The Colts finally played a real game of football. They didn’t win, but they didn’t lose either. It was an AFC South game, but it was against the team that should finish last in the division.

It’s also week 1, so expect some shots and general questions with so much to digest.

So I asked the mailbag question earlier this week. Going forward, we’ll try to capture post-game questions to put each week of the season into context.

(To submit a question, You can follow me on twitter, where I made the calls; or you can send longer messages to [email protected])

Question: “Did the ‘vanilla’ style of play throughout pre-season prevent us from coming out clean?” — Darnell Hattison on Twitter

Answer: Sometimes when an inexplicable outcome occurs, we can look too hard and end up reading too much into something. But there is something to it.

On defense, Gus Bradley is adjusting to having Pro Bowl players for the first time at 3-point technical with DeForest Buckner and nickel cornerback Kenny Moore II, and neither were very hard-hitting against the Texans, despite favorable physical clashes.

On offense, the Colts hadn’t built chemistry between Matt Ryan and his young receivers when it came to the specific looks they would see from an intriguing opponent. This part is difficult to fight without experience, because the opposing defenses did not show their hands during the pre-season. Nyheim Hines and Parris Campbell said the Texans used cover disguises that surprised them, and they adjusted and cooked in the fourth quarter, but by then they were down three scores.

Vanilla preseason is league-wide. Teams use 1-on-1 matchups to assess roster and depth chart decisions. But it was telling that Reich leaned on Jonathan Taylor so early against the Texans despite a new and improved quarterback. Taylor saw touches on six of the first seven snaps, and the Colts ran on nine of the first 14. Reich was playing the odds, knowing that Taylor went for 140 in both of the Texans’ games last year and that a hot start could ease the pressure on young receivers. , but the Texans were ready for it.

The Colts are still building confidence and cohesion in the passing game — between quarterback and receivers, an offensive line with two new starters and a coaching staff that’s adjusting to what it has. These were natural growing pains that we probably should have seen coming.

Question: “Some depth receivers looked helpful (Mike Strachan/Ashton Dulin), but it felt like there was only one real passing threat with Michael Pittman Jr. Looks like the Colts need some another weapon. Kadarius Toney has only played a few snaps for the Giants, and apparently they want to trade him. If so, should Chris Ballard consider him?”

Answer: Let’s continue this conversation about the host body. We obviously don’t have the sample to say what Alec Pierce or Ashton Dulin or Parris Campbell or Mike Strachan can do consistently, but we do know something about their willingness to do so now. This is where the questions arise.

The Colts are betting on Campbell in a contract year, knowing his injuries were the result of bad luck. He showcases speed and quickness from the short zone for some key pass concepts from Reich and Ryan, and the Colts have some depth in Hines should he go down.

At the “Z” point, the Colts are betting heavily on Pierce, Strachan and Dulin, who are young, raw and from lower levels of competition. All three have plenty of size and speed, but the lack of a track record makes it difficult to know who to trust and when early on.

AFTER: Michael Pittman Jr., Jonathan Taylor are always excellent. Have the Colts had enough else?

You can’t give what you don’t have, and these players don’t have the established course trees that allow them to confidently play in the red zone or the accumulated experience to identify defensive wrinkles before they hit. do not occur. That’s my concern with Pierce, who finished with zero catches on Sunday. He’s been trying to make that ascent from the American Athletic Conference, where he too often could beat cornerbacks with his size and speed. It will be the best this year sticking to fades, tilts, and the occasional screen. It can work, if the Colts can find enough production from slot receivers and tight ends and if Pittman Jr. stays healthy.

Ryan helps, but he’s truly at his best when he has a fellow veteran to synergize with pre-snap. None of his receivers are over 26 and none outside of Pittman Jr. have rushed for 400 yards in a season.

At this point, the alternative options are limited. No team is ready to give up a season after a game, so it must be a situation that does not work, which means baggage. That’s how Toney feels, and he’s also such a specific type of schematic chess piece that I’m afraid he’s duplicating some of what Hines already is. “Z”s or tight endpoints are more likely to be added, but the options are slim unless the Colts want to go to free agency to bring back TY Hilton or take a bet on Odell Beckham Jr. himself. recovering from a torn ACL.

