This week I get to write my absolute favorite winners and losers column. I absolutely love having to reach to find a loser. That is exactly what I’ve got to do in this column, because the Colts looked pretty darned good across the board from start to finish. They put a hurt on a Titans team that entered the game first in the league in points allowed. Anyway, there are a lot of winners to talk about so let’s get to them.
If Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes weren’t playing absolutely out of their minds, it would be a foregone conclusion that Luck would be deep in the MVP discussion. Just halfway through his first season back after what many thought might be the end for the quarterback, he is out there moving in the pocket, avoiding pressure, and torching a very good secondary as easily as if he were doing the week’s crossword, which you can be sure he does.
But for a few misfires Luck has been incredibly accurate, and his tendency to continue looking downfield while he extends the play with his feet has been a change that has only made him more effective. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has now gone 5 games without taking a sack, which speaks both to his success as a passer and the improvement on the offensive line. If the Colts keep winning games, it is going to be tough to keep Luck out of the MVP discussion, however well the other guys are doing.
Guess who’s back? Our old buddy the “Maniac” made yet another bid for his place as the deserving Defensive Rookie of the Year, turning in a 7 tackle, 1 QB hit, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble performance in a must win game against a division rival. It seems like asking him to do any more than that borders on ridiculous. The guy is just in on every play, making critical ones all over the place. He didn’t have to “save” this game like he has a few others, but he certainly helped put several nails in the coffin. Let’s quit playing and give this guy DROY already.
After having a relatively quiet last few games, T.Y. Hilton might have mistakenly become an afterthought as the year of Ebron had clearly taken over. He had said earlier in the week that he wasn’t too worried about it and that his time would come. Turns out he was right.
It started early on, but the Luck to Hilton connection was on full display as the Titans schemed to take away Ebron and the Colts’ tight ends and instead found themselves getting eaten alive by “The Ghost.” The Colts picked on Adoree Jackson, who was matched up with Hilton and prior to today had allowed a 37.2 passer rating on targets of 10 or more yards. Hilton averaged 17.2 yards and was 9 for 9, amassing 155 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of which was the beautiful 68-yard bomb from Luck you can see above. If the Colts can get Hilton heating up, it will make a really tough out for defenses trying to decide who they should try to eliminate in the passing game.
Sheard had himself a game, notching 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 QB hits. He was disruptive and instrumental in terrorizing Marcus Mariota and then Blaine Gabbert. His contributions are sometimes underappreciated because he isn’t always the flashiest player, but his pressure and the need to account for him from opposing offensive lines is certainly creating opportunities elsewhere on the defensive line.
Speaking of elsewhere on the defensive line, Kemoko Turay had a pretty impressive day himself. He had a tackle, a sack, a tackle for loss, and 2 QB hits to his credit today. His get off and speed are beginning to sharpen as he gets experience, and I found myself continually having my eyes drawn to him on screen on defensive snaps. Turay is not perfect, and I don’t know if he is the long-term answer at the edge rusher spot, but he certainly is developing nicely and had a good game coming back from injury.
Quincy hasn’t gotten a lot of credit this season, and he’s been knocked quite a bit, but he made a huge impact play today that essentially crushed any possibility of the Titans building some momentum. His interception early in the 2nd quarter only resulted in a field goal to take the Colts to a 10-0 lead, but it marked a change in the morale on the field and really helped to prove that everything was rolling in favor of the Colts.
It has never been all that in doubt that Wilson has the ability to be a very good cornerback. However, he has to prove he can do it consistently. Hopefully we see more of what we saw today out of him on the back half of this season.
While there are admittedly few losers, Hines is definitely one of them today. He dropped another easy catch this week that hit his hands. This is just a lack of focus and a result of him turning up field to make a play before he has secured the possession of the ball. You can’t do that, because it can kill drives. If he wants to keep getting those reps as a pass catcher he needs to improve there.
Additionally, Hines fumbled the ball in the third quarter and was fortunate that it made it out of bounds before Tennessee was able to recover it. These are rookie mistakes and you expect it to a degree. It will be on RB Coach Tom Rathman to clean up some of those kinds of issues going forward so Hines can be a more effective weapon.
This one isn’t because Kelly did anything wrong. However, you never want to hear that your starting center, the guy who has been the key cog in what has been a stellar offensive line performance this season, is having an MRI on his knee. Regardless of what we find out and the length of injury, it is almost certain that he misses some time. With Evan Boehm ready to work as the backup and Joe Haeg working his way back from IR, the Colts are not in dire straights if they are without Kelly for a couple games, but if they want to make a run of things it will hurt to miss him. Here is hoping that we get good news on that front.