What a game. As the season has rolled on, this Colts team keeps figuring out more about itself and what it is capable of. This result was exactly the kind of thing that should get Colts fans really excited as we near playoff territory.
While earlier season efforts have been one dimensional or relied heavily on Andrew Luck to carry the day, this was nothing like those games. This was a full team effort that hints at the kind of team that could be truly dangerous to face come January, if they can make it into the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from this shutout game from the Colts.
He had been a little bit quiet lately, but Marlon Mack really made his mark today. No person in their right frame of mind would have guessed that Mack would outgain Ezekiel Elliott 139 to 87, but that’s exactly what he did. Against the solid defense of the Dallas Cowboys, Mack continued to find running room and run hard through tacklers. His 5.1 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns made Andrew Luck’s job downright easy and let the team grind out the win.
There has been a lot of talk about Mack’s potential, and he may not be the game wrecking back that some fans might prefer, but there is no doubt that when the blocking is solid, Mack can take over a game in much the same way as any of the top names out there. Through 10 games Mack has 755 yards on the ground and 7 rushing touchdowns. Imagine if not for his hamstring issue which held him out, we would almost certainly be talking about a 1,000-yard rusher.
There might not be a Colts player who has had a better run of games than Denico Autry. His blocked field goal early was a momentum shifting play that seemed to demoralize the Cowboys right away. He added a sack, a QB hit, and a tackle for loss to his stat sheet to even out what has been his 3rd excellent week in a row. Since getting healthy he has been on a tear and has now got 9 sacks to his credit, despite missing several games this season. His great play continues to reinforce what a solid signing he was.
.@Colts D fed up with Zeke pic.twitter.com/nu0A1tDvPS— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 16, 2018
Chalk up another solid performance to Desir, who last week thoroughly handled All Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and continued his strong play again today. Desir had 7 tackles, and a really impressive play to hit Elliott behind the line as the Cowboys went for it on 4th and 1 from about the 2-yard line. He managed to force a fumble on the play which Jabaal Sheard recovered. The play was largely unrecognized because it would have been a turnover on downs anyway, but that kind of heads up play deserves some recognition all the same. Desir also had a nice breakup of a pass on 3rd and 2 in which he got beaten momentarily after biting on play action, but recovers incredibly and breaks up the pass which forces a 4th down. He has been playing about as well as it is fair to ask of him, and it is a testament to the fact that Matt Eberflus is getting the most out of his players.
Since coming back from injured reserve, Tyquan Lewis has slowly been getting better and better. Suddenly we are hitting the back stretch of the season and Lewis has a breakout game. 4 Tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and 2 QB hits is certainly enough to qualify as a pretty good day. Those who have watched him closely over the past few weeks have felt this coming a bit as he has continued to show promise and not quite get there. Today though, he finally got home not once, but twice. The Colts have gotten solid production out of this rookie class in a way that I just don’t know if we have ever seen. It has been a thing of beauty.
Speaking of outstanding rookies, Leonard made a pretty strong case that he deserves to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year in today’s game. His 11 tackles, 1 for a loss and 2 passes defended almost look humdrum next to some of the performances he has put together. However, sharing the field with another potential DROY winner in Leighton Vander Esch really highlighted just how well developed and impactful that Leonard is and why he should be the clear frontrunner. A push that gets the Colts into the playoffs with a couple more highlight reel moments will likely be enough to seal it for him, but even if it isn’t, this is a guy with a ridiculous future ahead of him as a Colt.
For any of us who were trying to convince ourselves that Evan Boehm was a reasonable facsimile of Ryan Kelly, this game was pretty clear evidence that we were deluding ourselves. Ryan Kelly is a beast, and it was clear almost right away how important he is to this offensive line. The Colts yet again did not yield a sack, and didn’t see Luck under any really heavy pressure all game.
Most notably though, was the performance of the line in the running game. Marlon Mack is a Ferrari. He can really fly when you give him some open road. Fortunately, the line was giving him open freeways to accelerate in, and Ryan Kelly was a big reason why. Having him healthy down the stretch will be crucial and if the run game can consistently look like it did today, this is a tough team to deal with, because the play action starts to be a very real threat. Don’t sleep on the impact getting Kelly back has for this roster, because today showed it was a huge one.
This defense entered today’s game against a hot Cowboys team more than ready to handle anything they through at them. They have continued to show more and more as the weeks have gone on, and while Eberflus early in the season was reluctant to blitz, he has shown the ability to adapt and change as the season progressed and the need arose. Additionally, he has gotten the secondary of the Colts playing as well as they have all season, and found ways to get his playmakers involved to shut down opposing offenses. While I don’t want to give him too much credit, lest he end up with a head coaching gig elsewhere, it is hard to argue against what a great job he has done with a very young group.
T.Y. Hilton. The guy is a game time decision and still manages to ball out. You can’t question his toughness or his heart.
Quincy Wilson. Wilson has turned both his season and likely his career around. He showed a ton of effort in this game and has looked good for several weeks now.
The only thing consistent about the officiating is that it is consistently bad. What is a hit on a defenseless receiver? Who knows. What is a hold? Depends on the play. What’s the difference between a piggy back ride and pass interference? No idea.
Basically, this season as a whole has been a total mess from the officiating crews of the NFL. This game was no different, with officials inserting themselves in the action calling picky fouls at times, and missing obvious ones at others. I wouldn’t really say that as a total game, these fouls were slanted to one team or another. They were however, largely poor and detracted from the quality of the game. The officiating of the NFL is something they need to look long and hard at in the offseason to determine how they can seriously improve going forward, because right now it is a joke.