The Indianapolis Colts pulled one out on the road in Oakland in Week 8 and showed us that they could win a close game when given the chance against a team that they should beat. The Colts outscored the Raiders 31-0 in the first and fourth quarters showing how vital it is to start quick as well as doing what their coach has preached since Day 1 — have an obsession to finish.
The Colts did just that and they did it on the backs of a few guys who deserve a ton of credit, not just for how they played yesterday, but for their emergence as true leaders on this roster. Here are the Colts’ Week 8 game balls for their win over the Raiders.
What more can we say about Mack lately? I told you last week that anytime a Colts’ running back pushes out a 100-yard performance, he’s going to get one of these from me. Mack looks to be exactly what Chris Ballard, and so many draftniks saw in him coming out of college.
In his last 3 games he’s put up 347 rushing yards on 56 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. He’s put up over 120 yards on the ground in the last two weeks, and if you’re a Colts fan right now you have to be loving it.
Yes, he’s benefiting from a much improved offensive line right now, but there’s so much more to his game that is assisting in his breakout this season. I said it last week, but his vision is massively improved, he’s running with a great deal more power and showed yesterday that explosive playmaking ability that everyone has been waiting for.
Mack is just one piece of an offense that — despite still having a lack of playmakers at the receiver position — looks to be gearing up to make a splash in the second half of their season.
Despite being out since Week 3 of the season, Doyle came back with a vengeance yesterday. He didn’t do much in the way of production early on, but in the second half — when the Colts needed him the most — he really began to show how important he can be to the success of this offense.
All three tight ends caught touchdowns yesterday, and Doyle’s wasn’t any more spectacular than the other’s. However, he led the team in receptions when T.Y. Hilton was noticeably ineffective for most of the afternoon, and he came through big time in the clutch catching 4 balls for 52 yards and added the drive-ending touchdown on the Colts’ second-to-last meaningful drive of the game.
Clutch is the only way to describe it.
In all, Doyle caught 6 passes for 70 yards in his first game back from injury and it was glorious. His return certainly balanced out the offense as you saw on a couple of his catches that he was almost completely able to run free, not getting the credit he deserved with Eric Ebron and others on the field at the same time. This offense is so much better when Doyle is in the lineup.
Honestly, we could give Luck a game ball almost every single game, but he absolutely deserved to get noticed despite having his second-lowest attempt total of the season Sunday. Luck was efficient with a completion rate bordering 71 percent, put the ball in the end zone 3 of the 5 times the Colts were in the red zone, and threw at least 3 touchdown passes for the fifth straight game.
Most of the game he was very accurate, and almost looked to feel as if it was too easy at times. Luck has a total of 12 career games in which he’s eclipsed the 70 percent threshold, and he already has 3 this season through 8 games. Luck has the deep ball, he has the accuracy and the arm strength.
I don’t know what everyone was worried about his offseason...
A rookie continuing to lead the league in tackles, a turnover creating machine and one of the leaders on this young Colts defense. That’s exactly who Darius Leonard is right now. He has completely turned anyone’s analysis of his college days upside down who doubted him, or called his being drafted in the second round one of the worst picks of the draft.
Leonard hasn’t had fewer than 8 tackles in any game this season, has forced 3 fumbles, has 2 passes defensed, 4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss. Yesterday, in a day where the opposing offensive line was getting to the second level quite effectively, Leonard still found the opportunity to knock a ball loose, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Leonard has almost single-handedly turned the Colts linebacker corps into a strength this season after it was a major liability last year, and several years in a row before that. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Leonard has a nose for the ball, but also that Chris Ballard might have an eye for talent.
Look, it’s no surprise that Hines wasn’t seen as a good ‘between the tackles’ runner through the first several weeks of the season. He was a weapon who’d seemed to put some of his ball control issues from the preseason in the rearview mirror, and was a nice piece to move around in different packages for Frank Reich.
Lately, however, and especially the past two weeks, Hines has become much more efficient as a runner and may just be becoming a very good complementary piece to Mack and the rest of this offense. Sunday Hines ran for 78 yards on only 11 carries which computes to better than a 7-yard average.
Hines was doing it on the perimeter, and between the tackles and in somewhat of a crucial point in the game — inside the first half’s two-minute warning. Really it’s been the last two weeks for the 5-foot-9 running back. Over the last two weeks Hines has carried the ball 16 times for 125 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and has looked very good doing it.
Hines had only accumulated 113 rushing yards through the first 6 weeks of the season before that for a little better than a 3.1-yard average. Whatever has happened, Colts fans would love to see more of it.
The offensive line
Again, how crazy is it that we’re actually talking about the Colts O-line being a major strength of the team? I can’t believe I’m writing it to be perfectly honest, but that is absolutely the case here.
The Colts haven’t given up a sack in the last three games, and have only given up 10 through the first 8 games. That’s one more than the league lead right now, and there are 5 teams sitting at 10 as well. Would you like to know the combined record of those other teams who’ve also given up just 10 sacks this year? I thought you did. It’s 24-5-1, so don’t tell me that drafting offensive linemen in the first couple rounds isn’t a smart decision, or that they don’t hold any value.
Andrew Luck would greatly disagree with you.
But it’s not just the protection that has been fantastic this year, it’s the run blocking as well. According to Football Outsiders, through Week 7, the Colts are sitting at No. 4 in the league in Adjusted line yards (4.86), have the fifth lowest stuffed percentage (15%), and are 7th in second-level yardage.
It literally ALL starts up front for the Colts on offense, and the proof is in the pudding. They were fantastic again yesterday, and two rookies (Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith) and an unknown (Mark Glowinski) have made major contributions to this unit being what it is right now. What a time to be alive!