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Film Room: Attacking the Colts defense

What can Burrow and the Bengals’ pass-catchers do against a talented Colts D?

Indianapolis Colts v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

After the offense struggled to do anything against a talented Baltimore Ravens defense it is concerning that next week’s opponent is the Indianapolis Colts, another of the league’s top defensive units.

Although both defenses are immensely talented and well coached, they are very different. The Ravens are much more aggressive than the Colts in their efforts to get after the quarterback. The Colts rely on talent and execution rather than sexy defensive design. They pressure the quarterback, but they generally do it with a 4-man rush.

After seeing how the formless Ravens defense effected Joe Burrow, the Colts would be foolish not to show similar pressures and faux-pressures in certain situations, but it is not what they want to do and it’s not what they do best.

Burrow needs to learn quickly from last week’s film, and everything we know about him tells us that he will.

Here are some ideas of how he can attack the Colts defense.

The Colts run a variety over coverages including variations of Cover 1, Cover 2, and Cover 3, but due to the pattern match concepts, the cornerbacks frequently run with vertical routes from the #1 receiver even when they are playing a form of Cover 2.

So the flats are frequently open, as you see above. This would be a good place for Burrow to go when he wants to get rid of the ball quickly.

The Colts’ cornerbacks have been susceptible to the back-shoulder throw so far this season as you can see in the clip above.

Burrow was excellent at these throws in college, but we have not seen many of them so far in Cincinnati. The Bengals should take advantage of this with some 50-50 balls to Tee Higgins and Auden Tate on the outside.

Burrow has found more success in the middle of the field than he has on the perimeter. Note that the Colts run Tampa 2 where, as this clip shows, the Mike linebacker runs with the vertical route up the middle of the field.

The Bengals could run a similar play to that in the clip, but put Tyler Boyd between these 2 deep routes and have him run a deep dig route.

The middle vertical route would take the linebacker deep and Boyd would be open in the middle of the field underneath.

Here we see a dig from the #3 wide receiver on the top of the screen paired with a whip from the #2 receiver. This is designed to create a high/low read on the linebacker in Zone coverage, but on this play the Colts are in Man

Fortunately, the whip works well against Man unless the receiver falls down (like he does here).

Here is another example of working the middle of the field.

The tight end releases vertical on a corner route and both of the receivers outside him run short in-breaking routes.

Since the tight end draws some attention from the Mike linebacker, a window is opened up for the underneath throw.


Burrow struggled against pressure and simulated pressure from the Ravens last week. This week the Colts will provide a different challenge. Their defense is highly skilled, but will not send as many unfamiliar looks at the rookie signal caller. There will be opportunities to make plays, but he and his pass catchers mush execute at high level to take advantage of them.