INDIANAPOLIS — Yes, Shane Steichen brings an aggressive offensive mind to game day. Depending upon, you know, the game and the situation.
“Yeah, at times,’’ he said Monday. “The games will dictate that.’’
His first game as an NFL head coach — the Indianapolis Colts’ 31-21 loss to Jacksonville Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium — dictated calculated aggression.
Steichen opted to leave rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson and the offense on the field three times in fourth-and-short situations with the game’s outcome very much hanging in the balance.
*fourth-and-inches at the Jacksonville 16 in the second quarter of a 7-7 game.
*fourth-and-4 at the Jacksonville 42 in the second quarter with things still knotted at 7-all.
*fourth-and-1 again at the Jaguars 42 in the third quarter and the Colts trailing 21-17.
In those critical situations, the Colts went 0-for-3.
Richardson was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-inches, he failed to connect with Michael Pittman Jr. on fourth-and-1 and Deon Jackson was smothered for a 1-yard loss on a pitch to the right — and lost a fumble for good measure — on fourth-and-1.
“I felt good with those calls in those situations,’’ Steichen said. “Anytime you don’t convert, do you think you want to do it differently? Yes, sometimes.’’
The Colts finished the day just 1-of-5 on fourth-down conversions — the five attempts tied the New York Giants for the most — which was an extension of their futility in conversions overall. They were 2-of-12 on third downs. The only team worse on opening day — Cincinnati (2-of-15).
“Fourth-and-inches . . . we have to do a good job converting there,’’ Steichen said. “Fourth-and-inches, probably going for it a lot there.’’
He could have opted for a 34-yard field goal attempt from Matt Gay that would have pushed the Colts in front 10-7. But Steichen trusted his offensive line and 6-foot-4, 244-pound quarterback to get less than 36 inches.
“We’ve gotta get that,’’ he said.
Some of the situational shortcomings can be traced to the absences of Jonathan Taylor (PUP) and Zack Moss (forearm).
Jackson, who finished with 14 yards on 13 carries, failed to convert a third-and-1, third-and-2 and third-and-3, along with the fourth-and-1.
Some of it was a result of Richardson faltering. He completed 6-of-8 third-down passes, but for just 33 yards and two first downs (to Kylen Granson and Pittman).
“I’ve just got to help the team,’’ Richardson said. “Going into the game, we knew we were going to be aggressive when it came down to the conversion downs. We just got to find a way to convert, stop getting penalties.’’
Granson’s eyes widened as he considered his head coach’s attacking style.
“I love it,’’ he said. “Just shows he has extreme confidence in his play-calling and in us to execute. We practice it all the time . . . like fourth-and-whatever, crunch-time situations.
“When your number’s called, just got to go out and make the play.’’
Steichen’s style shouldn’t come as a surprise. He brought it with him from Philadelphia.
The past two seasons, an Eagles offense driven by coach Nick Sirianni and Steichen, his coordinator, ranked No. 9 in the NFL in fourth-down attempts (56) and No. 3 in conversions (58.9%). Of course, Philly featured one of the league’s premier offensive lines and an emerging, multi-dimensional quarterback in Jalen Hurts.
Richardson: knee and ankle
Richardson missed the final three plays Sunday after absorbing a big hit by Josh Allen and Andre Cisco while scrambling to the Jaguars 1-yard line.
“He could have went in those last (three) plays, but just for precaution reasons, just left him out,’’ Steichen said.
Richardson sustained a bruised left knee in the first quarter and complained of a sore ankle when he reported to the team headquarters Monday.
Running back situation
We’re in wait-and-see mode with the Colts’ running back situation.
Taylor must miss the next three games while on PUP and Moss’ status remains uncertain while he recovers from a broken forearm. Complicating matters was a knee injury sustained by rookie Evan Hull.
“He could miss some time,’’ Steichen said.
One option might be placing Hull on the injured reserve list, which would give him four games to recover.
It’s also possible the Colts will sign a veteran free agent.
“We’re always evaluating everything,’’ Steichen said.
He noted Taylor was not at Sunday’s game.
The Colts’ run game managed just 65 yards on 26 attempts, and Richardson accounted for 40 on 10. Tailbacks combined for 25 yards on 16 attempts (1.6 per carry) with a long of 7.
Heading into Monday night’s New York Jets-Buffalo game, the Colts’ run game ranks No. 27 in yards per game (65) and No. 26 in yards per attempt (2.5).
Only Las Vegas (61), Pittsburgh (41) and Minnesota (41) got less out of their run game last weekend.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.