Why isn’t the ‘tush push’ working for Shane Steichen with the Colts?

Why isn’t the ‘tush push’ working for Shane Steichen with the Colts?

INDIANAPOLIS — When Colts coach Shane Steichen first arrived in Indianapolis, he wanted to keep his options open on offense, the better to build the system around players he hadn’t learned yet.

But there was one specific play Steichen hinted he’d be bringing from Philadelphia.

The tush push, the brotherly shove, a rugby-style quarterback sneak. Call it by whatever name, the bunched-up quarterback sneak the Eagles have turned into such a successful short-yardage play was coming with Steichen, and he planned to use it in short-yardage situations.

He’s run it three times so far.

The Colts haven’t converted on any of them. Indianapolis tried it on the goal line against New England in Germany on Sunday, and the Patriots stacked up the line, keeping Gardner Minshew out of the end zone and forcing a fourth-down call for Steichen.

Jonathan Taylor ended up punching a run into the end zone on the next play, rendering it a non-factor in the game, but the possibility still remains that the Colts will need the sneak at some point this season.

They need the play to convert.

“We have to look at it,” Steichen said after Sunday’s win. “I’m going to study it hard, obviously, going forward, but we’ll go from there.”

The Colts’ 60.9% conversion rate on third- and fourth-and-1 is 23rd in the NFL. Jalen Hurts is 17-of-18 in those situations, no one else has more than nine first downs.

The season-ending loss of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson didn’t help the Colts’ success rate.

Richardson’s leg strength and 250-pound frame are better suited for the sneak than Minshew, who is listed at 225 pounds but likely plays lighter than that.

But it doesn’t totally explain the Colts’ lack of success on those plays. After all, Richardson was stopped the first time Indianapolis ran the play this season, a key fourth down against Jacksonville in the season opener.

Philosophically, the play should work almost every time, the way it has in Philadelphia, but as the play has come under fire from critics this season, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has been pointing out that other teams haven’t been able to replicate the Philadelphia success with the same play, citing the technique the Eagles coaching staff has developed.

Philadelphia still can’t be stopped on the brotherly shove.

The rest of the league hasn’t replicated that success.

“Without getting into too much of it, there is a lot of technique that goes into it,” Steichen said. “Obviously, there are a lot of dudes around the football in there. People know it’s coming, and you have to convert it. The technique is big.”

Indianapolis will make the play part of its bye-week review, a comprehensive analysis of what the Colts have done well this season and what they haven’t.

From a numbers standpoint, the rugby-style sneak hasn’t worked.

That doesn’t mean it won’t work.

“We’re going through that stuff right now, going through our self-scout process, looking at all situations, looking at ourselves,” Steichen said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking at and trying to get cleaned up.”

There are other ways to pick up first downs in short yardage.

But Steichen was in Philadelphia last season, and he knows that if the Colts can get that sneak going, there’s not a lot defenses can do to stop it.

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