Sometimes football measures something beyond speed and strength and intelligence.
Sometimes it’s about will.
And to that end, I present you the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ visit to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
The Colts, you should know, came into this game with the NFL’s most productive running game, averaging 5.2 yards per rush. And running back Jonathan Taylor is the NFL’s most dominant running back right now and leads the league with 1,205 rushing yards — the only running back who has already surpassed 1,000 yards.
In the other proverbial corner were the Bucs and their NFL-best rush defense.
“Yeah, I mean nobody runs the ball on us,” coach Bruce Arians said Sunday. “I don’t care who the hell you are. I mean you are going to end up throwing it because if you’re going to run it all day, you’re not going to get much, and they did that last drive. We were a little bit playing pass defense and they ran it on us. I’ll take our run defense versus anybody’s run offense anytime.”
The problem for the Colts is they seemed to come to the same conclusion before the game started. Taylor carried the ball only eight times for 25 yards through three quarters because Indy apparently figured passing the ball against Tampa Bay’s sometimes-injured secondary was smarter.
The Colts at one point passed the ball on 26 consecutive plays.
“We were rolling,” coach Frank Reich said. “We scored 21 points. We tried to run it in the first quarter. This is the number one run defense, and we weren’t getting anything. We tried throwing in the second quarter and started having a lot of success.
“Carson (Wentz) was hot. Called a bunch of RPOs that got to throws because they were throw reads. We come out in the third quarter, we move the ball well in the third quarter. We moved down there twice, we’re moving it well.”
Here’s the problem: Taylor is an awesome running back. Wentz is a good quarterback.
The Colts decided to take the game out of the hands of their best player and ask a lesser player to win it for them.
And Wentz throwing the football 44 times presented problems because he threw two interceptions to go with his three TD passes. And he was sacked three times, including one in which he fumbled away the ball.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Indy went back to Taylor, giving him eight carries in that quarter and had success doing it because he gained 58 yards on those final carries.
“So, I’ll go back and look at it,” Reich said. “Felt comfortable that we were executing and moving the ball. We had a few mistakes here and there. Respect to their defense.
“They stopped us in the run early, and then we were able to get it going late. Each drive, we were looking at trying to mix it up where we could. Call a couple RPOs early. Then you get a couple situations where you’re behind the sticks, and then thirdly, like I said, Carson was hot.
“That’s just the way it’s going to be sometimes.”
The way it went is the Colts got away from their personality on offense or let the Bucs do that to them. The Bucs won the battle of wills.
49ers hold their breath on Deebo Samuel injury
Deebo Samuel is having a wonderful season for the San Francisco 49ers, but the team is holding its breath today awaiting results on tests to see how serious the groin injury he suffered in Sunday’s game against Minnesota is.
The club is hopeful it’s not a high strain, which would put Samuel out of the lineup for 4-8 weeks or just about for the rest of the season in the worst-case scenario. A low strain would give Samuel a chance to return before the end of the season.
[UPDATE: Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Monday afternoon that Samuel would miss 1-2 weeks.]
Samuel was clearly emotional on the Niners sideline after he suffered the injury in the third quarter because he knows the cost of such injuries, having suffered a groin injury in 2020.
“You can tell when he feels something, he stops right away,” Shanahan said. “That’s why I knew right away on the first step of that, that something was there, but by the time that he got to the sidelines, you feel like you saved a real bad injury.
Samuel has been one of the most productive players in the NFL because he’s also been contributing at running back. Sunday, he had one reception for 12 yards, while adding six carries for 66 yards and two TDs on the ground — the rush TDs marking the third consecutive game he has scored on a carry.
Samuel has five rushing TDs on the season to go along with his 56 receptions for 1,006 yards receiving.
Patriots feast on turnovers
Bill Belichick loves turnovers — by the other team, of course. But the Patriots hadn’t caused or benefitted from any fumbles in weeks. So he had the coaching staff and players get working on the urgent matter a couple of weeks ago.
The Tennessee Titans fumbled five times and lost three against New England on Sunday. And the Patriots have seen opponents fumble nine times the past four weeks.
“We hadn’t gotten any fumbles out in, I don’t know, however many games it was,” Belichick said Monday. “We went back and looked at a lot of things and tried to address it. We were losing the ball as well, so we just tried to address things as a team.
“I think we’ve done a better job of coaching. The assistant coaches and myself, I think we’ve all done a better job of coaching it. I think the players understand what we’re trying to do. There’s much more evidence of them doing what we’re asking them to do, and they’re having better results. If we had probably coached it better at the beginning, we might’ve had better results in the beginning. I don’t know.”
This and that
— Patriots QB Mac Jones has benefitted from his team’s No. 12 ranked running attack but never as much as Sunday against Tennessee. Next Gen Stats recorded Jones being 11-for-11 for 169 yards on play-action passes against the Titans.
— The Bosa brothers continue to be the most dominant pass-rush family in the NFL. Sorry, Watt clan. Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Joey Bosa had a strip-sack of Broncos QB Drew Lock Sunday, marking his fourth strip-sack of the season, which leads in the NFL in that department. Joey Bosa has 7.5 sacks this season. Younger brother Nick Bosa notched two tackles and one sack against Minnesota to raise his total for the year to 11 sacks, a career high. Nick’s 11 sacks are the most in a single season by a member of the 49ers since DeForest Buckner had 12.0 sacks in 2018.
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