In all likelihood, the Colts will work with what they have and hope each passing game will create a lot more experience and chemistry. If that doesn’t work out in a month, maybe Hilton, Beckham Jr. or a business opportunity we don’t see yet can be leverage.

Matt Pryor is currently the starting left tackle for the Indianapolis Colts.

Question: “Who is our starting left tackle? — Dr. Miller on Twitter

Answer: Matt Pryor is currently the Colts’ starting left tackle. The plan is to start games this way and have Bernhard Raimann work for a series or two, like he did for 12 snaps on Sunday. The plan is to have him work in the 10-15 snap range in the second and third quarters to continue his development with live game reps.

It’s also fair to call it a rolling situation, because it’s not ideal to play two tackles on the left. Pryor had to fight to prove he’s nimble enough at 343 pounds to be as creative as he wants in running and passing games. Raimann is trying to show he’s ready for more playing time after such a steep learning curve in the Mid-American Conference and with just two years on the offensive line.

In the long run, it makes sense to bet on the third-round pick over the veteran on a one-year contract. But this team is trying to win now and has a 37-year-old quarterback to protect, so the most ready and capable guy in any given week will be the one to start.

For now, it’s Pryor. For the moment.

Question: “Why did the local media and ownership chase Carson Wentz out of town? I was under the impression from Jim Irsay and the Indy media that he was the only reason the Colts lost games last night. last year. At least he won yesterday.” — DJ on Twitter

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan made his first start with a team other than the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday when the Colts tied the Houston Texans 20-20.

Answer: This is the question I received the most this week, which is quite interesting.

I’m honored that anyone thinks the media has the power to influence decisions, but trust me when I say we really aren’t that important. (If we were, I’d wield that power for much more frivolous things like interview schedules and press food.)

So what I reported on Wentz was mostly based on seeing and hearing how the Colts interpreted the situation. You can read all about this topic here.

ROAD TO MATT RYAN: How the Carson Wentz experience helped the Colts rekindle franchise identity

The Colts’ desire for change was to find a quarterback who could inspire a roster, a coaching staff, ownership and a city to believe he’s the guy in times of jubilation, chaos and turmoil. . That’s what Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers were to them. They’ve seen that in Matt Ryan, who’s been in places few quarterbacks have, like multiple playoff games, a Super Bowl, multiple regime changes and teammate retirements, and nationwide controversy. franchise.

Like when Rivers arrived, the 37-year-old version they get of Ryan was never meant to lead a mediocre team to wins. That’s what the Falcons have asked him for the past few years, and they haven’t made the playoffs.

In Indianapolis, Ryan’s job is to lead a team with eight other All-Pros to where he’s been and where they want to go. When those players don’t perform like All-Pros, like no one but Taylor and Pittman Jr. did on Sunday, it won’t work.

Ryan didn’t play perfectly against Houston, with the interception and several sloppy snaps. But he threw for 352 yards and a touchdown with two more touchdown throws the young receivers dropped. He engineered a 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter and put the Colts in position to win on a 42-yard field goal that Rodrigo Blankenship missed. That’s ultimately all they asked for at quarterback.

But it’s a game, and a decision as global as this will require much more time for an actual evaluation.

Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans are the defending AFC South champions.

Question: “How critical is this next 6-game streak? (At Jaguars, vs Chiefs, vs Titans, vs Broncos, vs Jaguars, vs Titans.) To me, that seems like such a weird way to schedule these games.” — Shawn Michael Zbikowski on Twitter

Answer: The old cliché is that they all matter, and that’s obviously true, as we saw at Week 18 in Jacksonville last year. Frank Reich’s teams have already retired from slow starts, notably in 2018.

But it feels like a pivotal moment for him and for this franchise.

We know the Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. Losing there this week after tying the Texans would create two huge missed chances in the AFC South race. With Week 3 against the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce continuing to burn down Cover-3 base defenses, you could see a bad start coming if they don’t win this week.

Games against the Titans are always street fights, with the defense of Derrick Henry and Mike Vrabel giving every shot they have to protect their AFC South reign. Turning around and traveling across the country for a Thursday night road game against Russell Wilson and the Broncos isn’t an ideal place.

But the Colts tend to play their best in games where they’re scored, like against Arizona last year. These moments can also create opportunities. And the goal is to play tough and stressful games in January.

We are about to learn a lot about the composition of this Colts team.

Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.