mistake free football when defenses send an extra rusher to challenge him.” This wasn’t just an anomaly either; Pickett has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league against the blitz all season.
He entered Monday’s game with the highest completion percentage (70.6%) against the blitz in the NFL and also a 108.4 passer rating when blitzed. Considering that’s one of the areas Pickett excels in, it makes it extremely confusing why Bradley decided to change course and blitz more than he usually does. It was a costly experiment that yielded terrible results for Indianapolis and something that the Colts and Bradley probably won’t be trying again.