Colts GM Chris Ballard walks on the field before a 2019 game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Chris Ballard Talks 6-6 Record, Defensive Growth, Devin Funchess

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INDIANAPOLIS – Just like this point last season, Chris Ballard’s team will need a perfect final quarter of the season (and some help) to make the playoffs.

On Tuesday, Ballard joined ‘Voice of the Colts’ Matt Taylor to recap the third quarter of the season and chat about the 6-6 Colts.

Here are some highlights of what Ballard had to say:

On his overall thoughts about the Colts falling to 6-6:

Ballard: “It definitely was a tough loss, especially where you look at one point in the game, we’re up 17-7. We just had a great drive to start the third quarter, and then they drive down the field, they got two explosive plays on us to go 17-14, then we turn the ball over, and 17-17. And then with five minutes left in the game, to get the field goal blocked for a touchdown was a difficult, difficult circumstance. And then we end up turning the ball over again and they hit us on the shot, kind of the dagger. It shows the impact that each and every play has in a game. I’ve always said, you can’t ever nail it to just one play, every play matters, and so your focus and your detail and your execution has to be on.”

On the mindset of the locker room:

Ballard: “This comes directly from our owner and from Frank, we have two men that are steady and have great leadership, and that just trickles down to our players. And our locker room is great. They understand that each week is a different week, and we’ve got to prepare each week just like we’re 0-0. And that’s what we’ll continue to do. We’ll continue to live the 1-0 mantra, and it’s time to get us a win on our side.”

On the defensive performance as of late:

Ballard: “It’s been really exciting to see, and the future is really bright defensively, as many young players that we’re playing. And I thought they played good football on Sunday. I think we had some moments that they all would like back, especially when we went up 17-7 and we give up the 34-yard explosive run to (Derrick) Henry, who’s a heck of a back. But overall, I thought they played really well. They took the ball away, had two big strip turnovers that were outstanding, both by (Anthony) Walker and (Bobby) Okereke, which was great to see. And for the most part played really good football, and they have for the entire year. Matt Eberflus and his staff have done a tremendous job. We’ve overhauled the unit here in the last two years, and I think we have (7) players left from ’17, and to watch this unit come together and grow and all the young players that they’re playing, to see these guys grow together and start to understand what Matt wants, the effort he wants, the techniques he wants and the execution he wants. I think over time the more they play together they have a chance to create something really special.”

On all the injuries at wide receiver:

Ballard: “One thing we will never do is make excuses. It’s our job as a personnel staff to give our coaches good enough players to win, and we have to be able to do that. And our roster understands that if you’re on the 53-man roster, really, the 63-man roster (including practice squad), you have to keep yourself ready to go, because each week it’s going to be your opportunity to play, and when that opportunity comes, you’ve got to be able to produce.”

On evaluating Devin Funchess as a 2020 free agent:

Ballard: “That was a tough break for not only Devin, but for the team. We had big expectations for Devin, especially after Training Camp, seeing what his big frame and skillset was going to do for our offense, and then playing well in that first game vs. the Chargers. And I give Devin a lot of credit, he really bought in to everything we were doing here. He’s a good teammate. He works. It’s a shame that it’s worked out the way that is has. You never know what the future is going to hold, but we were very pleased with who he was as a person and teammate here over the last few months.”

On what led to the blocked kicks against the Titans:

Ballard: “The breakdown was in the D-gap. And Tennessee does a tremendous job. I give Tennessee a lot of credit. I know their general manager and their head coach very well, and they’re a very well-coached, talented football team. And their special teams coach does a tremendous job. They had a history of blocked kicks. They won the Kansas City game with a blocked kick at the end of the game. We’ve got to execute our technique better and do the things that our staff wants done to get that unit going.”

On the balance offensively of being too conservative against the Texans and possibly too aggressive against the Titans:

Ballard: “Well, it’s kind of how the flow of the game is going. Against Houston, I thought we were in a really good spot. We get down to the end of the game and we’re playing a good Houston team on the road on a Thursday night where the odds are against you, and it’s a 20-17 game, and I think we ended up running for 175 yards in the game. And you’ve got to be able to take your shots when you take them, and I thought we did take enough shots in that game, just didn’t execute, just didn’t finish the play, which was uncharacteristic by T.Y. (Hilton), who had one drop I thought that on a normal (week) when he’s practicing and functioning well, he makes the play. We just didn’t connect. And same with being too aggressive this week. Sometimes you do what the defense is giving you, and they were giving us some things in the passing game, and we thought we could take advantage of them. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. Give credit to Tennessee.”

On the roles of Mo Alie-Cox and Ross Travis in trying to replace Eric Ebron:

Ballard: “Mo is a true professional. He breaks his thumb against Jacksonville about halfway through the game, finishes the game, plays with a broken thumb against Houston, surgery on Friday and shows up and plays again this week. So in terms of the pass catching, we think this week he’s starting to be able to function better with the thumb. And so he’ll get his share of balls thrown his way here going forward. But we liked Ross. We liked him in camp, it just became a numbers game. He was coming off the ACL, and now we think we’re seeing a fully healthy Ross Travis. So I think between him and some of the stuff that Frank does with his receivers, we’ll be able to use those players to offset what Eric gave us.”

On the challenge in facing Bruce Arians and the 5-7 Buccaneers this weekend:

Ballard: “Bruce Arians is an excellent head football coach. I’ve gotten to know Bruce here the last few years, and not only is he fun to be around, but he is a heck of a football coach. And, yes, does he have a gunslinger (mindset). Yes, he does. But he coaches fundamentally-sound football teams that play extremely hard for him. And they’re a talented group. They’re an explosive offensive unit with two 1,000-yard receivers and a quarterback who can get them the ball, and they have a coordinator, Todd Bowles, who’s a heck of a defensive coordinator, and they’re been playing good defensive football. So we definitely have our hands full and have got to have a great week of preparation and get ready to go in Tampa and play a great game.”


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