Fri, 29 May 2020

Colts Reich prepares to face mentor with Eagles

Sports Xchange
18 Sep 2018, 11:07 GMT+10

INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after celebrating his first win as an NFL head coach, Frank Reich found preparation for the Indianapolis Colts' next opponent a bit awkward when he started watching film early Monday morning.

The Colts (1-1) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Reich won a Super Bowl ring as Eagles offensive coordinator last season.

Reich and Eagles coach Doug Pederson texted each other on Monday. The Colts won 21-9 at Washington and the Eagles lost 27-21 at Tampa Bay.

"Doug and I are very, very close, I mean very close," Reich said on a conference call. "I am as close with Doug as I am with anybody in this profession. I just think the world of him. I think he's a superior coach. He's an incredible coach and an incredible person. So, yeah, he and I are very close.

"But you know in this business, we are at work. So we will have some communication I am sure. I sent him a text. I told him it was a little bit odd. When we get the scouting report on the opponent and the way that we do our scouting reports the opponent's head coach's picture is always on it. I just texted him and said it was odd seeing his face as the opponent.

"I have a lot of respect for Doug and the job that he has done there in Philadelphia. He deserves a lot of credit."

So does Reich after the Colts, six-point road underdogs, limited the Redskins to three field goals, the first time an Indianapolis opponent hasn't scored a touchdown since 2016.

Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard was the defensive catalyst The second-round draft pick had 18 tackles, 15 of them solos, with one sack, one forced fumble the Colts recovered, and a pass breakup.

Reich said he learned a lot from Pederson in the past two seasons.

"I think two things. Probably one, this isn't unique, but just be yourself, just be yourself," Reich said. "Doug was very comfortable in his own skin. I just thought (he) was very authentic and very genuine, but yet he was also very aggressive. He had a lot of belief in the players and that's where the aggressiveness comes from.

"That's certainly something that I want to portray. I love working with the players. At the end of the day, the players are what make this game so fun, the things that they can do on the field, the belief and the trust that you have in your players and I just think that, that creates the kind of environment and confidence that you want in a football team. That's certainly what we want to do here."

The Eagles made Monday headlines with the announcement that quarterback Carson Wentz, who has missed the first two games in his recovery from left knee surgery, is expected to make his season debut.

"Obviously, he was having a phenomenal year, just a phenomenal year and probably was the MVP and deserved every bit of it," Reich said of Wentz, who was lost last season in the 13th game. "What you love about Carson is much like (Colts quarterback) Andrew (Luck), is a team-first guy, an explosive player with the right kind of attitude and the right kind of work ethic.

"You know it was just fun watching him grow as a player, just in the short two years that we were there together and truly one of my coaching highlights was a chance to work with him. He's just a class act."

The Colts have thrived with Reich calling plays in an offensive scheme that often relies on Luck getting rid of the ball quickly. They led from the outset against the Redskins, driving 65 yards to score on a Luck 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron on the game's opening possession.

Rookie running back Nyheim Hines scored his first NFL touchdown on an 8-yard rush in the second quarter and Luck hit wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for a 3-yard score that essentially sealed the outcome in the fourth quarter.

But more platitudes were deserved for a defense that rebounded from a 34-23 opening loss at home to the Cincinnati Bengals in which the Colts blew a 13-point lead in the third quarter.

Leonard had one of three sacks as the Colts got steady pressure on Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. A Washington rushing attack that amassed a league-high 182 yards in an opening win at Arizona was limited to 65 yards on 22 carries.

"We really had the mindset to stop the run," Reich said. "The previous week, the Redskins had run for a lot of yards so we knew it was top priority to stop the run. They did that. (We) didn't allow a touchdown. That's huge. Played good defense the whole way and just played as a unit, played fast. It was outstanding."

Another bright spot has been the play of an offensive line missing left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has yet to make his season debut because of a hamstring injury. Third-year Le'Raven Clark started in his place and the previous replacement, Joe Haeg, switched to right tackle.

The Colts allowed only one sack, and it wasn't on the offensive line. The players they were blocking, Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan, combined for only one quarterback hit.

Now Reich's young team will be tested by an elite opponent. And he's looking forward to going back to Philadelphia.

"Yeah, it's special," he said. "A lot of times in this business, usually when you are going back some place, you are usually going back to some place you got fired from and so this isn't like that. I have nothing but great memories and tremendous experience in the two years there. I couldn't have a higher opinion of the organization and the people there.

"But at the end of the day, we are all after the same thing. I owe a lot to that organization because they helped give me the opportunity that I have right now to be the head coach here. But it's exciting to go back and to be able to compete against the defending Super Bowl champions, and that's what we plan on doing."

-- LB Darius Leonard leads the NFL with 27 total tackles. His 18 tackles were the most ever for a rookie in franchise history during the modern era and the total is tied for third in team history. Leonard didn't miss a snap, either, lining up on all 74 defensive plays.

- RB Marlon Mack, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury, exited briefly on Sunday but returned. Colts coach Frank Reich acknowledged his runner was "banged up" but finished the game relatively healthy. Mack was also on a play count of about 10 to 12 touches and 20 to 25 plays, which the Colts didn't deviate from. Mack ran for 27 yards on eight carries in the first half and just 7 yards on two carries after that.

- QB Andrew Luck has thrown a touchdown pass in 25 consecutive games, the league's longest active streak. It's just the fifth time in his career that he has passed for fewer than 180 yards (179) and the Colts still won.

-- CB Quincy Wilson is in the league's concussion protocol. His status will be known later in the week.

-- DT Hassan Ridgeway suffered a calf injury. His status was been announced.

-- The Colts' offense leads the NFL in third-down efficiency, having converted 20 of 33 chances (60.6 percent).

-- One disconcerting part of the game was when the Colts went five possessions in the second and third quarters with three punts, an interception and the end of the half. "You know you're going to have some ups and downs in a game, and you've gotta be able to overcome that adversity like we did," Reich said.

- The Colts avoided starting 0-2 for a fifth consecutive year.

- K Adam Vinatieri became just the second player in NFL history to reach 25,000 career points.

- TE Jack Doyle's second catch on Sunday against the Washington Redskins tied him with Coby Fleener for fifth in career receptions (183) for a tight end in team history.

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