Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Officiating in Browns game, options at cornerback, avoiding turnovers on offense

The Colts mailbag is back for Week 8 with questions on the end of last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns, if the team could add a cornerback with JuJu Brents banged up and what Shane Steichen and Gardner Minshew are doing to cut down on turnovers. 


The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for the next Colts Mailbag by clicking here. I'll also be checking the comments on our Official Colts Podcast YouTube page and will answer some listener questions in here, too.

Let's get after this week's questions:

John Kruse, Columbia City, Ind.: I have been a Colts fan since 1962 (back when they were still in Baltimore) and still root for them heartily.  Now I have a question about a late call in the Cleveland Browns game last Sunday.

I don't understand why the pass interference in the end zone on the Browns last touchdown drive was not wiped out since the offended receiver clearly could NOT have been caught within the field of play.  Have the NFL rules changed on this type of play? I specifically recall in past seasons when pass interference calls were NOT made if interference occurred when a pass catch could not be made legally in the field of play. Can you clarify this for me and other Colts fans that might have the same understanding that I have.

Thanks, for all of your efforts on keeping us in tune with our Colts!

JJ Stankevitz: Great question. The clarification here is there is nothing in the NFL rulebook to define an uncatchable pass. It's a completely subjective call. Pass interference is defined as an act that "significantly hinders" an opponent's opportunity to make a play on the ball. However, that contact is deemed permissible if there is "contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved player."

Again, there's nothing that defines a pass that's "clearly uncatchable." It's up to the referees on the field to decide. On Sunday, the officiating crew decided P.J. Walker's pass toward Donovan Peoples-Jones – which landed outside the yellow dotted line for on-field photographers – was not clearly uncatchable. The result of the penalty put the ball on the Colts' one-yard line with 33 seconds to go; the Browns punched in the game-winning touchdown on fourth and one. 

I'll say this, though: The Colts have, collectively, moved on from whatever gripes they may have had about the late-game penalties assessed to cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. 

"The way I look at it is, whether I like it or not, once the flag is thrown me yelling at him — I'm gonna tell him a piece of my mind — but me telling at him ain't gonna necessarily change the call," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "We're just moving on."

Tom Pearson, Fishers, Ind.: I remember that "jumping" over the line of scrimmage on field goal attempts used to be against the rules in the NFL. Has that rule been changed or was this just another error by the officials in the Browns game?  They certainly made enough of them in the game to change the outcome.

JJ Stankevitz:Another good question and another trip into the NFL rulebook for me. You are correct, Tom, in that jumping over the line of scrimmage is against the rules only if a player is lined up more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage. Essentially, you can't get a running start to leap over the line in an attempt to block a field goal. Myles Garrett was lined up in a three-point stance on the line of scrimmage on the field goal block in question here. 

Also, if Garrett used a teammate or an opponent to gain leverage to block the kick, it would've been a penalty. So if one of his feet touched any player as he leapt over the line, the officials could've thrown a flag. 

Garrett, instead, jumped clear over the Colts' line with no aid other than his preposterous athleticism. He landed, then jumped in the air again to block Matt Gay's field goal attempt. There was nothing illegal about it – just a remarkable play by a remarkable football player. 

"Of they tell me Myles Garrett can fly," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said, "I would believe it."

Brock Easley, Indianapolis: Since JuJu Brents is out, how likely is it that we get a CB?

JJ Stankevitz:We'll see, Brock – general manager Chris Ballard maintains rosters can always be improved throughout a season. And the Colts actually already made a move at cornerback: Last Friday, the team claimed Ameer Speed off waivers from the New England Patriots. The 2023 sixth-round pick played primarily on special teams over five games with the Patriots this year and has the height (6-foot-3), length (78-inch wingspan) and speed (4.33 second 40-yard dash) the Colts covet at cornerback. 

Brents, who has a quad injury, did not participate in Wednesday's practice at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Getting a new cornerback like Speed up to, well, speed is a challenge but one the Colts aren't against taking on if he shows he's ready to play. 

"When you have new corners, you have to simplify some things," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "You maybe can't do some of the things you'd like to do. When you are in this position right here we have to be flexible. If someone like that is playing then we have to understand that part of it and try to simplify what we do so that they can play fast."

Dylan Durnal, Lebanon, Ind.: Do you think Shane is working hard with his players on trying to protect the ball better. 8 turnovers in the last 2 games isn't good.

JJ Stankevitz: Ball security has been a major focus of Steichen's every week, you're right – it's tough to win when you turn the ball over four times, as the Colts did against both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Browns. 

"A big, big part of winning football is protecting the football," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "The guys are out there playing and competing, they're trying to go win those games and sometimes it's a balance between going to win the game and going to make that extra sort of great play and being a little more secure with the football.

"It's something those guys are working through. We preach ball security. It's a part of what we do every day. It's a big part of winning football. If you look up and we don't turn the ball over very often, I think the results are going to improve even more.

"We're encouraged by a lot of the things that our guys have been doing that's been showing up on game day. We know and they know that ball security is going to win and lose games a lot of times in this league. They are sort of those big plays in the game sometimes. To our guys' credit, we made a lot of big plays in a good way. We just kind of had a few too many go against us. We will emphasize the heck out of that and continue to emphasize it. Our guys know and they emphasize it themselves. We just have to do a little bit better job protecting it."

As for what those ball security things could look like for quarterback Gardner Minshew, who's fumbled four times in the last two games, Steichen addressed those earlier this week. 

"Just the repetitions especially in practice – just in the pocket, two hands on the ball," Steichen said. "Those strip-sack fumbles happen sometimes. Sometimes, you don't see those guys and that's part of it, playing quarterback. Just knowing when bodies are around you of doing a really good job of keeping two hands on the football will be a priority moving forward."

Joe Ammerman, North Vernon, Ind.: Hats off to Jeffrey Gorman on his Aaron Neville impersonation....even though JJ and Larra were too young to appreciate it!

JJ Stankevitz: For more tremendous Colts content like this, watch the Official Colts Podcast on YouTube and subscribe to the Colts Audio Network on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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