Continuing our series of offseason opponent breakdowns following the 2021 schedule release, theRams.com examines Los Angeles' Week 2 road opponent, the Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. PT on FOX).
With veteran Philip Rivers installed as the new starting quarterback and Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner added to the defensive line via a trade with the 49ers, the Colts had pieces in place that would eventually help them produce the NFL's No. 10 total offense (378.1 yards per game) and No. 8 total defense (332.1 yards per game allowed) – an improvement from No. 25 and No. 16, respectively the year before.
Though they lost starting running back Marlon Mack to a season-ending Achilles injury after Mack's fourth carry of the season, 2020 second-round pick Jonathan Taylor stepped in and led all rookies in rushing with 1,169 yards. Taylor also tied for the rookie lead and with the Cardinals' Kyler Murray and Washington's Antonio Gibson for seventh the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 11.
Collectively, those ingredients allowed Indianapolis to enjoy consistent success during the regular season. It never had a losing streak, bouncing back from each loss with at least two wins, the exception being a regular season finale win following a Week 16 loss. Twice the Colts mounted three-game win streaks (Weeks 2-4 and 13-15).
The Colts' 11-5 record earned them a second-place finish in the AFC South and the AFC's No. 7 seed. However, their season would end with a 27-24 loss to Josh Allen and the Bills in Buffalo in the wild card round of the playoffs.
The 39-year-old Rivers announced his retirement from the NFL on Jan. 20, eight days after left tackle Anthony Castonzo – a 10-year starter – did the same.
Both moves left the Colts with holes to fill at two of the most important positions on offense. They addressed the void at starting quarterback by acquiring 2016 No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz in a trade with the Eagles earlier this offseason, then signed former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher to a one-year deal Wednesday to replace Castonzo.
Indianapolis also added reinforcements to its top-10 defense, using its first-round pick (No. 21 overall) in this year's NFL Draft on Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye.
Frank Reich is in his fourth season as head coach of the Colts, compiling a 28-20 regular season record through his first three seasons with the franchise. Indianapolis has qualified for the playoffs twice so far during Reich's tenure.
What to watch for
Battle of the rushing offenses
The Rams had the league's No. 10 rushing offense (126.1 yards per game) last year, with the Colts right behind them at No. 11 (124.8). On the other side of the ball, the Colts had the league's No. 2 run defense (90.5 rushing yards per game allowed), with the Rams right behind them at No. 3 (91.3).
With both teams returning many of the key components that contributed to the success across both of those areas, it's not too far-fetched to think the outcome of this game could be dictated by whoever is most effective at running the ball.
With the 2021 NFL Schedule released, take a look at when and where the Los Angeles Rams will play during each week of the 2021 season.