American Football

Colts DC Gus Bradley plans to rotate secondary after Dallis Flowers’ suffers season-ending Achilles tear


Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley talks with safety Julian Blackmon during the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium | Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson commanded a 23-point comeback in the second half to force overtime, but was not awarded an opportunity to take the field in front of an electrified Lucas Oil Stadium. The 21-year old had to watch from the sidelines as Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford led his 43rd game-winning drive, tying Brett Farve for the seventh-most in NFL history.

Thomas Butler-Guerrero
Los Angeles Rams set to receive kickoff to begin overtime period against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Oct. 1, 2023

Los Angeles converted 27 first downs, second-most behind San Francisco (30) in Week 4. Rams rookie receiver Puka Nacua cooked the Colts with nine receptions on 10 targets for 163 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown in OT.

The Colts’ secondary had a critical lapse of miscommunication on the final play of Sunday’s loss as Kenny Moore II signaled rookie cornerback Juju Brents to roll with Nacua’s route post-snap, but it was too late. Stafford found Nacua wide open for a 22-yard touchdown to secure a walk-off 29-23 victory on the road. Nacua accounted for six of the Rams’ 10 longest plays from the Week 4 victory and seven of his nine catches were against zone coverage.

Colts second-year cornerback Dallis Flowers broke up the lone incompletion when defending Nacua, but suffered a ruptured Achilles and will miss the rest of the season. During Tuesday’s coordinator zoom meeting, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley mentioned Darrell Baker Jr. and rookie seventh-round draft pick Jaylon Jones will rotate as the third CB in Week 5 against Tennessee.

According to Pro Football Focus, Indianapolis’ coverage grade (60.1) is the fourth-lowest grade in the AFC, in front of the Los Angeles Chargers (55.3), Cincinnati Bengals (54.4), and the dead last Denver Broncos (35.9). Brents allowed five catches on five targets for 64 receiving yards, while allowing Stafford to convert five first downs with a perfect 158.3 QB passer rating. Bradley acknowledged Brents is sharp, bright and athletic enough to get caught up to speed with different coverages and checks.

After Anthony Richardson led the offense to its first scoring drive to cut the deficit to 23-8, Colts nickel Kenny Moore II made an immediate impact two plays later by diving to catch his first interception since Week 13 of 2021. Starting safeties Julian Blackmon, Rodney Thomas, along with Moore, played 82 snaps Sunday, which was more than any defenders in the NFL during Week 4. With the indefinite loss of Flowers, Bradley has not ruled out the option to move Moore back outside the numbers.

“I think you will see Kenny (Moore II) playing both still,” Bradley said. “He will play inside and he will play outside.”

Colts defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo had a breakout performance with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and forced a fumble. The Colts 2021 second-round draft pick scored a 90.1 PFF run defensive grade against the Rams, which led all NFL defensive linemen in Week 4. With seven defensive stops, Odeyingbo tied Los Angeles Chargers’ Khalil Mack for the most among edge rushers.

Linebacker Zaire Franklin produced a game-high 12 tackles to add to his NFL-best 57 tackles this season, passing teammate Shaquille Leonard (54 in 2018) for the most tackles through the first four weeks of a season in franchise history. Franklin is the only NFL player this season to record double-digit tackles in each game and tied Antoine Bethea (15) for the fifth-most 10-plus tackle games in Colts history.

Tennessee has defeated Indianapolis in four consecutive visits, but the Titans are 0-2 on the road. With running back Jonathan Taylor expected to make his season debut, the Colts aim to secure their first victory at home.

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