Could we see another 300-yard firework show from the right arm of Matthew Stafford?
All signs are indicating that the Los Angeles Rams and their air assault could be in for another bomb dropping day in the Hoosier State’s largest city this Sunday.
Stafford already delivered an NFC Offensive Player of the Week worthy evening after shredding the Chicago Bears for 321 passing yards and three touchdowns – two of his aerial scores stretching 67 and 56 yards to Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp, respectively.
From what it appears on the Colts’ side, Indy is looking short-handed and potentially overwhelmed going against this Rams offensive machine. Here’s why.
Key Defensive Back is Listed as Out, Others Torched Versus Seattle
Indianapolis will already be without top veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf injury), who was one of two players ruled out of the Sunday contest per the Colts’ team website on Friday, September 17.
Per Pro Football Focus, Rhodes surrendered 41 catches on 80 targets last year, meaning that 51.3% of opposing wideouts caught a pass on him, giving him the lowest percentage among the Colt CB’s.
The good news for the remaining Colt DB’s is Kupp and Robert Woods were given an average to below average matchup advantage by PFF fantasy heading into the game. The bad news is outside of Rhodes, starting safety Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon have battled an illness and back injury, respectively, and are questionable for this game. Willis, however, told the Indianapolis media on Friday that he’s excited about the matchup with the Rams offense, which indicates he’ll be in the lineup come Sunday.
“They got good players at every position, they move guys around, they do a lot of motioning, a lot of shifting, going up tempo, take their shots, run the ball — they got good backs,” Willis said. “We’ll be challenged at every position and I’m excited for it.”
Willis, though, will have to redeem himself from last Sunday’s showing against the Seattle Seahawks. Willis was given a lowly 28.9 PFF coverage grade. Not only was he targeted three times and surrendered three receptions to Russell Wilson, but Willis was the nearest coverage defender on two Wilson touchdown passes and gave up 95 yards his side.
The Rams will more than likely test Willis early after he was one of the safeties torched on this Tyler Lockett touchdown.
And was caught out of position on this second Lockett score.
My projection is the Rams will aim to draw Willis on Kupp or DeSean Jackson and test him deep early. I wouldn’t rule out Jefferson going against him either.
Meanwhile, CB Kenny Moore was another Colts defender who witnessed all his targeted throws (four) become receptions for 43 total yards. Moore surrendered one TD pass as well. Robert Woods could be the one who draws this matchup throughout the afternoon.
Per the analytics site, Rock Ya-Sin was the Colts’ most consistent CB from the ‘Hawks game. On 29 coverage snaps, the 6-foot, 192-pounder saw the ball come his way on three passes, but allowed two catches on 26 yards, with one of the catches limited to four yards. The Colts may try to throw him on Woods or maybe become convinced to plug him over Kupp.
McVay Explains Indy’s Defensive Identity
The meticulous McVay is often one who immediately finds where an opposing defense is strongest at. And in this case, the head coach says the Colts are strongest on “normal downs.”
“There were some good clips in some of those normal downs. But one of the things that I think (Colts Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Matt) Eberflus does a great job of (is) they’ve got an identity on early downs,” McVay explained near the 4:15 mark of the below video on Friday.
The Colts struggled in defending the pass and bottling the run, as the ‘Hawks racked up 381 total yards against them.
McVay and the Rams aren’t downplaying the Colts defense, with the head coach saying “They do a really good job. They are fundamentally sound, they play hard, they are a penetrating front.”
That front, though, is another spot dealing with the injury bug as five members of their front seven were listed in their injury report released Friday afternoon. Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard and Swiss Army-knife defensive lineman DeForest Buckner were among the names who either left practice on Friday or did not practice.
But now, it’s looking like another potential bomb fest for Stafford…this time as a Ram.